Indian bonding

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.

兩周一聚:傳統與傳統智慧

今期兩週一聚加燦出題目﹐原本的題目水蛇春咁長﹕傳統 & 傳統智慧 / Convention & Conventional Wisdom。為免影響博面排板美觀﹐我把貼子的題目改為﹕傳統與傳統智慧 。原本加燦要求一雞兩吃﹐同一題目中英文各交一篇﹐可惜我恕難從命﹐原因請看篇未注腳。

傳統與傳統智慧
每間學校也有它的獨特傳統﹐我不是指尊師重道或德智體群那些官方傳統﹐而是在學生間世代相傳的不成文規定。我的中學便有一個十分特別的傳統習俗﹐做生日。做生日並不是為同學慶祝生日﹐而是一班同學忽然間圍著其中一位同學﹐很高興地唱生日快樂﹐然後把“壽星仔”按著背脊朝天﹐大伙兒以拳頭相向﹐將不幸被圍的同學打得彭彭作響。做生日的受害者並不只是被圍在中央的同學﹐在外圍的同學手不夠長﹐打不到中央的同學﹐隨便看到那個背脊便打落去。生日會通常不會持續太久﹐每位同學過完手癮後﹐便會一哄而散。

不一定要生日的人才便被做生日﹐當然生日的人一定逃不過被做生日的命運。每一人也有可能是壽星仔﹐選擇基本上帶有隨機性﹐當有有些不幸的同學被選中的機會高些。生日會可以發生在任何時間任何地點﹐轉堂時小息時放午飯時甚至上堂時。最常見的一種生日會在排隊時發生﹐一班同學自發地候守在樓梯口﹐第一位從樓梯下來的同學便自動成為壽星仔﹐而後來從樓梯下來的同學看見有生日會﹐當然會加也快腳步一起加入慶祝。有同學在課室內搞事﹐騷擾一位受歡迎的老師講課﹐我們即場做他生日﹐安撫他後讓老師安心授課。最經典放會考前最後一天﹐我們為一位深不得人心的舊生老師做生日。他幾經爭扎逃出我們班的圍困後﹐他在隔鄰班上最後一節課時﹐害怕再次被做生日﹐還未落堂便奪門而逃。

做生日也有其傳統智慧。生日的正日當然不可以讓同學知道。行落樓梯時也要小心﹐要眼觀八路耳聽四方﹐若果察覺到樓梯底氣氛異樣﹐便應該折反上樓﹐讓其他同學身先士卒。被圍的時每個人的反應不同﹐有些同學會嘗試突圍﹐不過通常也不會成功。有些同學會採取守勢保護自己﹐其實做生日也不是認真地打﹐大伙兒又不是收賣人命。我被圍時則以攻為守﹐隨手找一個同學拉他入圍﹐讓他與我一起分享被慶祝生日。其他同學有兩個背脊做目標﹐落在自己背脊便的拳頭便減少一半。

生日會歷史悠久深入民心 ﹐現在我們在舊同學結婚時﹐仍然會保留這項優良傳統。在飲宴留到最後等大部份親友離去後﹐我們便會舉行這個簡單而隆重的做生日儀式。雖然人老了大家只是循例做樣子扮打﹐但是拍照出來的效果十分有趣。

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.

其他文章﹕
加燦 (出題者)周游hevangel、Sherry、michelle軍師奶IanC9讀與食、南杏、lomichee、zero、芸、mad dog、chili mommingmanfred、hongkieatlarge、athrunzHaricot 微豆SilverThe Man who Loves Evertonhihisimonlongqt肥肥媽媽

下期題目﹕ 怕

兩周一聚(十二)題目:怕

偶然參加了兩周一聚這個網上聚會﹐認識到天涯海角的一班博友。每兩個星期大家寫同一個題目﹐從多角度去看同一件事﹐大家交流想法激刺思考。今期我自告奮勇出題目。題目一個字﹕

你怕什麼﹖有人怕狗﹐有人怕黑﹐有人怕鬼。有人畏高﹐有人畏妻﹐有人畏首畏尾。今期的題目請大家暢談心中恐懼﹐越怕就越要講出來。四月十五日你驚我仲驚﹐大家一齊小心小心怕怕囉﹗現在我最怕的是什麼﹖我最怕沒有人參加今期的兩週一聚﹐所以請大家湧躍參加。

參加辨法很簡單﹐在這裏留言報名﹐四月十五日交功課。先把文章放在自己的博上﹐再把連結轉貼過來。另外誠徵下一期兩週一聚的出題者﹐先到先得手快有手慢冇﹐快點留言回覆吧。

報名處﹕
hevangel
加燦
The Man Who Loves Everton
Michelle
Readandeat
Athrunz
Tzigane
周游
Simon Lai
Lomichee
Gwen
Wiwinana
Nankin
Zero

mad dog
Silver
Wanni
Haricot
Cillli mon
Mingmanfred
Bungy-Zoe
Venus
longqt

下期出題者﹕ Tzigane

Platonic Heart 絕對衝激

Platonic Heart

看《絕對衝激》很自然讓我聯想起《一騎當千》﹐兩套動畫的賣點也是美少女格鬥﹐同樣也是越打越少布。其實要為這套動畫寫評論實在有點難度﹐基本上開首第一句已經把重點說清楚明白﹐其飾篇幅說的只是可有可無的配菜。《絕對衝激》一共五集OVA﹐除了動畫外還有一系烈週邊商品﹐當然包括電腦遊戲了。故事行貨到不能再行貨﹐主角是武功天下無敵的高中女生﹐因機綠巧合參加了美少女格鬥比賽。每個參賽者都像是玩cosplay﹐主角是女學生﹐她的對手有巫女﹐空姐﹐女警﹐護士﹐教師﹐要什麼角色有什麼角色﹐要什麼制服有什麼制服。為什麼要參加比賽的原因並不重要﹐比賽背後的陰謀也可以不用理會﹐最重要是每集也有美少女打格鬥戰。

雖然美其名這套是格鬥動畫﹐但打鬥只是掛羊頭賣狗肉﹐動作招式十分生硬﹐決勝過程甚至牽強得很離譜。每次總是女主角先挨打﹐待給揍到吐血差不多半死﹐就會忽然大發神威一招KO對手。她的復原力出乎意料地極強﹐上個鏡頭才血花四淺﹐下個鏡頭可以完全沒有受過傷。最神奇是明明身前挨打﹐身後的衣服卻無故暴烈。更加神奇是不論衣服如何破損﹐內衣褲總是完整無缺﹐令我想起以前《星矢》的動畫名物鐵壁內衣。女主角的對手可沒有神奇內衣保護﹐那便由她們負責犧牲色相大灑鹽花。除了打鬥賣肉可以外﹐任何可以賣肉的機會也不放過﹐故事加插很多出浴和水著鏡頭﹐簡直是服務大放送。

開頭四集的劇情十分公式化﹐到了結局卻來個一百八十度轉彎。為了解開格鬥比賽的謎團﹐編劇前後連扭四次橋﹐一浪緊接一浪越扯越遠﹐真係完全無可能估到。最讓人驚喜的是最後一戰﹐竟然女主角媽媽代女出征﹐超級腹黑的結尾也有別於一般大團員結局。不過從開始對劇本已沒有任何期望﹐故事能否自圓其說並不影響動畫的可觀性﹐反正只是找個藉口來打鬥爆衫。這套動畫明顯鎖定是特定觀眾群﹐善歡看的人會大呼過癮﹐不喜歡看的人應該連看也不會看。

How to display Chinese mp3 tag in iPhone

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?

The two extreme of children

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

iPhone

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.

Mental Wellness

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.

FIV

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.

Interrupt

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.