Saturday, July 18, 2009

Client who wants everything (equipment packaging, site layout, piping layout, electrical drawings, process flowcharts ad infinitum) designed and drawn right now.

Chinese government still blocking access to youtube.

Client then changes its mind and decide that an additional 30% in capacity would be good, then insist we redesign and redraw everything before the end of yesterday.

Chinese government still blocking access to Facebook.

Understaffed company.

Chinese government still blocking access to Blogspot (right now I'm blogging through a proxy so the formatting will probably suck antelope penis)

Housemate took everything out of the fridge to defrost the thing, and left for Malaysia neglecting to refrigerate. That was last weekend. I just came back from outstation to a see my milk, cheese and everything else had been baking in the 33 degree summer afternoons. For one week.

Last month’s travel expenses claims still not paid out.

Ok fuck this shit, lets talk about something less miserable.

This coming Wednesday (22/7) will be Pi Approximation Day. Also, a total solar eclipse will be occurring over a narrow corridor fpassing through to Shanghai. This event will be the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, and it’s duration of totality will not be surpassed till 2132.

In principle, solar eclipses are quite boring event. You’re merely standing in the shadow of the moon. Yeah big deal.


The moon just happens to be the correct size to blot out the sun’s very bright surface. This allows the sun’s atmosphere to become visible, where normally the surface’s brightness will overwhelm it be a factor of 1,000,000.

There was a tinge of regret when I sold my preposterously long lens on ebay. Now I know why. Bollocks.


Friday, July 10, 2009

China is the best!

Of late, I’ve been stationed at one of the many factories of one of the East-Asian electronics conglomerates.

This afternoon, I returned to our company’s little regional office to do some online work (made 2 comments on Facebook status updates, surfed through BBC news, and updated some drawings and sent a few email) as the client would not allow outsiders to plug into their computer network.

The accountant’s husband strolled into the office late in the afternoon to wait for his wife to finish work. In general, he is a friendly man, but he suffers from a severe case of the widely-prevalent disorder: the China-is-best mentality. Below are excerpts of our conversation:

[typing a text message on the phone to the gf]
[walks by behind]
It seems quite tedious to type using English isn’t it?
It’s ok, I’m used to it.
Yeah but it’s not as efficient as Chinese. You get half as many characters for each message, but each word only requires one character 2.
I think… that English is not as sophisticated as Chinese. Have you studied classical Chinese? Each word conveys so much information, that a short sentence is able to convey a very deep meaning.
And English is more of a mechanistic languages. There are only 26 letters, and words are formed by combining different letters1. For sure, it’s well suited for the purposes of computing, but for communication between persons, Chinese is still the better language.


Well, you can’t really tell if you don’t study it in detail. For example, if you use only conversational-grade English, it is impossible to judge the level of refinement in the language.


There must be a significant difference in the level of civilisation between the Chinese culture and the Malay culture right?
Well of course it’s different. The Chinese culture is from China and the Malay culture is from the Malaysia-Indonesia region.
So how old is the history of the Malay culture? (here it comes, a set up move for the all conquering 5000-years-of-civilisation trump card.)
[I somehow answered that question in a sideways manner and we got distracted by the details about how old other civilisations are, including European and North American. So no mention of 5000 years.]

At end of the business day he offered to drop me off at the train station, thus saving me an hour-long ride in a bus with no air conditioning (temperatures in mid afternoon is 30 to 36 celcius these days).

Thus, I shall not further vilify him here, tempting as it may be.


2. I am convinced all well developed languages contain a measure of combinatorics. For example, the expression “I need to have sex with a BMW” is conveyed by picking several words and grouping them into a sentence. The words, in turn, consist of a group of smaller objects lumped together.

In English, words consist of a series of letters arranged in one dimension. In Chinese, words consist of sub-words arranged in 2 dimensions. These sub-words consist of a certain grouping of strokes, also arranged in 2 dimensions.

The fact that English words are constructed in 1 dimension makes it easy to spell words by arranging the letters along the time dimension.

1. which brings me to the second point, how one can squeeze so much more information into a 70-word message compared to a 140-character English message.

Mobile phones contain a standard dictionary of common Chinese words (which is probably not a huge amount). Assuming that there are 16,000 common Chinese words, this requires 14 bits of information to correctly assign each word to a unique number.

Assuming that each character for the mobile phone carries 7 bits of data, this is enough for 128 unique symbols (26 lower case letters, 26 upper case letters, 10 numerals, and about 30 symbols). 6 bits can only give 64 unique characters, which is definitely not enough.

As above, assuming that each Chinese word requires 14 bits to encode, it will need 2 character’s worth of information to be transmitted.

This is advantageous compared to the regular way English is transmitted: 2 characters is enough to encode a word, while English requires up about 5 characters to encode a word (sometimes up to 22 characters, such as counterrevolutionaries)

Can this method be used to give a higer information density to alpha-numeric based text messages?

A proposed mechanism is described as below.

[ok I’m getting ahead of myself, this is supposed to be a footnote, not an essay. Next entry, perhaps]

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Young man, do you want to have some fun?

When I went hunting for photo opportunities over the weekend, I arrived at a little area I had seen many times while cruising in the elevated light rail.

Access was through many little lanes connected to the main road. Each of these lanes fork out several times, but the paths inside do not connect.

The first lane I entered was pretty normal looking, because a police station was located inside the area.

The second lane was located just across the road from the long distance bus terminal, and most of the buildings were converted into motels and hostels.

The third lane looked rather normal, except for a woman loitering about at the entry of the lane. When she saw me approach, she asked, “young man, do you want to have some fun?”

Naturally, I ignored her. My idea of fun involves listening to instrumental music and sipping coffee while stroking a purring kitten in a BMW 7 series, so I walked ahead without acknowledging her presence.

Most touts would give up on you and find another target if you ignore them and gave them no hope of having any business out of you. Not so for this woman. She followed a few steps behind me, continuously asking if I wanted to rest, if I wanted to play, if I wanted to have a look at the girls first etc.

I stormed ahead without acknowledging the parasol-carrying woman. I wanted to take photographs, not have sex with strangers.

Further into the area, I noticed something different- there were women loitering around the streets. These were not the housewife-kinds that sit on little stools outside their kitchens plucking vegetables or watching their grandchildren play. These women were standing in the lanes with a bored look waiting for something to happen.

Shit, I seem to have stumbled into a vice den of sorts.

I turned to leave, and faced the woman who had been muttering her offers to set me a play date. I pretended to see her the first time, listened to her ask if I wanted to have fun, acted dumb and watch her rephrase her question into an invitation of “lets go and see the girls.”

I gave her a puzzled expression and asked her in exasperation, what are you asking? She skipped around embarrassing question and suggested I go take a rest, cocking her head in the direction of her brothel (presumably).

With a look of mock horror, declined her gracious offer and left, leaving the sex with strangers to other desperate souls.

Me, I just want architectural photographs and sex with a BMW.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Old Shanghai (2)

On Sunday, I took a walk to another group of old buildings, this one located near the long distance coach terminal.

It is similar to the other area I visited previously, with quaintly crooked lanes, disorganised groups of houses and women washing vegetables along the lanes.

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However, this area is earmarked for demolition. The process of evicting residents from their decades-old homes is common practice in Shanghai. The city government kicks everyone out and pays them a hefty sum to cover the astronomical cost of getting a new home, and these residents generally feel quite lucky to be able to get a free upgrade in housing.

More than 2/3 of the buildings in the area have been made inhabitable. The roofing has been removed, the upper level floors completely smashed through, and everything of possibly any value has been scavenged. Roof tiles, window panes, doors, washroom fixtures, wooden stairs, electrical fixtures… everything that can possibly be reused has been taken away by successive scavengers. What remains among the standing structural members (these are too difficult to break without machinery) are huge chunks of concrete, masonry and other odd reminders that someone used to call this home.

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This used to be a kitchen- the window has a little square frame where an exhaust fan used to reside, and decades of hot oily air had deposited a film of disgusting black muck on the frames.

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Click here for large size image

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Monday, July 06, 2009

News in 120 seconds

Fuck this shit.

Yet another engineer has resigned. Guess who will be doing all the work now.


Moving on to a less miserable topic...


Click here for large size image

Click here for large size image

Click here for large size image

At 28 RMB for a box of 8 pieces, it is not a trivial matter. That it consists of a smallish biscuit entombed in a chunk of milk chocolate is a redeeming factor.

The beautiful Super-Takumar 50mm/1.4 is there as a reference for scale, seeing that it is a familiar object and most people would have an intuitive grasp of its size.


And now, some updates from the fashion capital of China, Shanghai.

Three-quarter length stockings have become quite popular here, the owners proudly assaulting the eyesight of the general public with their frightful aesthetics.

Designs vary, ranging from plain translucent material throughout, to more complex patterns such as opaque nylon above the knee, translucent nylon below the knee, and finished with a bold lace trim at mid-calf height.

Now to wait for the rest of the world’s sense of fashion to catch up, and we’ll see an explosion of these things from Milan to New York. Delightful.

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