Archive for September, 2007


September 29, 2007

Imagine when you are working with a statistical question, or a mathematical problem. You tried and tried, yet it seemed the answer lies beyond your reach. You recall every knowledge you have learned, and you explore into every possible method, you have spent hours and hours in this question, and still you are stuck there! It would drive you crazy!

And why? It might be because of a simple typo. A simple mistake of a number, or a word, and the background of the question would be changed and the answer would be impossible, and all your effort would be wasted. Of course, sometimes the typo is easy to detect and it would not give too much trouble. However, if there are hundreds of numbers in rows and columns, could you pinpoint it in the beginning? I doubt that.

A typo of number is not like that with a word. Most of the time when you encounter with a typo when reading, you know it. Bad spelling is just like bad grammar, which gives some people a feeling of uneasiness. And if you have seen too many typos in an article, you may lose interest in that article, no matter how important the topic is, or even you will not read the words from the same author, because simply, if an author does not respect the medium of communication and the reader by reducing those typos, those simplest mistakes which could be eliminated by looking into dictionaries, you don’t need respect the author, reciprocally.

Some typos are easy to remove by proofreading by some professional writers or consulting some dictionaries, and some others by doing the calculation again like those in statistics. Yet there are some typos even most erudite people may make, such as words with similar spellings, synonyms, and words with minute differences. That is why even in today’s scientific journals and revised textbooks, you can find typos if you are a hypercritic reader. If you want to publish something, remember, always proofread carefully before you submit it to your reader. Because you need respect them!


An old memory

September 27, 2007

This morning at about 3 am, I was lying on the bed, shifting from this side to that side, unable to go to sleep. I did not know why. Because of the coffee, or because I went to bed earlier than before? One idea popped into my mind that maybe I could mentally exercise for a while and get myself exhausted and then I could have a sound sleep.

I began to imagine running. Hands swaying, legs moving, mouth opening, and I just ran and ran, in the imaginary field. Then suddenly I remembered that I used to run like this many, many years ago. I was in grade school, 12 or 13 years old. At about 5 o’clock, I forced myself to get up and dressed in cheap blue exercise suit with white stripes and opened the door and began to run along the driving ways. Turn right and pass two homes and a large fabric factory (the eldest one in the town), then turn right to the main street, cross a small bridge, keep going forward, then turn right into a dark road, run, and then cross another bridge, and then thrust for 50 meters, or 100 meters, then stop, gasping, walk to the home.

Sometimes when running, I could see early workers coming to the working site driving bicycles, or vegetable peddlers carrying fresh leaves with a bamboo pole or sometimes a wheeled cart, and sometimes trucks or cars passing by. It was the drawn time but these people or moving objects looked unreal to me. Along with my running, the sky became clearer and rooster singing could be heard here and there though not frequently, and all the scents soon became real.

When back home, I would change the cloth, wash my face, read for about half an hour while preparing the breakfast, usually as simple as boiled rice and half an egg. My muscles thawed, yet I would be spirited. A whole day would be expecting me.

This memory has been stored in my brain for more than 20 years, but this is the first time I recall it. I don’t know why. I could not tell exactly what I felt at that time. Sometimes I ran for 1 or 2 miles in the chilly wind, which was not easy for a kid at that age, especially without a company. Why I did not keep running all these years? Why I have not formed any habit or interest of running? Is that because that early experience was not encouraging? Is that the running at that time was a form of fight toward my stuttering? I really don’t know.

How to survive in America?

September 21, 2007

The book of Iris Chang posted another question: How did, and will the Chinese survive, and prosper in America?

The first generation of Chinese came to America in the gold rush in California. They came with nothing but a dream to become rich within a few years of hard working. Some of them did find gold and became rich, yet most of them lived in hell and had to find a way to support their daily living, in a country where the language and people alien to them. Menial work was the only thing they could have, but soon some found to earn an affluent living by running Chinese restaurants, being brokers, and exploiting other Chinese.

Then the second generation which came to America in the 60s of 20th century with high education and tended to live not in Chinatown but academic towns. For a while they thought they could live like their fellow Caucasian scientists and professors, only later to find out they still were seemed alienable. 

Things were the same for the third generation of Chinese who came mostly from mainland China, either with high education background or smuggled illegal Fujian people. They happened to experience the same problems as the first and second generations, and most of them survived and moved into upper-middle classes.

The hidden motivation for these Chinese to go abroad and work harder, either as dish-washers in Chinese restaurants, or rank-and-file scientists in NASA, was nothing but the pursuit for a safe environment for themselves and for their children. And of course, the better chance.

Iris Chang: The Chinese in America

September 21, 2007
One theme of Iris Chang in this book is the racism that the Chinese American encounters. Chinese workers were paid less, wrongly accused for espionage, banned to enter America, and so on so on. These, of course, were evidence of racism and people nowadays should fight to eliminate, and it’s better to retell these stories again and again in purpose to prevent us to do wrongs to others again.

But the worst things ever done to Chinese were done by Chinese, not Japanese, not American, no one else. Just read the history book about China, especially the PRC, you will see many, many unimaginable cruel things those Chinese dictators, and their followers, have experimented on obedient, smart, hard-working, and optimistic Chinese people. And it did not happen in communist mainland China, but also KMT dominated Taiwan, which supposed something deep in the blood of Chinese people and its social and cultural tradition.

to be continued…

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Finally, I paid for MS office 2007 Ultimate

September 17, 2007
There is a great deal for college students to buy MS office 2007 ultimate at USD 60.00, from Sep, 2007 to Apr, 2008. It cost almost USD 700.00 from regular channel but MS gave out this offer to induce more students. The strategy is simple yet powerful: if the students, or the future buyers, are accustomed to use MS office, they will keep using it when they begin to work and then they will have to pay much higher cost.

Today I paid MS to have an authentic product key and began to download the office suite.

This is, actually, the first time I bought authentic MS office. I have been using it since the first day I had my own pc, from MS office 3.1 to the current Office 2007, but I never paid a coin to MS or its agents. I might have paid more than USD 60.00 (100 or 200?) in China to get pirated CDs of MS office in numerous times, and many of the time it was painful to install, crack, upgrade, reinstall the product. I always felt guilty of using it for free, which cost, I think, more than RMB 4,000.00, or USD 500.00 for each version, not counting the fees for upgrading. That was stealing. But I was a poor student then. Even after I had a job, a month’s salary could not afford it. Most of all, I was attuned to "free" software, though actually pirated and not free.

Why I did not choose other office suites which might be much cheaper or even free? First, there was not much alternatives for MS office. Lotus office disappeared after about 1999, and still it was not affordable to me. Wordpro office was even worse in marketing. I might choose some office suite made by Chinese companies, but they were just awkward and ugly and crashed oftentimes. However, I think the most important reason was that, everyone was using MS office (mostly pirated), and it was an a priori to apply for a job!

That was why I did not buy MS office even for once in the last 10 years. After I came to USA and found that the price in university store was as cheap as USD 100.00, I still did not buy because of the consideration of money. That was a large sum of green cash to me, and I could always find the cracked MS office, so why spend money on it? So I used MS office 2003 and 2007, enjoying the advance of the technology and not paying anything.

Yet it was becoming more and more uneasy in my heart. Free lunch is not free at all! It’s just sometimes you cannot see the hidden cost! I have paid thousands of RMB to buy pirated CDs and most of them were just left aside and never touched, and a lot of time was wasted trying to crack the softs and games, and I did not fully enjoy more than 5 games (C&C, Red alert, Diablo, Pal, Xuanyuan Sword, and no more). I did not see the time lost in finding the CDs and the cracks, I did not see the wasted money, and I did not see the lowered integrity. I told myself, this is ridiculous and I have to change, and I have to cherish what I have paid and pay what I should cherish.

So happened was this deal.

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How to say “o” in Hanyu Pinyin system?

September 16, 2007
How to say O in Hanyu Pinyin? A discussion in aroused my interest in further learning Pinyin System, and this is the most authoritative article I have found.

It says:

o [uɔ] o starts with English "oo" and ends with a plain continental "o".

Plus, How to tell people how to say my name by using IPA system?


Note: ch with no aspiration (take the sound halfway between joke and church and curl it upwards); very similar to merger in American English, but not voiced.
as in German Angst, including the English loan word angst (starts with the vowel sound in father and ends in the velar nasal; like song in American English)
like q, but unaspirated. (To get this sound, first take the sound halfway between joke and check, and then slowly pass it backwards along the tongue until it is entirely clear of the tongue tip.) While this exact sound is not used in English, the closest match is the j in ajar
as i + ê + n; like English yen
something between the l in English and the continental r
as i + ang

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In memory of Mr. Gu

September 10, 2007
Today, in China, is teacher’s day, and here I am delivering a lily to my teacher Mr. Gu, who just died 2 or 3 weeks ago.

I don’t know the exact date of his death. My sister told me about one month ago that his time was approaching. And I know it since last summer when we met, and he told me how he was misdiagnosed and was still coerced to teach in high school for 2 years, till finally by chance his cancer was detected, which was obviously already in the final phase. I think he, and his family, knew clearly that his time was running out, yet he still smiled, in his usual manner, and his speech did not show any dislike of this world, even to his bosses who gave him extra load of work, and he still took care of his appearance. Without a few grays in the hair, he looked exactly as the one in my memory, 10 years ago. At that time, he just had his first grand son, a big boy, and he was so glad to see the plump face of the cute baby. I think I may know why – he had 3 daughters with his wife and no son. As a person who was brought up in rural Southeastern China, it’s not unusual to see their favor towards a male descendant. We talked about the past years in the middle school, and I admitted that I did not realize how disobedient and apragmatic I was. He nodded, smiled, and did not say anything more about it. He was glad to see me, and to hear my improved speech fluency, and he talked about some of students in my class. He did not contact many of them, neither did I, and he was a little tired, so I left without a long talk. I was to have a marriage ceremony (though I hate to type this word, for it was with a wrong person), and since teachers are well respected in my hometown, my mom thought it would be a good idea to have him to preside the ceremony. He promised quickly, adding a line that if his health allowed. He did not appear that day because he was in hospital having another operation.

That was our last meet. Finally, he was not in the rural Wuxi, driving an old-styled bicycle, dressed simply yet austerely, his hair combed and his smile genuine yet not wild, his voice loud enough to be heard in the corner of the classroom yet his speech rate always not rushed. He was not teaching any longer. He needed a rest and he got it.

Mr. Gu was my 3rd year high school teacher. He taught physics and supervised the whole class. It was a heavy duty as the university entrance test was so competitive in China, and the 3rd year teachers were the best and the most hard-working. My 2nd year teacher, an old gentleman in his 50s, died of some cancer, before we got family with him, and Mr. Gu was asked to take responsibility of the class of about 50 persons.

I was the best in the class, even in the year, but I had speech impediment, and could not have much communication with any teacher, hence I did not have a relationship as close as others could have. Yet still I respected Mr. Gu pretty much, for I saw that he was a great teacher and a traditionally good person who devoted his life to his career and his family.

He tried his best to have a life. After the literature revolution, he became one of the first to go to college. He studied very hard, whereas he needed to take care of his wife and daughters. His wife, Mrs. Gu, as far as I know, was hard-working, worm-hearted, and loved her husband and daughters to the deepest point. After graduation he came back to his hometown and became a teacher, a position he held for all his life. He had been one of the best teachers in one of the best high schools in my hometown, and all his daughters did great in academia or in business. I happened to be in the same year of his second daughter (though we did not know much of each other), and his 3rd daughter was one of the best friends of my sister, whom Mr. Gu taught in the 3rd year high school.

And now he has gone.

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Pavarotti died!

September 6, 2007
This was a news that suddenly hit my heart! A man with one of the most beautiful voices in our time left the world, leaving the world a rich legacy of unforgeable arias, songs, duets, and opera performances.

I can see in the coming months, numerous CDs, DVDs, titled as "Collection of Luciano Pavarotti" will appear in Walmart, along with various singers. And people will pay to have a memory of him. Biographies of him will also come up in different languages.

But when he was still in this world, when he was suffering from cancer, when he was almost out of our sight in the media, did he think of his death? I bet yes. In a cozy afternoon, when he was better than normal, he would daydream about what people will do to memorize him, how many CDs and DVDs will be published in memory of him, how long he will be talked. How he will conclude his own life? I don’t know, yet I hope he would feel that at least he had brought love and happiness to some people.

And that is the life. You just leave, no matter what the others will talk about you, you never know. But if you think you have experienced the life in full, if you had some happiness in your days, if you had done something helpful to others, then it is a good life.

And better if you left something that others can pay tribute to you.

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