Monday, 26 December 2011

Season Greeting

Please accept, and/or renew, without obligation, implied or implicit, the best wishes, referred to as this greeting hereafter, for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, non-specific sexuality, celebration of the winter solstice holiday in the northern hemisphere and summer solstice holiday in the southern hemisphere, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your preference, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. This greeting, without implied obligations also extends to cover a financially successful, personally fulfilling, emotionally enchanting and stimulating, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2012, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, in a world filled with love, peace, joy, harmony, diversity, tolerant, good will, respect and happiness, clean air and plenty of water, less pollution, reduced green house gases, and having regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith and your preference to the choice of blogging software, RSS reader, email system, web browsers, including but not limited to the free Firefox, Chrome and/or Internet Explorer with due considerations of their respective differences to the interpretation and implementation of W3C web standards, computer platform, brand of microprocessor, type of visual display unit, keyboard, mouse or any other pointing device, operating system, including but not limited to singular or a plurality of variations, whether for a fee or free open source, and Internet service provider connected by modem, permanent modem, broadband, or otherwise, or dietary preference of the wishee.

This greeting must not be read if you do not accept the terms and conditions of this greeting. By having read this greeting, you have indicated your explicit acknowledgement of accepting this greeting in the aforesaid manners.

This greeting inclusively, exclusively and non-exclusively cover you, your spouse, whether same or different gender and/or whether such relationship is legally recognized or illegal in certain jurisdictions, including singularly and plurally, previous, present or future, your children including natural, adopted, by-law or sponsored, dead, alive, or unborn, and/or your parents, related by blood, by-laws, adopted, or sponsored dead or alive. Upon being covered by the greeting of the aforesaid greeting in the same aforesaid manner, those covered wishees will extend the aforesaid greeting to the same relates they have recursively and infinitum.

By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms:

* This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal.

* This greeting, including but not limited to all its associated tangible and intangible good will and best wishes, is freely transferable, duplicated, distributed, copied and reproduced subject to the conditions below.

* This greeting implies no promise by the wishor to actually implement any of the wishes.

* This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wishor.

* This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance or automatic renewal of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.

* The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor.

* Any proprietary rights associated with this greeting, including but not limited to the intellectual and moral rights, publishing rights including but not limited to publishing via the blogosphere, by email, by web sites, on CD and/or any electronic means, the right to perform in private and in public to a small, medium or large group of present or remote audience and or the broadcast rights to transmit, preserve and retransmit by any physical or electronic means are the property of the wishor.

* This manifestation of the greeting, copyleft under GNU license or other open source license similar to GNU license and or Creative Commons when and if such license(s) is/are enforceable in certain jurisdictions, is freely transferable, duplicated, distributed, copied and reproduced provided that any further addition or alternation shall not impose any limitation beyond those implicitly or explicitly expressed this clause.

* Any alteration and addition, including but not limited to the syntactic, semantic, linguistic, artistic, aesthetic, spiritual and material improvements, shall only be made to the original greeting in the same good faith and honour of any reasonable person.

* Any references in this greeting to "the Lord", "Father Christmas", "Our Saviour", "Santa" or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

* Any names or terms used in this greeting, whether trademarked, copyrighted, copylefted, patented or have been placed in the open source under GNU, Creative Commons or other open source licenses belong to their respective owners and promoters.

* The wishee expressly agrees, by the acceptance of the greeting, that the greeting is accepted and enjoyed at wishee's own risk. Neither the wishor, its affiliates, nor any of their respective employees, previous or current employers, friends, relatives, spouse past, present or future, agents, third party providers or licensor's warrant that the greeting will be uninterrupted or error free; nor do they make any warranty as to the results and effectiveness of the greeting.

* The wishee may not without wishor's prior written approval disclose to any third party the results of any benchmark test of the performance of the greeting.

* The wishee expressly acknowledges and agrees that in order to protect the integrity of certain third party mechanism of enjoying the wishes, the wishor may provide for security related updates that will be automatically downloaded and installed on your holiday itinerary. Such security related updates may impair the movement, enjoyment (and any other activities during your holiday which specifically depends on the said wishes) including disabling your ability to laugh and/or smile, i.e. certain way of enjoying a holiday protected by digital rights management.

* The wisher reserves the right, at any time and from time to time, to update, revise, supplement, and otherwise modify this Agreement and to impose new or additional rules, policies, terms, or conditions on your use of the wishes. Such updates, revisions, supplements, modifications, and additional rules, policies, terms, and conditions (collectively referred to in this Agreement as "Additional Terms") will be effective immediately and incorporated into this Agreement. The wishee's continued enjoyment of the wishes following will be deemed to constitute the wishee's acceptance of any and all such Additional Terms. All Additional Terms are hereby incorporated into this Agreement by this reference.

* This greeting will be automatically renewed annually.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Book Review: Interview with Gods

If you read this book as a novel, the plot is too simple - a group of friends (members of a non-political, non-violence ecologically focused group called One Planet) were contacted by "External Consciousness". In order to protect the information these people got, the USA secret service killed them all.

The "meat" of the book is the five chapters presented as the interviews with External Consciousness by these members of One Planet. If read as fiction, it is dry. Basically, it is External Consciousness explaining how a higher intelligence has designed the "biomatrix" - the biological system on Earth, the developments and so on. If read as science, well it is non science! The first interview is about the creation. Poised as a description of how Universe has evolved and how life on earth has evolved, the chapter is full of voodoo promoted by people such as Deepak Chopra.

I would not recommend reading this as fact or science. I would not recommend reading as novel too.

Also published on Atheist Bible Reading and Forum

Thursday, 22 December 2011

China tops U.S, Japan to become top patent filer

China as an emerging economy, her pace of progress is accelerating.

Economy develops, first by imitation. R&D is Repeat and Duplicate. Until one can do what others can do, there is no way to join the innovation bandwagon. Once one has mastered all the techniques, innovation can start.

After 30 years of importing technology, China is now poised to create her own. The story of high speed rail may shed a light of what is her strategy.

The Chinese high speed rail project started with co-operation with foreign high speed rail manufacturers in stages. At every stage, the foreign company was required to build the parts in China with an appointed factory. This same factory, after co-operation with 6 different foreign manufacturers, "digested" all the foreign technology and started to create her own intellectual properties. Now China is bidding to provide high speed rail to USA. While not the fastest, China has the largest high speed rail network. The only commercially operated Maglev is in Shanghai, China

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Book Review: The Next Decade

It seems that Friedman is an author whom if you read one of his book, you have read all. In the review of The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, I deposed that he has missed a number of key factors which will affect the next 100 years. In this book, I was expecting to read a proper analysis of the leading up to the current financial situation and what are the policy options for USA in the next decade. I am equally disappointed by his stubborn obsession of American domination as his book I last reviewed.

I disagree with his reasoning that the current financial situation in the America is part of a financial cycle. I agree with the view that it is the accumulation of no real wage growth while corporations reported soaring profits since 1980's. [ref] The middle class of USA has been collapsing. [ref] USA Government debt is about 100% GDP, almost as high as the one during the second world war [ref] The American's industrial base has almost completely off-shored to China. As I have noted in my last review, the intellectual capital of USA is also declining.

IMF predicts that China economy will overtake USA by 2016 which is within the scope of this book and Friedman just seemed unaware of this and continued to paddle that China will collapse due to internal conflict. [ref] Is that selective data gathering?

Politically, USA is corrupted. Bribery is legalized as lobbying. Friedman's notion that USA is an empire is ironically head-on. The government is working for a few privileged. The current style of western democracy has only been around for a few hundred years. When political leaders are elected based on popularity rather than demonstrated ability to govern and decision-making, one would wonder if the political system evangelized by USA is reaching its limits.

The next decade is an important decade for humanity. There are difficult decisions to be made, especially for the environment and climate - which is very much linked. Water, food, energy, climate, displacement of people are some of issues I was looking forward to.

Friedman did mention about water. He deposited that there are plenty, except not directly usable by human. The scarcity is fresh water and desalination is energy intensive and costly. Here are two possible projects USA government would have chosen to support. A few years ago, there was a project in Eritrea at which sea water was used to farm shrimps and fish. After that, the nutrient rich water is used to feed salt loving plants such as salicornia and then mangroves before returning to sea. Salicornia can by consumed by human, animals and/or converted into bio fuel. Unfortunately, the project was terminated by political reasons. If USA is to be a force for good, her political capital could have been used to save these projects. [ref] The other is seawater greenhouse as a possible solution for food and fresh water. [ref] While it is not too late to rescue the former project and provide support for the latter, if USA leaders, however, continue to think in line as described by Friedman, she could miss a golden opportunity and the world would be a little bit worse off.

Production of oil looks like have peaked in middle of the first decade of 21st century, a fact acknowledged by Friedman. If that is true, the price of oil will only go up. If USA economy can magically recovered in the next few years, the competition of oil from China and USA will drive the price to the roof, creating mayhem to a lot of people. Switching the transportation system to renewable energy source will need at least a decade. Switching baseline electricity load to renewable sources is also decades ahead. These infrastructures takes time to change. The geopolitical issue resulted from this is very dangerous if according to Freidman. Bumpy roads ahead, both for governments and people!

Food production is tightly linked to climate change. As the earth's average temperature is expected to continue to rise, extreme weather events will make food production unpredictable. Food price fluctuations would have significant political implications around the world - not only to USA.

If the consuming economy continues, one of the key resource in electronics and battery is rare earth elements. China has the largest reserve of them and produces almost 90% of all the rare earth elements in 2000. [ref] Again Friedman failed to see the importance of the control of these elements in a technological age and the implication to the USA economy.

When a country has been living out of her means for an extended time, when her political system is showing signs of weakness, when her economy is in trouble, when she is spending disproportionately in military rather than upgrading old and mal-functioning infrastructure, when intellectual capital is declining (comparatively), when health care cost is double that of the other nations' average without significant benefit, when a significant portion of the population is plagued by obesity, heart disease and/or diabetes, and a changing climate, declining energy source are in the near future, a world domination mentality would only led to a more dramatic decline. A policy based on military means to secure the scarce resources would only led to conflict. As there are many nations with nuclear capability, such a policy is very dangerous if not outright infeasible.

To be fair to Freidman, this book is about geopolitics and he was trying to look into a crystal ball. By missing several key factors, his future can only be wrong. He is also driving his predictions by a USA centric, dominating role overtune. For the sake of humanity, I hope there is no USA political leaders who will take his future as policy guides.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Book Review: The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century

With the advantage of writing this review 10% into the 21st century, I can point out the important factors that Friedman has missed in this book.

Friedman does not show an understanding of the Chinese culture which is rising rapidly and hence has misjudged the implication of a powerful China. He is absolutely correct that China was more like an isolated island, with difficult to penetrate borders on all sides. That is no longer true in light of modern technology. In 1421, before Columbus set sail to 'discover' the world, Chinese fleet, led by ZhengHe has already visited Middle East and Eastern Africa. The size of the ocean going junks used by ZhengHe built over 60 years earlier towered over Columbus ships. [see] Until about 500 years ago, China was the world's leading economy and power.

China has been conquered by foreign powers twice in her entire history. First at Yuan Dynasty which lasted less that 100 years and the second time at Qing Dynasty [1644-1911 CE] - the last dynasty before the new China was born. The result is that the conquerors were melted into the Chinese culture and became Chinese.

The above two snippets of history tell a story which Friedman has completely missed.

1. Being geographically isolated in the past, China has to be self-sufficient in order to survive. China could not depend on conquering other people to steal wealth. For an agricultural society to remain viable, a stable society was a prerequisite. As such, Chinese is a peace loving culture. When she has the power to conquer the world, she chose not to do so.
2. Being self sufficient, it was tempting for the Emperors to close the border and focused mainly on internal affairs. Of course the closing of trade in the last 500 years proved to be disastrous for China. Chinese, thus, has learnt a lesson which is still painfully remembered. A country needs a sufficient strong defense in order to protect herself. That's the main motivation why Mao insisted on China becoming a nuclear nation.

In Outliers: The Story of Success, Gladwell described a difference between rice culture and wheat culture. The southern China is a rice culture and that hard working moral has permeated throughout China. The discipline and efficiency of achievement as demonstrated by the 2008 Olympics, for instance, reflects the collective will of the Chinese people.

Can China continue to develop her economy? Friedman did not think so. I think that is his first mistake. Yes, dynasties came and gone. But China has remained as a unity. As Kissinger, correctly observed, China is more a culture than a nation state. It will not fragment as Friedman suggested.

Chinese economy started at a very low level. Until her per capital income is in par with leading economy, her economic growth is easy. She does not need to make mistakes which are typical at the "cutting edge". When Chinese per capital income is in par with USA, her economy would be 4 times larger than USA - just by size of the population. Recent global financial crisis indicates that USA economic strength is not at powerful as Friedman would have wished.

With a powerful peace loving nation in place, the world would be safer. Unless some leaders in a country are insane, waging war against a nuclear nation is MAD. There has been no world war since the invention of nuclear weapons speaks volume to the danger of major conflict. USA's navy power could not be used to force her will onto China, nor be used to limit Chinese economic grow.

Just by the size of the population, China is producing more PhDs in Science and engineering than USA. A report in 2002 predicts that by 2010, China will have more PhD graduating than USA. [source:] The consistent relatively poor performance of USA students in all educational measures points to a weakening intellectual capacity of USA. The best students in USA choose to study the soft easy subjects such as commerce and law. The best students in China choose to study the hard sciences. The intellectual strength of China will only increase while the same cannot be said to USA. The limiting factor to Chinese growth is resources and energy. The lower living standard in China means Chinese manufacturing can afford to pay more for the scarce resources than USA. In a world where military might could not be used to steal other nations' resources, China will compete on economic terms with USA for energy and resources.

China is the largest foreign creditor of the USA government. Chinese strategic dumping of USA Treasury bonds into the market can influence the interest rate at which USA government can borrow money. If there is any leverage a government can put on another, it would be China having an upper hand than the USA.

21st century will not be an easy century. The climate change will have significant impact on relationships between nations. Friedman has completely ignored this factor in this book. The world has already warmed by 0.8 deg C and there is a 1.6 deg C locked in even if by a miracle every country on this planet wake up tomorrow morning and take the most serious steps to fight climate change - which is not likely to happen. There will be large population displacement and serious "natural" disasters due to the effect of extreme climate. Economic resources will be stretched.

The declining of fossil fuel will also significantly affect the economic development. China has put renewable energy source as her main strategic goal and determined to be the leading manufacturer of renewable energy. Independence of fossil fuel has been a national agenda since President Carter. The domestic politics of USA has been delaying any action in reducing USA's dependence on oil. That's not a sign of a power nation.

From history point, USA is young, very young. In the wild, death at young age is not uncommon. Being young does not imply powerful.

If USA policy is informed by Friedman, she will be in very dangerous water. USA needs to learn from UK how to survive in a world dominated by power other than USA.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Book Review: Take Five!

I got a pre-release reviewer copy of Kaye Hagler's Take Five! from LibraryThing

First a couple of comments then I will describe the good points of the book.

1. The author started with

During my twenty plus years as a teacher in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms, I have tried almost every bell-ringer on the market. After all, the bell-ringer serves as a valuable classroom management tool for those crucial (and all-too-often chaotic) minutes at the beginning of the class period.

After I read the book, I still do not know what and how bell-ringer are supposed to be used in a classroom. I suppose that would be a technique common in USA classrooms. When I did a google search, I cannot find any information as well. If someone can explain that to me, I will be grateful.

2. There is a section called "A Little Learning Theory" in which the author listed a few educator such as John Dewey, Joanne Hendrick and focussed on their criticism of learning. However, this little section tells us nothing about the theories. I suppose readers would be familiar with these names - then what is the point of including such a section. However, for this book, this is OK because this book is not an education theory book. This is a teacher resource book!

So what is this book?

After I went through the first 10 pages, there are the meat of the book. An alphabetical list of 182 "prompts". Here is one example:

Paper or Plastics? 2
Plastic doesn’t seem to be going away, at least not today! How would life be different if plastic had never been invented? For example, there wouldn’t be AstroTurf for teams who play in covered stadiums or disposable silverware.

Without plastic, there would be more broken glass from bottles, meaning more cut fingers—and yet no Band-Aids to cover them. In fact, if you were to look around right now, you would see numerous items made of plastic: pencil sharpeners, pens, contact lenses, crates and shelving, clocks, table surfaces and chairs, computers, televisions . . . the list goes on and on.
Now it’s your turn. Brainstorm to list the many ways life would be different without the invention of plastic.

Language link : cause-and-effect
Learning setting : individual
Supplies : Student W.A.L.L.*
Standards :
Use words, phrases, and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons Develop the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other and examples

Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information, using strategies such as definition, Classification, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts,tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension

*W.A.L.L. (Write A Language Link) is a folder on students' computers which the teacher can read and comment. Kind of like the wall in facebook.

If you are a language teacher, there are 182 ready-to-use templates which the author called "prompts" for immediate application or modification. "100-plus extensions lessons are also provided through the Teacher Tips."

It is good to see thinking skills being incorporated into any lesson. The fact that such skills can be learnt via fun and collaboration is the greatest strength of this book. However, the collaboration part, which is at the core of my own teaching, may improve slightly by adding a "debriefing" part to each and every activity. There is no mention of "debriefing" in the book (I did a search on "debrief" in the reviewer pdf of the book and found no reference to it). Debrief is the process of reinforcing the learning. When students can articulate what they have learnt - especially in thinking skills - in front of the peers, such a process also serves the purpose of spreading the thinking skills to other members of the class.

As a teacher resource for language teacher, I would give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Was Linda Katechi sincere?

As the Chancellor of a University, was she naive enough to believe that police would not use inappropriate force? If yes, she did not deserve to be the Chancellor. If no, she did not deserve to be the Chancellor.

Hindsight is always prefect. But the moral call, which is the critical attribute of a leader, is not to commit wrong so that hindsight would be unnecessary. That's the leadership. Has Lida Katechi demonstrated sufficient leadership to remain as the chancellor of any university?

As the police retreat, was it clear who were on the moral high ground? The cowardice of the police was in plain sight. When it was a few students, they used excessive brutality. When they were out-numbered, they just retreated and could not stand up for what they were supposed to do in the first place.

cross posted to Atheist Bible Reading and Forum

Monday, 31 October 2011

Quantum Levitation

Saturday, 29 October 2011

They must be enjoying the water slide - I mean the ducklings...

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Only if I can see more of this everyday

Only if I can see more of this everyday, USA will be in a path of regaining her greatness.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Finally, there is one positive thing coming out from USA

I have been trying to find something positive about the current social environment in USA, ...

Finally, schools in USA are providing children with more healthy food. [source]

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

7inch tablet

I wrote earlier the availability of a low cost 7inch tablet from India. Recent research indicates that it is NOT the cheapest 7inch tablet - China and Taiwan were able to produce better specification 7inch tablet at lower cost than India. A report from AsianCorrespondent claimed the Aakash (the Indian 7inch low cost tablet) is DOA - dead on arrival, just like Indian's low cost car - Tata' Nano.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Low-cost (USD50) electronic tablet proves worth in Indian classroom

This makes Kindle Fire, Full Color 7" Multi-touch Display, Wi-Fi (USD199) looks very expensive. OK, the Indian low cost tablet is more like a single function device, but so is Kindle Fire. :-)

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Dog as a player companion in Basket ball and volley ball

LEGO Lancer Assault Rifle

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Limit of human endurance

You are required to hold your breath as you watch this video.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Find x

A proof that woman equals problem.

Color E-ink paper

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

2 million minutes

Out of the 2 million minutes available to teenagers in USA, India and China, how much time are spent studying?

The national prosperity of a country depends on the productivity of her citizens. For high value jobs, the ability to understand hard science and mathematics are critical. Is USA on track to produce the citizens she will need for global competition?

Here is a documentary: 2 million minutes

Sunday, 28 August 2011

How to land a plane which has lost one of its two wings?

Monday, 15 August 2011


The video is only 3:34 mins. The punch line is the very last sentence.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Logical fallacy

I was sent an email containing the following statements. Politics aside, I like to comment on the logical fallacy committed by the sender.


If any other of our presidents had doubled the National Debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would You have Approved?

If any other of our presidents had then proposed to Double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved?
Fallacy: Judging an action which asking the cause of the action. What else can Obama do when he inherited a situation that bad?

If any other of our presidents had criticized a State Law that he admitted he never even read, would you think that he is just an ignorant hot Head?
Fallacy: How does one know if another person has or has not read something? "that he admitted he never even read" - What is the context when this admission was made?

If any other of our presidents had pronounced the Marine Corps as if it were the Marine Corpse, would you think him an Idiot?
Fallacy: Diversion. What has the pronunciation have to do with an argument?

If any other of our presidents had put 87,000 workers out of work by arbitrarily placing a moratorium on offshore oil drilling on companies that have one of the best safety records of any industry because one foreign company had an accident, would you have agreed?
Fallacy: Almost every policy will have winners and losers.

If any other of our presidents had used a forged document as the basis of the moratorium that would render 87000 American workers unemployed,
would you support him?
Fallacy: "forged document" - proof needed. BTW, was it not that USA invaded Iraq based on false premise - the Iraq has weapon of mass destruction?

If any other of our presidents had been the first President to need a teleprompter installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes?
Fallacy: Good point. Just watch the following video.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

How do differential gears work?

Does Kindle ruin your potential date?

I got a Kindle DX for over two months now. I have had a few people ask me what I have in my hand. Oh, it is a good conversation starter! With my aging eye-sight, DX is worthy of all the extra money over the normal Kindle.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

When a truck and a tourist bus met...

Co-operation and understanding are the key.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Perpetual Motion Machine

We know from Science that perpetual machine is impossible. But think again.

Obviously this is not a single instance. Here is another example.

So is Science wrong?
If you want to make one, here is how.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The power of stepping into the shoes of others

If this 18-minute talk has changed your point of view, imagine what a 3-week playing the role of your enemy would enable you to understand. Imagine the transformative effect of your course to your students if you allow your students to experience stepping into the shoes of others. That's the power of online role playing. If you want to try, I am ready to help you.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Big History

Sunday, 16 January 2011

XO-3 prototype tablet coming in 2010

Friday, 7 January 2011

Superpower China Built by Unseen Hands

If you are wondering why Chinese students work so hard, here is why...

Thursday, 6 January 2011

USA needs someone like Daniel Ellsberg as the next president

I just watched the movie/documentary The Most Dangerous Man In America. USA citizens should seriously consider asking Daniel Ellsberg to be the next President.