Thursday, February 28, 2008


Tomorrow, I’ll be off to Shanghai. Weather is expected to hover between ‘unpleasant’ and ‘nasty’ at 6 to 13 °C.

On Monday, I’ll take another flight to Tianjin (further north, close to Beijing). Weather in Tianjin will not be as rosy as Shanghai; the forecast is for ‘bitter’ to ‘miserable’ weather at 1 to 8 °C.

I’m not exactly looking forward to my trip- the recluse in me is slightly wary of changes. However, the rational mind continuously reminds me that this will be an interesting development. At the very least, it will be something new to look forward to.

[the above was written at midmorning, Thursday; the below was written at 2 am on Friday, the day I’m flying off]

Shit I need to pack. Just blew RM 10 on a 110-minute phone call; Mom will be impressed I sucked her IDD card dry. Very impressed.

The next update will be from the People’s Republic of China. Toodles!

PS. I love You.

Oh, and this blog is three years old.


Thursday, February 21, 2008


As part of the process of arranging my weekend trip to Singapore, I had to collect my bus tickets from the First Coach bus company in Bangsar. After 4 tickets and 230 Ringgit changed hands, I noticed the Malaysiakini office right above the ticketing office.

Li Tsin of works at Malaysiakini.


In many years of knowing Li Tsin, I believe I have only seen her twice- once when she had dinner with our extended family, and once when we went on a trip to Penang with May and D in 2002/ 2003. Returning from trip, we purchased at least 20 servings of asam laksa home (from that famous stall at the Ait Itam market). The car smelled strongly of fish for a while after that.

After that, I fluttered off to Melbourne and she flitted away to Bristol. We kept in touch by email, MSN and influenced by her, as well postcards and snail mail.

When she was writing her essays for her master’s degree in political science, I volunteered to proofread her papers. Her writing was immaculate- the occasional corrections were mostly minor. The papers made fascinating reading, and I continued to ‘proofread’ despite the remarkably low error rates. I still have those essays.


I decided to give her a call to try my luck. Her contact details stored in my phone was probably entered a long time ago. Scrolled through the names in my contact list, stopped at Li Tsin and hit the green ‘call’ button. A voice not belonging to Li Tsin said I did not have enough credit to make the call.

At 7 Eleven, 30 Ringgit and a voucher redeemable for 30 Ringgit worth of calling credit changed hands.

I called again- she was there!

When she appeared from the stairwell, she was immediately recognisable- glasses, hair and lively eyes- she was not much different from when I saw her half a decade ago.

With a 6pm meeting looming and me unable to stay past the meeting due to other appointments, we talked briefly. The mainstream media is a puppet show. Her Swatch watch has been in use since 1997. Recent infrastructure upgrades around town is for the elections. May is going to Florida. Some people don’t realise that the papers are full of propaganda, “BN is good wat.”

Time’s up. A quick goodbye, and she fled upstairs, her hair trailing in the vortices behind her.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Paper Free Tuesday

Paper Free Tuesday is a collective movement to protest unbalanced, biased and incomplete coverage of news by the mainstream media. By selecting one day of the week, it is hoped that boycotting action by all participants will coincide, resulting in an obvious and persistently low circulation on Tuesdays.

“No newspapers on Tuesdays”

At home, this little note is stuck on the wall just next to the house keys, serving as a persistent reminder to all that we are protesting the unfair and biased news coverage of the local newspapers.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Tomorrow, I will leave Melbourne with no plans to return in the near term.

The house has been emptied, the bags are prepared and the boxes are already on their way to KLIA. My Hanimar 400mm f/6.3 lens has been auctioned away with a capital gain of 100%, and the beloved knives have been given to a friend’s aunt.

With a tone of conviction, the friend’s aunt said, “don’t worry, aunty will hold on to them [the knives] until you come back.” I tried to convince her to at least use them; sharp cutting edges are to be used, not preserved like the International Prototype Kilogram. It is hoped that the cutting edges will continue to serve humanity.

This friend’s aunt happens to have access to a different channel of information about my future plans, and hence her remarks are understandable. However, anyone else that asks me “will you come back to Australia, what about your permanent residence?” will be dismissed with a brief discussion that while Australia is a decent country, it is not the holy grail; the world is bigger than one continent.

I have to go. This post will be cut short; updates from PJ later.


Friday, February 01, 2008

An introduction to income tax for the mathematically-inclined (calculus is required)

In almost all countries, the payable income tax depends on the individual’s taxable income earned in the financial year.

Generally, the tax rates are quoted as marginal rates for different income brackets. The Hong Kong marginal tax rates for different income levels is shown below:
The first $30,000 will be taxed at 2%
The 30,001st to 60,000th dollar will be taxed at 8%
The 60,001st to 90,000th dollar will be taxed at 14%
Subsequent income above $90,000 will be taxed at 20%

In this analysis of income tax, the concept of marginal tax is of great importance. At a marginal tax rate of 5%, each additional dollar earned will result in an additional 5 cents of tax.

We will now use the following notation: x is the income earned, and T is the total tax payable, and r is the marginal tax rate.

From the preceding statement, it is shown that the additional tax payable, ΔT, is a multiple of the tax rate, r, and the additional income, Δx:

As the above manipulation shows, the marginal tax rate is the rate of change of total payable tax with respect to income.

As the example of Hong Kong’s marginal rates, income is taxed at different rates. The first few thousand will generally be taxed at a very low marginal rate, and the subsequent thousands taxed at a higher marginal rates. To find the total tax payable (as any income earner would like to know), one procedure is to use the Riemann integral:

Essentially, what this shows is that each dollar earned will be taxed at the marginal tax rate that applies for that dollar. The total tax payable is the sum of all products of individual dollars and respective marginal tax rates.

A comparison between the above charts will verify that T(x) is the definite integral of r(x) with limits 0 and x. The slope of T(x) changes when r(x) changes, which is not surprising given that a greater marginal rate implies a faster increase in the total taxes.

As the marginal tax rate is always non-negative (many countries have a zero-tax bracket for the first thousands earned), the total tax payable increases monotonically with income. That is to say, and increase in income will NEVER cause a decrease in payable tax.

Because the tax payable is an integral of a continuously defined function, the tax payable is a continuous function. While the rate of increase of the payable tax might change due to a change in the marginal tax rate, the tax payable will never take a discontinuous jump. Thus in systems using the marginal tax rate system, there is no dramatic taxation advantage in earning a few dollars more/less to try to squeeze into a different tax bracket.

End note

In the system of taxes, money is can only exist in discrete quantities. Certain taxation systems will require income to be rounded to the closest dollar, others will accept the income quoted in dollars and cents. Regardless, there exists a smallest unit in which money can be counted, be it dollar or cent.

Thus, the use of discrete calculus would be proper instead of real (continuous) calculus as done above.

The differential equation r(x) = dT/dx will no longer apply, and the following will take its place:

where Δx is the discrete currency unit.

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