Thursday, May 29, 2003
Yunnan Coffee tastes like sherry wine*

(For the title reference, see: and see the paragraph right after the picture of Jelly Roll Morton).

One of my discoveries this trip is Yunnan Coffee, packaged by the Yunnan Coffee company ( and sold in the large supermarkets in Beijing that sell exotic foreign goods like paper towels. They sell vacuum-packed bags of ground coffee; I've only gotten the espresso roast and made it in a French press coffee-maker, but it's really good. To my taste, it's better than the coffee beans you can buy from Starbucks (probably because it's fresher), and about half the cost. I'll have to get a picture of one of the bags, which are very attractive as well.

I was hoping to travel back to Yunnan province in June. Since I can't do that, this will have to serve as  vicarious tourism.

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4:54:00 PM  #  
5-25 Self-esteem holiday

The picture below comes from the May 25th Self-esteem holiday, something that's less popular than the May 1 Workers' Day or the June 1 Children's Day holidays.

The sign says: May 25, University psychological health holiday group counseling recruiting

I saw a videotape of the activity itself, although I didn't see it in person. Faculty and groups of students sat at tables along the main street students pass to go to meals or the post office. I'm not completely clear on what they were doing, although a great deal of paperwork was involved.

The choice of date is significant. May 25, or "5-2-5" is pronounced "wu3  er4 wu3" which is somewhat close to "wo3 ai4 wo3" or "I love me." So it's a good day for a self-esteem holiday.

In the U.S., the "self-esteem movement" has been blamed for narcissism and pretty much all of the ways that the current generation doesn't live up to the high standards set by their forebears. Bill Damon presents one of the best cases for this point of view:

That's not to say that a self-esteem movement isn't a good idea for Chinese college students; I just don't know. It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out, though.

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4:11:20 PM  #  
Attribution in the wired world

Below is the cover of a magazine I bought a few years ago in Changsha, Hunan. It's a good example of malicious translation (the Chinese title means something like "Weekend Literature Collection" or more colloquially, "Readers Digest", although that name might be taken).

I use that image in a slide in courses where I talk to students about plagiarism. I've recently discovered that it's easy to use Google to search for someone else's Powerpoint slides on a given topic, by including "ppt" with a set of search terms. But I haven't figured out a simple or consistent way to attribute the help I get that way, which is something that could lead to trouble some day.

Cutting and pasting and the informal posting of material online has led to some new issues with plagiarism. A colleague was recently accused of "self-plagiarism" by a reviewer, which seemed particularly absurd given that related to the methods section of an article (which basically functions as a recipe to enable someone else to replicate what you've done, and hence has limited scope for creativity). In the evanescent world of the web, finding a way back to document sources of material, particularly for something as informal as a talk or class, is not completely straightforward, but it's something I need to figure out how to do.

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4:02:37 PM  #