Happy Labor Day

A thorough explanation of why Chinese is so difficult to learn. I grew up hearing Chinese in the house and even attended some Chinese school, and I found it to be a bear. I never did really learn to write or read cursive Chinese handwriting very well (yes, Chinese has both print and cursive, like English), another item I'd add to this writer's litany of complaints. Just when you think you've memorized a character, someone scrawls it in their own cursive style and it's as if someone took a print character's brush strokes and tied them in butterfly knots. Of course, without cursive, writing Chinese, with its numerous strokes, is like writing English in neat block capital letters...sloooooooooow).

Curse of the Golden Flower, a movie by Zhang Yimou, starring Gong Li and Chow Yun Fat, releases this Christmas season (trailer). Yeah, I hate dandelions, too, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them a curse.

Crocodile hunter, felled by a stingray. Stung through the heart by a stingray...brutal. I guess it should be obvious from their names, but I didn't realize stingrays were that dangerous. Earlier this year, on a dive trip down in the Turks and Caicos islands, Dave and I fed stingrays just off the beach with some fish our guides had brought along for that purpose. We were soon overrun with stingrays, and one ran up my back and bit me. I popped out of the water, and Dave said the ray had drawn blood. Shortly thereafter, two lemon sharks wandered over, and I hustled out of the ocean.

Get your bootleg Van Goghs and Da Vincis: a city in China is the world's leading producer of reproductions of famous paintings. It doesn't surprise me one bit.

A computer program named WebCrow defeated dozens of human competitors in a crossword puzzle competition. Humans managed to defeat the program in two Italian crosswords featuring lots of puns and political clues.

That green lump that resembles playdough, the one they dump on your platter of sushi? That's not wasabi. Real, fresh wasabi is rarely served at sushi restaurants, but whenever a sushi restaurant offers it I'll request it. Real wasabi is not as hot as the faux stuff, but it's better for you. Unfortunately, the real deal costs a fortune.

Michael Apted's next in his Up documentary series is about to release. He interviewed many children at age 7 about their lives and dreams for 7 Up, and since then, he's gone back to check up on them every 7 years (each doc in the series is named after the age of the characters, so 14 Up, 21 Up, and so on). This next installment will be 49 Up. All the previous installments are on DVD.

The new Sunday Night Football theme (MP3) is by none other than John Williams.

Four words no man wants to hear: bleeding in the scrotum. It's been that kind of year for the Cubs.

HiveLive is a site that allows you to post and share files and information among public or private hives, or groups of people.

The Statistical Review of World Energy 2006, by British Petroleum, including historical data series in Excel format.

You got the touch! Feel, feel, feel, feel, feel...feel my heat!