Friday, 31 August 2007

USA as the most powerful nation in the world - how long will it last?

Not long.

China was weakened at the beginning of the last century because of its closing of borders - thinking that she has already got everything her people need. Leadership problem! Before that, China was the strongest country in the world because of her more advanced technology ("advance" is always a comparative term.)

At the beginning of this century, China is the world's fastest growing economy AND continues to reduce her population through tight (although unwelcome) birth control. (Compare with India for example who will be continuously hindered by its population demands.)

While education levels in China is still small compared with developed countries, China produces more PhD in science and technology than USA. It is just a matter of time for China to become more inventive and catch up in its scientific and technological achievements.

I based on these two observations to draw the conclusion in the last paragraph:
1. People in USA are still blinded to believe that there is a GOD. (See Polling Data on Science and Religion) Bible is just a fiction, written by some "men" centuries ago (may be with motivations unknown to us today). Even the Pope will get sick and ill. Only medicine can help. Prayers will not do anything. The real miracles are SCIENCE.
2. The urge of Chinese people to get education.

USA policy continues to drain the wealth of its people into a few rich people's pockets (Listen to some of speeches by Noam Chomsky, e.g. the world after Iraq invasion). Bad health care system (see Michael Moore's moive SICKO).

Welcome to the China Century.

IGoogle’s New Gadget-to-Gadget Communication

Back in 1997, I was experimenting "virtual apparatus framework" in order to allow "components" on a page to communicate among themselves. [see also]. I faced great technical difficulties and unstable "live connect" implementations in various browsers.

10 years later, Google is calling "virtual apparatus" iGoogle gadgets and they are trying to enable these gadgets to publish and listen (one-way communication) and only limited from type="html" and type="html-inline" gadgets. I don't know what that means because I did not have time to really look into iGoogle gadgets.

An obvious hurdle will be allowing gadgets hosted from different domains to communicate - that "cross domain scripting" security model!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Social Facts and Social Agreements

Ton Zijlstra wrote:

That George Bush is the US President, or Beatrix of Orange-Nassau is the Queen of the Netherlands is a social fact not an objective one. It is something we merely generally agree upon to be true (even those opposing monarchy, or those thinking Bush never beat Al Gore). We all behave like it is true. If we would stop that, it would indeed seize to be true.
Money systems, number and measures systems, religious belief systems etc. are social facts too. They're designed. They can be changed by groups simply stopping to accept them. Social facts are the emperor's new clothes. Social facts are the product of multi-subjectivity. We pretend that social facts are objective facts.

I would argue otherwise. That George W. Bush is the US President is a social agreement (between George W. Bush and people of USA) via a mechanism called election. USA people has agreed to give George W. Bush, until the next election, the power to execute some rights on behalf of the people.

Measurement units are also social agreements, negotiated agreements among international standards bodies in order to smooth the transactions of trade.

These social agreements can change, in fact they do change. However, these social agreements ARE not facts.

The statement "Jeanny is my wife" is a fact, a social fact. We married, in front of our parents, relatives, friends and so on. Of course, on the other hand, it is also a social agreement. If someday in the future, we get devoiced. The fact that she was my wife for these years remain as a fact and is true. The agreement part has changed!

With this, objectivity is NOT multi-subjectivity.

The statement "the earth is round" is a fact until proven wrong by scientific evidence. It is NOT negotiated among people inhibiting on Earth. Fact can be proven wrong and get revised. However, facts do not require social agreement to establish its validity. It is NOT multi-subjectivity.

National Computing Studies Summit

From the website:

IT Teachers Summit: Open Learning Approaches to Computing Studies
Date: 4th - 5th October 2007
Venue: Australian Science & Mathematics School (ASMS) and online from wherever teachers are located.
To register visit:

Summit goals
- Identify educators who are working is distance education / open learning activities in Computing Studies and person(s) from other disciplines who have had success in alternative program models or who are experts at online and open learning pedagogies.

- Identify, analyse and share models for open learning which best suit teaching and learning which best suit teaching and learning in senior secondary Computer Studies.

- Establish and support open learning communities by identifying schools and teachers that are interested in promoting exemplary practice in open learning in senior secondary Computing Studies.

- Assist SiMERR to identify research and project opportunities.

- Provide a focus for the activities of CEGs on Computer Studies in rural and regional areas.

- Share and learn from the experiences of the state and territory projects.

- Develop recommendations about the future of open learning in Computing Studies and the role of CEGs.

Going to school in the "entertainment park" way

The original title is "Kids ride a zip line to go to school".

Basically, the kids bring their own pulleys and a fork from a tree (as brakes) to "slide" down a steel wire 1200 feet above the gorge. WOW!

Blog games

At EnRole blog, we have been playing an edublog game for the last few weeks.

EduBlog game is a game played in a BLOG environment for educational purposes.

The whole process (flow) can be read from the URL linked to this post's title.

The final result was in. I like the long list of verbs:
absorbing, asking, blending, cruising, connecting, considering, constructing, conversing, discussing, experiencing, fantasising, interacting, networking, participating, posting, reading, reflecting, thinking and sharing.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

ePaper & other technology

I have great hope of ePaper and similar technology to one day really support "paperless" office. I know how much I like to read from a book instead of a monitor. Among the reasons that reading from book is better are:
1. more comfortable reading. Paper uses reflective light verses monitor's emitting flashing light.
2. no energy is consumed while reading whereas monitors continue to consume energy even when the information on the screen is not changing.
3. form-factor. Books are so much lighter and friendly.
.... [and the list can continue]

Then comes ePaper, a promise of flexible, reflective, non-energy consuming when not changing content technology. There are two basic versions of ePaper, [from wikipedia]

Electronic paper was first developed in the 1970s by Nick Sheridon at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center. The first electronic paper, called Gyricon, consisted of polyethylene spheres between 20 and 100 micrometres across. Each sphere is composed of negatively charged black plastic on one side and positively charged white plastic on the other (each bead is thus a dipole[1]). The spheres are embedded in a transparent silicone sheet, with each sphere suspended in a bubble of oil so that they can rotate freely. The polarity of the voltage applied to each pair of electrodes then determines whether the white or black side is face-up, thus giving the pixel a white or black appearance.[2]

In the 1990s another type of electronic paper was invented by Joseph Jacobson, who later co-founded the corporation E Ink which formed a partnership with Philips Components two years later to develop and market the technology. In 2005, Philips sold the electronic paper business as well as its related patents to Prime View International. This used tiny microcapsules filled with electrically charged white particles suspended in a colored oil.[3] In early versions, the underlying circuitry controls whether the white particles were at the top of the capsule (so it looked white to the viewer) or at the bottom of the capsule (so the viewer saw the color of the oil). This was essentially a reintroduction of the well-known electrophoretic display technology, but the use of microcapsules allowed the display to be used on flexible plastic sheets instead of glass.

One of the limitation of ePaper is that it is monochromatic, ie single colour.

This is now changed. According to this website, they have come up with a method to display full spectrum of colour (not by mixing the three primary colours). This is an exciting news.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Google launches embeddable map feature

Two features of Google Map will definitely be used by innovative teachers once how to use them become available.

1. Embed maps directly into web pages, like youTube videos, by copy and paste a snippet of HTML.

To do this

1. Navigate to the location you want to show on Google Map.
2. On the top right corner of the map, there is a [link to this page]. Click it to get a sniplet of HTML.
3. Copy and paste to your web page

Here is an example, the area I live in:

View Larger Map

2. My Map which allow users to define areas, add text or links.
[More on this when I have time.]

Monday, 20 August 2007

Learning Chinese R/W way - Lesson 14

I came across this today.

This is one of the more difficult sentence to translate. First a little background of the source: According to Joseph Yu

Su Dong Po 蘇東坡 (a famous scholar in the Song 宋 Dynasty) came from a scholarly family. His father and his brother were also great scholars. One day, someone asked him the secret to pass examination to have academic achievement (考取功名). He (probably jokingly) said:


In this sentence, you can see the first 5 numbers: 一二三四五. So you know this is a list. Using Joseph Yu's translation, it is
(1) Destiny
(2) Cycle
(3) Feng Shui
(4) Accumulation of hidden virtuous deeds
(5) Study books

The first three are difficult to change, the last two are something we can work hard on. That basically sums up my philosophy of life.

In the 5 elements, 命 belongs to 土 (earth),運 belongs to 金 (metal),風水 belongs to 水(water),陰德 belongs to 木(wood). What is missing here is 火 (fire).

We belief that the 5 elements are inter-related. In order to change, we can accummulate more "virtuous deeds". We can also study. Wood and Fire reinforces each other and can change the rest.

I think the best translation may be "Opportunities present themselves only to those who are prepared".

Thursday, 16 August 2007

More Pixel Art

Mr. Wong's tallest virtual building:

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Dumbed down instruction

I believe dumbed down instruction is one of the major misconception of teaching.

One of the success factor of the "Harry Potter" series is the J K Rowling do NOT dumbed down the language. She writes for an intelligent reader. Children love it!

Scarfolding provides support for intelligent and capable learners who are new to a discipline. Dumbed down implies the learner is lesser in ability. Scarfolding is not "dumbed down".

Stephen Downes wrote

as the (adult) readers alternate between being impressed by the review and not believing that a 12-year old wrote it.

This shows that a lot of people think that children are of a lesser ability - which, as Stephen correctly pointed out, is unjustified. "It's worth remarking (again) that children today spend their days reading and writing on the internet. So a literate review from a 12-year old should not be a surprise."

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Speed Listening

Many modern media players can increase the speed of audio without distorting the pitch. My mp4 player (generic brand, ie no brand name) can change the tempo which is the same as increasing the play back speed. Window Media player can do the same according to Steve Pavlina

click the arrow below “Now Playing.” Then click Enhancements -> Show Play Speed Settings. This will bring up the speed controls that enable you to increase the speed of any files you’re playing.

When I am listening to podcast, I usually increase the tempo of my little mp4 to +5 which I can still fully comprehend the podcast.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Reasonable agreement

READ CAREFULLY. By [accepting this material|accepting this payment|accepting this business-card|viewing this t-shirt|reading this sticker] you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies (”BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.

Rubik's cube portrait

Summer vacation in the northern hemisphere still havs plenty left to do some interesting project. If you like challenge, here is a good one.

Choose a person (or object) which you like, convert into low resolution and in six colours. Assemble the picture using Rubik's cubes. Sound difficult? Here is an example.

from The Colbert Cubes

Friday, 10 August 2007

Pixel Art and Vexel Art

Pixel Art:

How to:

An awesome 100K by 100K artwork.
Few more examples:

Vexel Art:

From Wikipedia:

Vexel is a neologism and portmanteau for an entirely pixel-based raster form of digital art that imitates the vector graphics technique. The word derives from a combination of "vector" and "pixel" to distinguish them from normal vector graphics and normal raster images.



note: Quality of images has been reduced due to resizing to fit the layout. Click on the image to see the original.

Sunday, 5 August 2007


Once the leader of China said, "When a sneeze is multiplied by 1 billion times, it becomes a huge problem." So is the toilet problem.

CNN has a video (captured from CCTV) on this issue.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Lessons from Geese

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

How could God have allowed the tsunami?

Here is a talk recorded on Feb 2005 and was released in April 2007. Rev. Tom Honey gave a courageous talk.

Regular readers know that I side with Dawkins on the issue of God. I cannot help but wish that those who are religious were the thinkers that Honey is. [stealing directly from a comment made by Randy Sharp]

History repeats

Now, it is official, history repeats.

See the photos from here