Friday, December 11, 2015

Facebook nods to Zawgyi and Unicode

Burmese needs to be translated into Burmese. Did you get confused? Please read on for the whole story to understand why.

Facebook introduced translation into Burmese in its latest Mobile Facebook app (version 57). You can choose to translate stories into a particular language, and Burmese is one of them. What translation into Burmese does is converting the posts written in Zawgyi into standard Unicode encoding.

Zawgyi is a very popular font encoding used by most Burmese online. It's not an official Unicode standard and breaks the standardization.

However, it caught on early and became very popular before the Burmese Unicode standard was fully developed and supported by vendors. Most Burmese use Zawgyi on Facebook and everywhere online.

It's very inconvenient for people like us who doesn't want to install Zawgyi in our computers and mobile devices. There are plugins for popular browsers such as Chrome and Firefox to either do the conversion to Unicode or tag Zawgyi to be rendered properly using CSS and embedded font. But it's still problematic on our mobile platforms, where plugins are rare.

The introduction by Facebook of this feature to convert Zawgyi to Unicode is great for people like us, especially on our mobile devices where Unicode is supported by default from the OS vendors. We can now enjoy posts written in Zawgyi right on my mobile phones. Before, we had to guess what the post was. I will explain how below.

Here is a screen shot of the process in action.


At the top of the above screenshot, you will see two Burmese sentences. The first one is in Zawgyi, and so it's not being rendered properly on my phone. But I could guess what it was because of the similarities of some code points with the official Unicode standard (at least consonants have the same code points). The second sentence is automatically converted by Facebook into Unicode, and correctly rendered. Even though the original sentence is not rendered correctly, it's passable for guessing what the post was. It just needs some work on my part. However, if the post is long, it strains your brain.

Facebook makes our lives easy by this feature. You can activate it by going to "Account Settings > Language > What language do you want stories to be translated into?" Choose Burmese and save it. You should now have a link to automatically convert Zawgyi into Unicode.

Here is another screenshot doing the same thing.




Monday, November 09, 2015

The Rule

"The rule is clear, simple and fundamental. And it’s not a rule to be messed with, either. In liberal democracies the elected civil authorities must prevail over the military forces of the state. The people with the votes give the orders to the people with the guns – not the other way round."

Quoted from the Guardian's editorial.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Lotus World Music and Arts Festival

Lotus World Music and Arts Festival is annually held in Bloomington, Indiana in September. It features arts and music from around the world. According to their website, it's one of the oldest world music festival in the US. More than 12,000 people come during the 4-5 days of the festival.

We didn't actually go to the music concert itself. Instead, we just walked around downtown Bloomington and enjoyed some street performers. Here is a group of musicians playing Zimbabwean music. They were playing Marimba. Marimba is a percussion instrument with wooden bars and resonators attached to them.





There are also local people performing their music. Here is a girl playing violin.



Bloomington Community Farmers' Market

We went to Bloomington Farmers' Market today. We bought some locally grown vegetables including bitter gourd and water spinach from a Taiwanese vendor.






In addition to locally grown produce, there is entertainment. We also enjoyed some music.




Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mon Conversation Book

I found (through a friend on Facebook) a book on Mon conversation written by Sayama Daw Tin May of Mon Baptist Church in Mawlamyine (Moulmein). I downloaded it and saved it here. Please note that there is another primer I posted a while back ago.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

First Burmese Baptist Church of Mawlamyine

From: News Eleven.

First Burmese Baptist Church in Mawlamyine (Moulmein), Mon State, was founded by American Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson in 1827. It was built in a combination of Western and Mon architectures using local materials. It will be renovated soon.

.... မော်လမြိုင်အသင်းတော်ကို အမေရိကန် သာသနာ့အမှုဆောင် ဆရာယုဒသန်က ၁၈၂၇ ခုနှစ်တွင် စတင်တည်ဆောက်ခဲ့ပြီး၊ အဆောက်အအုံပုံစံ သည် ဒေသထွက် သယံဇာတများကို အသုံးပြုလျက်  အနောက်တိုင်း လက်ရာနှင့် မွန်ယဉ်ကျေးမှုရိုးရာ ဗိသုကာ လက်ရာတို့ကို ပညာသားပါစွာ ပေါင်းစပ် တည်ဆောက်ထားကြောင်း၊  WMF ကျွမ်းကျင်ပညာရှင်များ၊ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံမှ ပညာရှင်များနှင့်အတူ ပူးပေါင်း ထိန်းသိမ်းဆောင်ရွက် သွားမည်ဖြစ်ပြီး .....

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Blind Villagers

Credit to Zaw Htike:

ရွာတစ်ရွာတွင် သူကြီး လုပ်သူက လူတွေကို မျက်စိကန်းအောင် လုပ်ထားလိုက်သည်။ နှစ်ပေါင်း များစွာ ကြာလာတော့ လူတွေကအမှောင်နဲ့ အသားကျလာသည်။ အလင်းရှိတယ် ဆိုတာကို မသိတော့။ တစ်ခုခု ဆို သူကြီး က ပြောပြရသည်။ “ဟိုဘက်ရွာမယ် စားစရာမရှိလို့ လူတွေသေကြသကွ။ ငါတို့ရွာမှာ ဆန်ပြုပ်လေးပုံမှန် တစ်ရက် တစ်ခေါက် သောက်နိုင်တာ ငါ့ကျေးဇူးကွ။” လူတွေက ယုံကြသည်။ ဟိုဘက်ရွာမှာ ကားဆိုတာကြီး ရှိတယ်ကြားတော့ သူကြီးက “ကား ဆိုတာကြီးက စီးလို့ တိုက်ရင် သေတတ်တယ်ကွ။ မစီးကြနဲ့။ လမ်းလျှောက်ကြ။ အန္တရယ်ကင်းတယ်။ ကျန်းမာရေးနဲ့ညီညွတ်တယ်။” လူတွေက ကားမစီးပဲ လမ်းလျှောက်ကြသည်။ ကားစီးတဲ့ လူတွေကို ငတုံးတွေလို့ ထင်သည်။
......
အဲ့ဒီမှာ တစ်ခြားရွာ သွားနေပီး ပြန်လာတဲ့ အဘွားအို တစ်ယောက်က ရွာသားတွေ ဒီလိုအကန်းဘဝ နဲ့ နေနေရတာကို မကြည့်ရက်။ မျက်စိပြန်မြင်အောင် လုပ်ပေးလိုက်သည်။ အဲ့ဒီ ပြန်မြင်လာတဲ့ လူတွေကို သူကြီးကပြောသည်။ “ကဲ ကြည့်စမ်း မျက်စိကန်းနေတုန်းက နေ့ရယ် ညရယ် မခွဲဘူး သွားချင်သလိုသွား လာချင်သလိုလာ လို့ရတယ်။ နင်လို့ မျက်စိမြင်ရမှပဲ ညဆို မသွားတက်တော့ဘူး။ မြင်လာရတော့ ဘယ်သူက လှတယ်၊ ဘယ်သူကရုပ်ဆိုးတယ် ဆိုပီး တစ်ယောက်နဲ့တစ်ယောက် မနာလိုမှု့တွေများလာတယ်။ အရင်ကဆို အကုန်တူတူပဲ။ မြင်လာရတော့ အရှက်လုံအောင် အဝတ်တွေ ဝတ်ရတော့မယ်။ ပြင်ရဆင်ရနဲ့ အလုပ်တွေရှုပ်တော့မယ်။ ကန်းနေရင် ဒါတွေ မလိုဘူး။ ဘယ်လောက် အလုပ်ရှုပ်သက်သာလဲ။ ငါက နင်တို့ကို အမျော်အမြင်နဲ့ ကန်းအောင်လုပ်ထားတာ။” သူပြောတာကို လူတွေကလဲ ဟာ ဟုတ်သားပဲ သူပြောတာအကျိုးနဲ့အကြောင်းနဲ့ မှန်နေတာပဲ ဆိုပီး ဝိုင်းထောက်ခံကြသည်။ လူတွေက အလုပ်ရှုပ်မှ မခံချင်ကြတာ။ တစ်ရက် တစ်ရက် ဆန်ပြုပ်လေး သောက်ပီး အေးရာအေးကြောင်းသာနေလိုကြ သည်လေ။ မျက်စိမြင်နေရရင် သူကြီးပြောသလို အလုပ်တွေ အင်မတန်ရှုပ်ဦးမည်ကိုး။
.....
အဲ့ဒီတော့ အဘွားအိုကြီးက မနေနိုင်။ မျက်စိ မြင်ခြင်းရဲ့ အကျိုးတွေနဲ့ ကန်းခြင်းရဲ့ အပြစ်တွေကို ရှင်းပြရှာသည်။ မျက်စိကန်းအောင် လုပ်ထားတာ သူကြီး ဆိုတာကို ထောက်ပြသည်။ တစ်ချို့လူတွေက သဘော ပေါက်သလိုလိုရှိ ပေမယ့်၊ တော်တော်များများ ကနားမလည်။ တစ်ချိန်လုံး မျက်စိကန်းခဲ့တော့ ပြန်မြင်ရတာကိုပဲ အပြစ်ကြီးတစ်ခုလို ထင်တဲ့သူကထင်သည်။ သဘောပေါက်တဲ့လူတွေက မျက်စိမြင်ရတဲ့ ဘဝ နဲ့ ရှင်သန်ကြည့်ချင်ကြသည်။ တစ်ချို့က သူတို့ကို မျက်စိကန်းအောင်လုပ်ထားတာ သူကြီးပါဆိုတာတောင် မယုံ။
...
နောက်ဆုံး အကန်းဘဝ ပြန်သွားမလား၊ မျက်စိ မြင်ရတဲ့ ဘဝနဲ့ပဲနေမလား၊ မဲခွဲ ဆုံးဖြတ် ကြဖို့ ဖြစ်လာသည်။ ဒါကလဲ အဖွားအိုကြီးရဲ့ အိုင်ဒီယာ။ သူကြီးလုပ်သူက မဲကိုမခွဲချင်။ အကုန်လုံး အကန်းသာ ပြန်လုပ်လိုက်ချင်သည်။ နောက်ဆုံး မဲခွဲ မယ်ဆိုတော့ သူကြီးလုပ်သူက လိုက်စည်းရုံးသည်။ မင်းတို့ အကန်း ဘဝနဲ့ပဲနေ။ ဆံပြုပ်ကို တစ်ရက် နှစ်ခါတိုက်မယ်။ တစ်လ တစ်ခါ ငပိကြော်တစ်ဘူးပေးမယ်။ ဘာညာပေါ့။ ငပိကြော်မျက်နာနဲ့ သူကြီး ကို မဲ ပေးပြီး အကန်း ဘဝ ပြန်သွားမယ် ဆိုတဲ့ လူတွေကလဲ မနည်း။ သူကြီးဆိုတော့ ကြောက်ရတာလဲ ပါတာပေါ့။
။......
ဒီလိုနဲ့ မဲခွဲ မယ့် နေ့ကြီးက တစ်ဖြည်းဖြည်း နီးလာသည်။ အခုဆို ၂ လကျော် ကျော်သာလိုတော့သည်။ ဘယ်သူနိုင်မယ် ဆိုတာတော့ ပြောမရသေး။ သူကြီး ဘက်က အင်အားကမနည်းတဲ့ အပြင်၊ သူက မဲစည်းကမ်းတွေ သူကိုယ်တိုင် ထုတ်ထားသည်ကိုး။ အကယ်၍ ရွာသားတွေသာ သူကြီး ကိုမဲပေးပီး အကန်းဘဝ ပြန်ရောက်ခဲ့ကြရင်၊ အဖွားအိုကြီးလဲ နောက်တစ်ခေါက် ပြန်မြင်အောင် လုပ်ပေးနိုင်တော့မည် မဟုတ်။ အသက်ကကြီးနေပီလေ။

Monday, August 10, 2015

Black Ribbon Movement Myanmar 2015

Successive Burmese governments since the military took over in the 60s have transferred retired military officers into management positions in various civilian departments. It's been such a norm. But recent transfers of some military officers to work in the ministry of health caused medical workers to revolt thanks in part to social media. They have been running Black Ribbon Movement on Facebook.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

လောပန်လောင်း (lǎo bǎn)

♫ ♫ ♪ တကယ်တော့ ဆိုက်ကားသမားများဟာ လောပန်လောင်းတွေပါ။ ♫♫
♫ ♫ ♪ In fact, trishaw drivers are potential lǎo bǎn! ♫♫

Note that the word "lǎo bǎn" in Chinese roughly means "old boss."



The context for the lyrical caption (changing the words "gem miners" to "trishaw drivers" from a famous song in Burma) and the photo was a comment made by the prime minister of Irrawaddy Division in Burma. Here is the original quotes from Myit Makha news article:

"ကျွန်တော်ဆိုက္ကားနင်းရရင် ချမ်းသာအောင်လုပ်နိုင်တယ်။ စီမံခန့်ခွဲတတ်ရမယ်။ စဉ်းစားဆင်ခြင် တတ်ရမယ်။ ဆင်းရဲသားတွေ ချမ်းသာဖို့အတွက် အမြဲတမ်း စဉ်းစားတယ်။ နောက်သက်တမ်းမှာ ကျွန်တော်တို့ရှိချင်မှ ရှိမယ်။ ဒါကအရေးမကြီးပါဘူး။" ဟု ဧရာဝတီတိုင်းဒေသကြီး ဝန်ကြီးချုပ် ဦးသိန်းအောင်ကပြောသည်။

He was saying that he could get rich by working as a trishaw driver. He said you had to know management and had common sense. He probably meant well.

However, Burmese Facebooksphere has been blasting this as a joke because it is indeed difficult to climb up the social ladder in Burma given the need to have connections to do any businesses. So the lyrical caption and the photo was a commentary to that.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

General Aung San and the "frontier areas"

In honor of Martyrs' Day, I was looking for some videos on General Aung San on YouTube and found the following.



.... we want the people of what's called the frontier areas to have the same freedom with us simultaneously and join hands with us.

The phrase "frontier areas", used in the video by General Aung San, got my attention. Chin, Kachin and Shan states were apparently considered frontier then. General Aung San tried very hard so that all the ethnic minorities would be on board with the demand of independence from the British as a Union of Burma, promising federalism. He signed the Panglong agreement with ethnic leaders; Panglong agreement promised "full autonomy in internal administration for the Frontier Areas."

Successive military regimes never honored that. It could have avoided all the tragedies and become a true Union of Burma (or Myanmar). Sadly though, the frontier areas then are still frontier today.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Reminiscent of BARS

The following was adapted from what I have written for Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies 15th Anniversary Magazine.

When I first came to teach at BARS, I was just out of college and a young man full of energy thinking to change the world. I arrived in Myanmar on Dec 11, 2002. On that same day in the afternoon, I went to see the famous Dean of BARS, Saya Paw Lu.

I still remember the first day I went to the office of Saya Paw Lu. I was wearing a pair of short pants made out of Karen longyi sheet because it was so hot outside. I just switched from 0 degrees Fahrenheit in Indiana to 90 degrees in Yangon in a day. I went into the office and introduced myself to Saya Paw Lu. I will never forget the look on Saya's face seeing me in shorts. I guess I didn't look like a teacher, wearing shorts.

I became re-accustomed to the climate and culture in Myanmar and enjoyed the following two years at the Myanmar Institute of Theology (MIT). I became friends with many BARS students, especially from the first batch just because some of them were about the same age as me. I enjoyed working with all the MIT staff. I spent a lot of time working with Thra Alan Po and Thra Klo Htoo at the library, setting up computer networks and fixing computers. I also enjoyed the linguistic diversity at MIT and it probably gave birth to my interest in linguistics (I went on to get a Masters in Linguistics after I left BARS and am now working as a computational linguist at Indiana University.) I learned a bit of Karen while working at MIT even though I couldn't say that I mastered it or any other languages.

In addition to learning about languages, I went to various parts of Myanmar on mission trips because MIT and BARS students were from all over the country. For example, volunteering to teach English and Maths in Nam Sam Yang, Kachin State, near the Chinese border, gave me an opportunity to travel to parts of the country where I had never been before. I treasured those trips, giving me an opportunity to understand the locals and share their lives.

One of my most treasured moments at MIT include teacher-honoring ceremonies. We enjoyed performances by both students and teachers. BARS students were multi-talented in many areas: music, dance and public speaking, just to name a few. So were our teachers. Everybody loved the performance by Saya Bob, Tony and OJ at one of the teacher-honoring ceremonies. They made up a funny song about their teaching experience and interaction with BARS students to the tune of "You Are My Sunshine."

Teacher Bob, Tony and OJ singing a song at the teacher honoring ceremony
Nevertheless, working at BARS wasn't without challenges. As a full time faculty of MIT, I was paid around 20,000 Kyats a month (equivalent of $20 at the time). I learned to live on a tiny salary while living in Yangon. I was able to make ends meet thanks to my uncles and aunts who live about 20 minutes walk from MIT, providing me room and board.

Since buses were so crowded in the evenings during rush hours, I would occasionally walk home and have a good conversation with MIT colleagues and BARS students, who accompanied me. We talked about theology, life, and various other topics. I always told people (if they asked) that I was here seeking for myself treasures in heaven, quoting Matthew 6:20.

Of course, after collecting tons of treasures in heaven, I had to leave for more studies and work experience.

I will always remember my time at BARS and the Myanmar Institute of Theology. It's the first place I ever worked full time as an adult. It taught me that changing the world was no easy task. Even though there were lots of challenges, I enjoyed working as a BARS teacher. I will always cherish that memory and hope to return and teach again in the future.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Lisu Songs

I spent a few hours scanning this Lisu song books. They are gospel songs. Here is the PDF file.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Burmese keyboard in Gmail

I noticed just today that Gmail has a keyboard icon on the right corner even though it's been around for a while. There are two Burmese keyboards that you can activate and use. It's great. We need more Unicode support right out of the box.


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

How to speak Singaporean English by Amos Yee

The following lesson by Amos Yee on how to speak Singlish is hilarious. Please note that he has recently been in trouble for criticizing the late prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. On a more serious academic note, Singlish is an example of pidgin and creole.

Police, smart phones and social media

In the age of smart phones and social media, everything is recorded. I sure wish I had a smart phone while living in Burma, Thailand and Laos 10 years ago.

The following YouTube video of NYC police abuse was posted by Sanjay Seth (https://www.facebook.com/sanjayseth). News media picked it up: HuffPostDailyMail and CNN.



Friday, March 27, 2015

Singapore

From New Mandala:

... but for the reason that part of the success has come from exploiting the weaknesses of its neighbours. Singapore is regarded as clean on corruption, but possibly $200 billion in corrupt earnings from Indonesia is held in its banks. Singapore was the conduit of choice for the Myanmar military and its business cronies when sanctions held.

Sunday, March 01, 2015