Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Random Thoughts from a Weary Traveler

Despite their frenetic mode of locomotion, watching hummingbirds is a supremely peaceful activity.

You have to censor about the first five things that come to your mind when you walk in on a 5 year old kid duct taping a 3 year old kid to the Play Doh table.

My father-in-law is a tough old bird. He was reminiscing about the War recently, which he is not wont to do. Of 150 men in his company, he is one of 3 who survived. Of over 600 men in his battalion, he is one of 17 who survived. Of those 17, he was the only one whose rifle’s serial number matched the serial number of the rifle he was issued.

If the GMD had a couple of thousand more soldiers like my FIL, they might have won the war.

Finding a child left behind in Communist China in 1947 is even harder than it sounds. Up until very recently, Chinese kids were given a “milk name” (乳名) which was then changed in late childhood. (In today's China, parents are given a month to come up with the real name). A high school and / or college name might also have been changed to another “courtesy name” name as an adult. See the “Names” section of the article on Jiang Jieshi (蔣介石) aka Jiang Zhong Zheng (蔣中正), known in the west as Chiang Kai-Shek*. If all one has is a milk name and one of the three most common of the 100 surnames (each of which are borne by almost 10% of the Chinese population), one is in for a long search.

(*I’m not even going into the idiocies of translators who use a poor transliteration system (Wade-Giles) of a Mandarin pronunciation of a last name (Chiang for Jiang) and a transliteration of a Cantonese pronunciation of the courtesy name (Kai-Shek for Jieshi) neither of which was Jiang’s native language of Northern Wu.)


Random Michelle K said...

Should we even ask what precipitated the duct tape incident?

John the Scientist said...

Does an older sister need a specific reason to duct tape her younger brother?

But he, apparently, was enjoying it.

Random Michelle K said...

I had lots of reasons for such things.

None were ever acceptable to my parents mind you, but I always had reasons.

Nathan said...

Ah, children and duct tape. It's wonderous!

And are you any further along finding your missing relative?

vince said...

I've always thought Chinese to be one of the most difficult languages to learn to speak, and even more difficult to learn to write. I'm amazed that you do both so well. Years ago I took a course in Chinese from a nun who was originally from Taiwan, and while she was an excellent instructor, I found it difficult to wrap my head around the language. I speak some Spanish and some German, and that's about it.

I can, however, do a mean job of translating hieroglyphics when I've been practicing. You'd think that would mean I could at least grasp Chinese characters, but apparently not.

Anonymous said...

Duct tape - I thought it was primarily an Alaskan phenomenon/cure all/general contracting tool?

At the Fur Rondy Miners and Trappers Ball, folks show up in entire tuxedos and gowns constructed of duct tape. Silver lame is so over-the-top.

John, do you turn off your RSS feed for a specific reason, or is it just a default setting? I do remember to wander by in person from time to time, still, RSS is my primary blog reading tool.