The visiting VP is taking the team out for dinner tonight, thank us for the hard work during the project. Business with your boss, your boss’ boss and your boss’ boss’ boss is usually timid and boring, you can’t talking freely as you are with your own friends. The topic of conversation is kinda general and vague in the beginning, we carefully talk things related to the project. We bashed the IT department, circulate anecdotes about our customers, while trying not to complaining too bluntly about the poor management of the project. Somehow the conversation slowly shift to our Indian experience. All but one colleague at the table went to the Bangalore tour of duty. The VP started with his Indian experience and we all have funny stories to share.
There are some common theme in our Indian experience. After we come back to Canada, we really appreciate the clean air and quiet living that we take for granted. We all wonder whether the highway between the guest house and the Bangalore office is still under construction. We have many stories of the India super inefficient labor intensive way of task management. Anything that we use computer or machine to automate, they use extensive man power in India. Construction workers chip gravel from a big rock with sledge hammer instead of power tools. The page number of engineering lab book is hand stamped instead of machine printed. The Indian experience connects everyone and light up the atmosphere as we recall how our trip to India. Usually you would want to end this kind of business dinner as soon as possible, but we sat at the restaurant, chatted and laughed for almost an hour after the dinner.
Footnote: Convention and Conventional Wisdom
Something is wrong with Kempton’s choice of the English title. The translation of 傳統 should be tradition. Convention usually means a big meeting which is not really related to conventional wisdom. I could not figure out the relationship between convention and conventional wisdom, so I could not write anything else except this analysis of the English title.
Pat got a new iPhone, so it is my job to load it up with mp3. When I import my Chinese mp3 into iTune, the mp3 tag of some songs are displayed as funny characters. The iPod song list in iPhone suffers the same problem. It is very inconvenient if you don’t know what singer and song you are listening. The best you can do is trying to guess the song from the album art and track number. My friends who has an iPhone and copy mp3 from me also has the same problem. It seems they simply rename the mp3 tag manually or tolerate the occasion corrupted song name.
After praying to the Google God, asking it to help me solve the problem, I got an answer. The cause of the problem is that the mp3 use big5 or GB code in the mp3 tag, which is incompatible with the Unicode used in iTune and iPhone. The solution is pretty straight forward, all I need to do is to translate the characters inside the mp3 tag to Unicode using Convertz 8.02. The interface of the program looks a bit dated (or should I say it is ugly?), but it get the job done. I have to pre-process the mp3 files before I import them to iTune. The two steps process is a bit inconvenient, but better than no knowing what song is playing. Why don’t iTune have a built-in mp3 tag code convention feature?
I read two news article about children today. One talks about children in Canada, the other talks about children in India. One talks about the problem of having too much, the other talks about the problem of having next to nothing. The article on Globe and Mail is about Why are children starving in a booming India?. The article on National Post is about The Perfect Child. It is quite unsettling to read the extreme contrast to the fate of children in two places.
The problem for Canadian parent is how to raise a perfect children. The dilemma is having the life of the child too well planned so he cannot learn from trail and error or his own mistake. On the other side of the world, the Indian children are struggling to stay alive. Children malnutrition in India is twice worse than in Africa and five times worse than in China. The problem of teaching children to read and write in China seems like a piece of cake.
The news presents a typical poor Indian family with malnourished child. The dad in the family makes merely US$5 a month, but he spent half of what he earn in cigarette instead of buying food for the children. The family income cannot support a big family but they are having six children. Babies are not breastfeed once he is born, the mother ask the astrologer to pick an auspicious day to start breastfeeding, sometimes the baby is not fed for days or even weeks. Foreign aids agency wants to provide vitamin pills to the poor children, but the Hindu fundamentalist protest the capsule is made of gelatin, a product made of cows.
I feel sorry for the children in India, but their misfortune cannot blame anyone but their own stupid culture. If a culture don’t treasure their next generation, this culture has no future. If a culture treasure cows more than the life of their children, this culture should simply go extinct. It can go extinct naturally with its population die slowly and painfully. Alteratively we can help the culture extinct sooner and better by liberating its people. We should help them move on to a more enlightened culture, even we have to force the liberation. People with a stupid culture has no rights to cling on their culture.
iPhone has become the new de facto standard of cell phone. Almost everyone I know who bought a new cell phone since iPhone 3G released got an iPhone. I estimate over half of my friends is already a iPhone user. I am pretty late to the iPhone bandwagon. Actually, I am not really part of the iPhone crowd, the new iPhone belongs to Pat. Her old cell phone dropped in water and totaled. Given the popularity of iPhone, it is quite obvious which phone I should buy her as replacement.
I spent the night setting up her new iPhone. I am never a fans of Apple, but I must praise its elegance. The iPhone is well integrated with iTune, the user interface is intuitive and easy to use. The only hassle I had is calling up Fido customer service to disable the data service in the cell phone plan. It took me awhile to get the customer service agent do exactly what I asked. Pat is using a very cheap $17 monthly plan that does not come with any data package. Data is charged per kbyte, so monthly bill would be quite expensive if Pat turned on iPhone’s 3G data features by accident. It is safer to disable all data services from the carrier side. Pat can still go online with her iPhone using Wi-Fi, just like go online with a laptop.
The iPhone is as powerful as a mini-computer. Probably more powerful than the first laptop I own many years ago. The phone is also a very good deal, the 16GB version only costs $199 after rebate. The cost of the iPhone is heavy subsidized by carrier. The carrier’s plan to turn a profit is using the lucrative data plan come with the contract, which costs $30 a month plus surcharge if the bandwidth usage is over the limit. It is more economical to stay away from the 3G data plan, use iPhone as a phone, a mp3 player and only use its online features at coffee shop with free Wi-Fi. I wonder why people pay extra for the data plan. How often do you need to go online while on move? I don’t think I can surf the web and driving at the same time. If you want to check up something quick, there are Wi-Fi coffee shop every where.
Tonight I went to a talk about schizophrenia and bipolar disorder hosted by Chinese Mental Wellness Association of Canada. The association invited a UBC psychology professor to give some general information about the two mental problem. The speaker talked about the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and corresponding treatment options. The speaker talked in English and a volunteer translate the talk to Cantonese and Mandarin in real time.
The information in the talk is very general, probably less than what is in the Wiki. But the information sinks in much better from a live presentation than reading dry text. Let alone that I probably won’t read the information on my own. Today I learned that mental problem is partly genetic and partly environmental. Mental problem can not be cured, it can only be controlled or maintained. The treatment always begins with the psychiatrist, get some pills to stabilize the problem, then consult with psychologist to work on mental therapy. The hardest part is to get the patient aware of the problem and willing to accept treatment. Many audiences asked questions relate to how to treatment the problem in the Q&A session. Too bad that I forgot to ask the speaker whether smoking will make schizophrenia worse.
In addition to the content of the talk, I have some inspiration about volunteer works. It is the first time I have first hand experience about grass root charity organization. Unlike the big volunteer program, like the Red Cross or charity run by churches, the CMWAC has a total different aura. It is more like a support group for Chinese families with mental problem. The founder and chair person also acted as the translator for the talk. Juxtaposing her side by side with the psychology professor, I can see two difference kind of volunteers. The professor is the technical expert and gives credibility to the talk. The chair person knows a lot about hands on knowledge and very enthusiastic in her volunteer work. It is not that one is better than another, but rather the kinds of two volunteers make a good complement to each other. It is like scientists and research assistants, engineers and technicians, doctor and nurses, it takes two to get the job done.
I just know cats can have AIDS too. I read it from a poster at the animal hospital when I take Charlie to see a vet. There is HIV for human and there is FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus) for cats. There is about 10% of cats in North America are FIV infected FIV. Cats of FIV basically suffers the problem like human with HIV. Its immune system will stop working and it eventually dies from all sorts of diseases.
Condom can stop the spreading of HIV in human, maybe I should invent condom for cats, so the cats can have safe sex without the danger of having FIV. Then I did a little bit more research and it turns out FIV is transmitted by cat saliva, so my cat condom idea is not that useful. Or maybe I have to make a condom that’s is big enough for cat’s head.
Sometimes, you will come across task that is literally impossible to get done. You try very hard to finish the task, come up with clever (you think) solutions to work around the problem but all effort fails. Then you take a closer look at the problem and realize it really can’t be done. You can even prove it mathematically no feasible solution can ever exist. You will find yourself really stupid and wish you had spend more time analyzing the problem in the beginning instead of diving into the problem full throttle.
After spending 3 days writing several thousands lines of code that eventually have to throw away, I learn one valuable lesson: never make any attempt to create an accurate interrupt checker. It is impossible to model the exact moment when an interrupt is triggered and when it is cleared by the microprocessor.