Thursday, June 23, 2011

French-English: colocataire, locataire

Years ago I was chatting in French with a Canadian fellow who rented an apartment with a Frenchwoman. I referred to her as his petite amie (girlfriend), whereupon he corrected me and said in French that they were colocataires, which I had always mentally translated as roommates (i.e., she was not his girlfriend).

Today when I was chatting about those folks in French with a different Canadian fellow, I wanted to first mention that they were renters, and I found myself coming up with nothing when searching my mind for the French equivalent. I explained in English my lack of sufficient French vocabulary, and my chat partner replied that the word is locataires.

I mulled this over and realized that while colocataire would probably most commonly be thought of in English as meaning roommate, an alternate translation is joint tenant (per, a great web resource for translation, which has a matching iOS app that I've used on my iPod for months).  From that alternate translation, it is "obvious" that locataire on its own means tenant/renter.

Merci, C.!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Voice Memos app useful for recording measurements

I don't often have great need to use the microphone that is part of the Apple earbuds, but it sure came in handy with the Voice Memos app while standing on a chair, using a measuring tape to record multiple ceiling height items. I remember seeing a contractor making similar measurements, calling them out to his assistant to write down. Quite the Personal Digital Assistant, this iPod.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mnemonic for the tones of 梳 and 漱

I have long known that, excluding the tones, shu is the Pinyin spelling for the verbs for both comb (梳) and rinse one's mouth (漱). However, I have always found it difficult to remember which one is first tone and which one is fourth tone. Until now, that is, having finally associated the hair on one's head with being higher than one's mouth, "like" the respective tones of 梳 (shū) and 漱 (shù) -- first tone is typically defined as high, and fourth tone as falling.

And with this blog entry, I've also finally learned how to write those characters, too!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The meaning of iOS Chinese handwriting input buttons

Each time you start using Chinese handwriting to compose text for a note, e-mail message, etc. (though not for a search -- see below), the two button choices on the left are:
  • 空格 (kōnggé) Space
  • 換行 (huàn háng) Return

Then, after you have entered 1 or more characters that iOS considers could be part of a longer (more characters) expression, the button choices change to:
  • 其他 (qítā) Show other choices for next character(s) of longer expressions. A character that is part of a set expression might have multiple characters grouped together as a single choice. For instance, 孑 (jié) offers up the lone choice of 然一身 (rán yī shēn) because of the set expression 孑然一身 (jié rán yī shēn; to be all alone in the world).
  • 停止聯想 (tíngzhǐ liánxiǎng) End the current attempt to auto-complete, the expression is already complete.

The functionality of the 停止聯想 button was clear to me long ago, but I only recently looked up the definition of the decidedly newfangled expression of 聯想 (liánxiǎng; auto-complete).

For (typically Google) web search in a browser, the two button choices on the left start as:
  • 空格 (kōnggé) Space
  • 搜尋 (sōuxún) Search

Then they follow the same transformation described above.

The functionality of the 搜尋 button was clear to me long ago, but I mistakenly thought the button label was 尋找 (xúnzhǎo; look for), probably because I was more familiar with 尋找 which shares the 尋 character.

7/9/12: If (at least in iOS 5.1.1) you are on a screen which has more than one box for text entry, and you are poised to enter text in one of the boxes which is not the last one, the lower of the two Chinese-labeled buttons can be:

  • 下一個 (xià yī gè) Next

to move to the next text input box, as seen here in the Errands To-Do List app:

Friday, June 10, 2011

S like in sugar; 意義的意; C like in circus

Some years ago, I was talking with a (possibly overseas) telephone support representative, one who did not sound like a U.S. native English speaker. She gave me some sort of an identification code, like S777, and clarified the first character by saying, "S like in sugar". Since the s in sugar is actually pronounced like sh, sugar seemed an odd choice of word. Probably more common would have been to say, "S like in Sam".

Another time I was asking a native Chinese speaker for clarification of what the character was for the Chinese word which she had just spoken in some larger sentence context. The Pinyin sound had been .

I was rather surprised that she responded, "意義的意" (yìyì de yì; the character in 意義 whose sound is ). The sound of the first two characters is in fact the same (yì), but a more precise translation is likely "the first -sound character in 意義 (i.e., 意).

In English, if somebody ever said something sounded like the c in circus, it seems the most natural interpretation would be that they were referring to the first c (which has the s sound), not the second c (which has the k sound).

(意義 means "meaning".)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chinese character pairings having matching Pinyin letters but different tones

  • fūfù 夫婦 (a husband and wife)
  • gōnggòng 公共 (public)
  • jījí 積極 (energetic)
  • māomáo 貓毛 (cat hair)
  • rènrén 認人 (to recognize people [said of babies])
  • shìshí 事實 (fact)
  • xiǎngxiàng 想像 (imagine)
  • xìnxīn 信心 (confidence)
The Pleco Chinese dictionary app, with its Wild search capability, could straightforwardly find all such possibilities, but these are examples that are common enough that I could come up with them while, e.g., idling in the supermarket.

Chinese expressions having 2 or more syllables and matching Pinyin letters, but different tones

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Opera Mini 6 web browser vs iOS 4 Safari

12/17/11: This entry is about Opera Mini 6/6.0.1 vs iOS 4 Safari, and is now largely static. See my subsequent blog entry on Opera Mini 6.5.1 vs IOS 5 Safari for a newer evaluation of the two browsers.

This entry gets updates, either unadvertised or advertised-with-dates, over time. I mostly read text while browsing the web on my iPod, which is probably one reason why Opera Mini works so well for me. I have little to say about images and videos in Opera Mini.
10/29/11: Most of the following discussion of Safari's capabilities refer to iOS 4; iOS 5 Safari has different, improved functionality.

I nursed my wounds on my iPod for some time from having upgraded from the excellent version 6 to the more-crash-prone-and-generally-worse-but-usually-still-better-than-iOS-4-Safari version 6.0.1, and was not in a hurry to upgrade further (on the iPod) -- once bitten, twice shy.  I did eventually upgrade to 6.5.1, which I consider is better than 6, though not by a huge margin.

7/15/11: Version 6.0.1 was released in 7/2011. I believe they changed the formerly obligatory single column display into the Single Column View option in Settings. That was likely done to allow the universal binary to display non-mobile websites normally on iPads, which have much larger screens. In any case, I happily use Single Column View on the iPod. However, Single Column View is not the default, which means if Opera ever crashes (7/27/11: ugh, a far more frequent occurrence with 6.0.1, but how much of that is related to 6.0.1 versus Opera server issues is unclear) or is fully closed, as I described here (e.g., to release any RAM it's holding onto), it is necessary to select Single Column View again. I normally keep Opera in RAM all the time.
(7/21/11: If you like 6.0's single column display on the iPod, you would likely be better off not upgrading to 6.0.1.  I have to re-select 6.0.1 Single Column View at least as often as each time Opera Mini crashes, which, sadly, is frequently.)
Upgrading to 6.0.1 displaced one of my existing 9 Speed Dial entries with an Opera page, but I eventually reset that.

The free Opera Mini web browser is an alternative to Apple's Safari browser, with various pluses and minuses. Opera Mini version 6 was released in 5/2011. Wikipedia has a decent article on it:, which also links to the interesting A list of technical specifications can be found at: Here is a CNET review.

I use both Safari and Opera Mini regularly, but actively try to make greater use of Opera Mini, which I feel has more advantages for the iPod. An iPod is typically connected to the Internet less often than an iPhone, so some of the following items (e.g., Saved Pages) are more significant for iPod users like myself.

  • Opera Mini does not automatically reload a page when you tap the back arrow to return to it, at least if you return within some period of time (ever?). Thus, if you are reading a page which has multiple links to other pages, e.g., Google News, then tap to read an article, returning to the original page will not invoke (frequently pointless and time-wasting) reloading, unlike in Safari. Also, if you load pages into different tabs while you have Internet access, but later lose that access, you can still read those pages, even without having stored them as Saved Pages. RAM issues mentioned below will still be applicable.
  • Unlike in Safari, you don't have to switch away from the current tab to open new pages, because you can open links in background tabs (tap-hold, then tap on "Open in New Tab"). This is helpful while, e.g., reading through all headlines in Google News, allowing you to open all stories you'd like to read in background tabs. RAM issues mentioned below will still be applicable.
  • Unlike Safari, Opera Mini allows saving of static copies of web pages on the iPod, letting you read or reread them later even without wireless Internet access. That can be useful to save pages for recipes, technical reference, humorous articles, or for any other reason, e.g., because you don't have time to read them right away. Although I was once annoyed that I had to make 7 separate Saved Pages for an article (and I've seen articles requiring even more pages), that effort did serve me well since I was imminently losing Internet access, and I was able to read the (interesting) article soon afterward, while waiting in a store.
  • At least 15 (someone else can test for the maximum number...) tabs are possible, exceeding Safari's limit of 8. RAM constrains the total number of tabs effectively usable; "The page has been cleared to save memory." message is what you are left with content-wise on a tab when you run low on RAM.
    9/8/11: Bummer, my Opera Mini had a serious problem and lost my saved pages. Rather shocking to discover I no longer had any entries in Saved Pages. However, that did make me realize that I was saving a large number of pages (in these 2 months of using 6.0.1), but only in a relatively small number of instances loading any of them again, so I wasn't too upset. From this Opera Mini forum thread, it looks like saved pages may be lost again upon an eventual upgrade of the iOS Opera Mini
  • If you make an account on Opera's servers, you can use Opera Link to determine at what frequency to save both your nine Speed Dial targets and the state of your bookmarks there, for future restore (e.g., in case of a serious crash) or for sharing on another device(s), including on a pc.  Automatic syncing is possible, but I prefer to sync bookmarks manually, which avoids attempts at same when you know (or perhaps, even when you don't know) that you lack wireless Internet access.  Opera Link can also be used at any time on any Opera Mini instance device, so it is not linked inextricably to an Apple ID like iOS 5 Safari's Reading List. Although I didn't test this, it appears that if you use desktop Opera, there is supposed to be an Opera Mini folder for bookmarks, which is the extent of the bookmarks that get synced with Opera Link.
  • Opera Mini does not provide end-to-end encryption. If you don't trust their company, don't use it for anything requiring credentials or anything to which you're concerned about them having potential access.
  • There is a short startup delay as it makes the connection to the Opera proxy servers ("calls home").
  • Presumably because of the Opera proxy server, has extreme difficulties using effectively; I strongly advise using Safari for that. Even Safari cannot yield copyable text, though.
  • On rare occasions, my initial attempt to bring up a page doesn't succeed, which I imagine is an Opera proxy server issue.
  • Opera's proxy servers may lead to this side effect:
    Going to, e.g.:
    prompts you with:
    It looks like you are from outside the U.S. Would you like to make International your default edition? Yes | No Close
    which I chose to simply ignore.
  • Only Safari can Add to Home Screen, using apple-touch-icon.png  when available (not favicon.ico, as it turns out; according to I had to remove some such Home Screen icons to prevent inertia from making me mindlessly use Safari. Opera Mini's Speed Dial is a partial substitute.
  • The upgrade from 5 to 6 messed up images in previously saved pages from The Onion (and maybe from other websites, I didn't check). Not a big deal, I re-saved some pages to restore the images. However, images are rarely, if ever, crucial for me.  (7/22/11: No obvious similar problems from the 6.0 to 6.0.1 upgrade.)
  • Using Single Column View ensures that, because of its size, text will be pleasantly readable in portrait mode, at least for me. is a chess blog which I have often been reading of late. In Safari, I sometimes feel the need to switch to landscape mode to make the text more legible, but the text has always been fine to read in portrait mode in Opera Mini.
  • When using Single Column View, some items which might typically (as viewed, e.g., while not using Single Column View, or in Safari) be unobstrusive on the side of a web page may appear, sometimes as a large clump, at the top or bottom. I have gotten used to that, and simply swipe to get past the clump, if it's at the top, to get to the real content, e.g., on
  • Find in Page: The Done button means done with searching; search happens as you type. Can search repeatedly in a page. Safari can find in page also, although it's probably somewhat less intuitive; see, e.g.:
  • Only 1 Speed Dial Start Page is possible per tab. So if you start there, then keep going "forward" to additional pages, you'd have to tap the back arrow, potentially many times, to get back to the Speed Dial Start Page again in that tab. I tend to keep common destinations in both the Speed Dial Start Page and in Bookmarks, so in some cases (precisely 9 - the number of possible Speed Dial target pages), I do have the Bookmarks route as an option, but it's more to the point to just open a new tab, which starts on the Speed Dial Start Page.
  • In very early June 2011, it seemed that it was sometimes necessary to scroll to the bottom of a page to be able to activate the Opera controls (some Opera proxy server problem?), but this problem seemed to have been fixed by 6/5/11.
  • In very early June 2011, the links returned for a Google search for "tornado hurricane difference" could not be opened with taps (some Opera proxy server problem?). I did the same search in Safari to get to those links, then copied the most interesting link to Opera Mini in order to save its content. This "tappability" problem seemed to have been fixed by 6/5/11.
  • One day in mid-June 2011, I was unable to reach websites ("Unable to connect. Please review your network settings."). I have many of the same sites bookmarked in both Opera Mini and Safari, so I just switched to using Safari for a time, switching back to a once-again-working Opera Mini later in the day. As long as Opera Mini problems aren't an "overly common" occurrence, I am unlikely to switch to any other browser as my main browser -- the Pros of using Opera Mini are that useful to me.
  • To copy lengthy text from a web page (I only tested using Single Column View, my normal mode of operation), it is more effective to select text starting from the bottom and press-dragging up to the top. Selecting text from top to bottom seems fraught with pitfalls which can prematurely stop your selecting, when you'd have to start all over again by going to the top of the web page (press the time at the top center of the iPod screen to do that), then again pressing and holding on non-link text until the Select Text option appears, tapping that, then press-dragging again to select. A reasonably rigorous test page for this, about hiking Mount Washington. Although you could save the entire web page, copying its text elsewhere can be useful in some situations.
  • 9/4/11: Power-User settings are available by going to config: in the location bar, as described further on, which I just discovered. Changes apparently survive Opera Mini crashes, unlike the Single Column View setting. For my own usage, I turned off the Phonenumber detection, which I suspect is probably only of use if (a) you have an iPhone (which I don't), and want to call such a number immediately, or (b) you normally use iOS assistance to add new contacts (which I don't, for reasons mentioned here).

Podcasts for beginner-intermediate Spanish lessons

In high school, I was fortunate to have a Spanish teacher who seemed to know that I had some proclivity for foreign languages. I had once done a small bit of supplemental work (reading Le Petit Prince [The Little Prince]) beyond the French I took each year, of which she may have been aware, being the Department Chair.

This Miss York (Thank you!!) suggested that I skip 2nd year Spanish, so I ended up taking 1st and 3rd year. I had to hustle to get up to speed in the 3rd year, not having been exposed to the 2nd year material, but it was well worth it to develop a Spanish language foundation that would encourage me in future years to keep at it.

For some time, I've thought that if I again had my high school Spanish textbooks (which were loaned to students each year by the school, as I presume is the norm in U.S. public schools), I should be able to, reasonably quickly, refresh some of the grammatical knowledge I once had. However, podcasts remain rather more convenient, and I found one which feels pretty good for my level, although to date I've only listened to a small portion of its content.

iTunes U, DePaul College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Basic Spanish, by Claudia Fernandez, is my choice.  Eventually I hope to again be able to compose meaningful new sentences on my own (too bad you can't split infinitives in Spanish, I'd obviously love to do so). For too long I've been living off of random sentences like:
  • El mago hace muchos trucos de mágia. (The magician does many magic tricks. ["does", not "makes", Google Translate!]), and
  • Las ardillas buscan nueces en los árboles. (The squirrels look for nuts in the trees. [not "The squirrels in the trees looking for nuts", Google Translate!])
which I've picked up from a Transparent Language RSS feed.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Name "Scott" Transliterated into Chinese

Some years ago I bought the X-Men 2 DVD, which has Chinese subtitles, so that I could watch it multiple times, possibly without audio, to practice reading Chinese characters. One X-Man's name is Scott, which is transliterated into Chinese as 史考特 (Shǐkǎotè). This is one of those instances wherein an English s sound is transliterated into a Pinyin sh sound, which always seems a tad odd to me. 蘇珊 (Sūshān) for Susan is another (okay, okay, that second s in Susan is pronounced like a z in English).

I found 3 additional transliterations of "Scott" in Chinese dictionary apps which used the Pinyin s sound instead of the Pinyin sh sound:
  • 司各特 (Sīgètè)
  • 斯哥特 (Sīgētè)
  • 斯考特 (Sīkǎotè)
The Pinyin ka sound (e.g., 卡 kǎ) may have been a better choice for the second Pinyin syllable. However, the original transliteration might not have been into Mandarin, but into a different Chinese dialect, in which the sound of the character was indeed closer to the English sound.

Anyway, in Flushing, NY, I saw an office's large bilingual streetfront sign asserting wide acceptance of the Pinyin sh transliteration:

ScottTrade 史考特證券
(Shǐkǎotè zhèngquàn; Scott "negotiable securities", i.e., stocks and bonds)