All entries for January 2007

January 31, 2007

That has to be more than seven years of bad luck…

Writing about web page http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007\01\27\story_27-1-2007_pg9_12

A 2,500-year-old mirror worth £500,000 was dropped and smashed on a Chinese TV show. A model was showing the ancient mirror to the audience when it slipped from her hands and fell to the floor. It shattered into pieces, shocking the audience - especially owner Chen Fengjiu who was sitting in the front row.

Ouch. That mirror managed to survive not only the Warring States Period  (战国时代), but also countless other wars. It predates even the first unification of China. 

And it's destroyed by a hapless model. Oh dear.

Whoops

Someone's not keeping her job

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>Image Source: Pakistan Daily Times >

January 30, 2007

He–Man, She–Ra and Sexual Harrasment

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0YPHeRrmIA

Saw this video linked on a forum and it made me chuckle a fair bit.

Remember at the end of those '70s/'80s toons, there'd generally be a moral message at the end that was somehow linked to the plot? So if, for example, Skeletor had stolen He-Man's sword, we'd have He-man warning against thievery at the end of the episode, or we'd have Captain Planet and his friends talk to use about the wonders of recycling...

Well I have no idea in what context this moral-of-the-story could have come up:

Crikey.

Do cartoons do this kind of thing anymore? What do kids watch these days? 


January 29, 2007

Can someone who sings this poorly ever be US President?

Writing about web page http://youtube.com/watch?v=bfZ_gXCHaMw

I came across this video on the Youtube front page a little while earlier today and I cringed when she eventually began singing. I can imagine this video popping up in ad campaigns (either Democrat Adversaries or anti-Clinton Republicans) lampooning Clinton. Crikey.

Obama seems to be overcoming the early (and disgusting) smear campaigns (oh he went to a radical madrassa, don't ya know?) with appropriate vim and gusto but Hilary just doesn't have any of his charm or his "I-paid-a-million-dollars-for-these-teeth-and-it-shows" winning smile. I'm not an American and I want to vote for Obama! 


January 27, 2007

101 Dumbest Moments in Business

Writing about web page http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/biz2/0701/gallery.101dumbest_2007/index.html

Some of the best include:

#17

A jury in Fresno, Calif., awards $1.7 million in damages to Janet Orlando, who quit her job with home security company Alarm One after team-building exercises during which she and her colleagues were forced to eat baby food, wear diapers, or submit to being spanked on the butt with a rival company's yard signs.

#22

In June, BusinessWeek publishes a cover with the headline "Bill Gates Gets Schooled" showing the Microsoft chairman in front of a blackboard.

The magazine itself gets schooled when observers point out that Seattle Weekly used the same line and a similar image a year earlier.

#27

In August, RadioShack fires 400 staffers via e-mail. Affected employees receive a message that reads, "The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated."

Very surreal: such a Dilbert moment.

#50

Mick Woods purchases a package of cooked ham made by British food processor H.R. Hargreaves & Son. After reviewing the complete list of ingredients, which includes "dog s**t," he loses his appetite.

Hargreaves fires the employee responsible for the prank and begins a recall of the mislabeled packages.

#67

Sony runs a billboard campaign in the Netherlands depicting a Caucasian model rudely gripping the jaw of a woman of African descent to promote its PlayStation Portable in "ceramic white."

Sony initially defends the campaign, saying it was meant to "highlight the whiteness of the new model," but later apologizes.

sonyracism

This is one of the more recent problem's Sony's encountered. We've had exploding batteries, racist ads and, perhaps most annoying of all, one of the Sony CEOs had the balls to say "We decide when the next generation [of gaming/tech] begins. Arrogance. 


Anti–Communist Propaganda in China

As you all should know, the Chinese currency is the RMB (人民币 Renminbi or People's Currency) and its basic denomination is the yuan. The most popular note, I imagine, is the 1 yuan note whose basic value is about 1/15 of a pound.  These notes exchange hands all the time: in taxis, restaurants, street markets, vendors etc. etc.

So I was quite surprised when I came upon this in Changsha, Hunan:

Note1

As you can see, the note looks fairly crisp despite the dog-ears (I think the 1999 marks the year the type of note was introduced into circulatin, rather than the note itself). 

But there's something unusual about the note. If you look closely at the bottom line, there's a row of Chinese characters stamped on:

Note2

The message reads "退党,退团,退队,三退保平安". I think this is adequately translated as: "Quit the Party, Quit the League, Quite the Youth (Movement), the three (renouncements) ensure safety."

It therefore delivers what could be interpreted as an ominous message to those within the party tiers at both the very young, youth and adult levels.  It's clearly just a simple stamp and it's very easy to distribute. It might not be effective, but the message is reminiscent of the old Communist (and anti-Communist) slogans. If it's carefully used, then it's practically untraceable and could cause quite a nuisance for authorities and for anyone actually caught with the note. 

One of my friends guessed it might be the Falungong (Cult) movement. It could be a variety of other movements ranging from Taiwanese looking to stir up trouble to seperatists in XiZang (Tibet) and XinJiang. 

Anyhow, it was very interesting to see from a historical perspective and one wonders if these folk might use such stamps in English to spread their anti-Government propaganda to those who are coming to China for Beijing 2008. 


Web 2.0: A chance for Tech Show presenters to bombard us with buzzwords

Just watching "CNN Connects: Our Networked World". It's basically a round table discussion on the "new" explosion of internet usage in the form of Youtube and the like. 

It's a relatively interesting discussion. There's a co-founder of Flickr, the founder of Facebook, the CEO of Orange etc. Clueless CNN Presenter

But, as usual, the presenter is absolutely clueless concerning the current world of the internet and just reeks of condescension and stupidity. In between lame jokes about Second Life and The Matrix and rampant hand-waving, she comes up with gems like this: 

"If Web 2.0 is more than just a marketing gimmick, then there will be a Web 3.0, won't there?"

Yuck.

HamidohI don't understand why the big broadcasting networks don't hire people who are genuinely into the field. It's like they called up the weather team and asked them to pick a weather girl at random to present a tech show. Makes me want to throw the TV out of the window.



January 23, 2007

Surprisingly Delicious

Goose Leg

This was the first course in a fancy restaurant in Changsha, Hunan (China). Goose Leg with Mushroom in a tomato sauce.  I was a bit apprehensive at first, but I'm always willing to try new things (so long as it doesn't contain pork/carnivorous animals). It was delicious. The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender and I even munched down the webbing. The mushroom was soft, smokey and mouth-watering. A great dish. And I'd definately try that kind of goose leg again.

Yum. Yum. Yum.  


Chinese Idiom of the Day #7: 井底之蛙

井底之蛙 - Jing Di Zhi Wa 

Literal Meaning - Well-bottom's Frog (Frog at the bottom of the well)

Figurative Meaning - A Person with a very limited outlook

Story Behind the idiom:

A frog once lived in an abandoned well along the East Sea. Once, the frog saw a turtle at the edge of the well, and it boasted to the turtle "I can jump around in the mud and swim in the water. What a carefree life! Come down here and join me in my paradise!"

The turtle wanted to go into the well, but it was too big for the well-opening. Then it told the frog, "I live in the ocean which is so wide that you cannot tell the sky from the sea, and it is so deep that you cannot see its bottom. Even if there was a flood lasting several years, the water level would not rise. If it did not rain for years, the ocean would not become shallow. Only when you live in such an ocean can you truly enjoy a carefree life!" The frog was stunned.  


January 22, 2007

Not Impressed

The Apprentice Season 6

da

The quality of The (US) Apprentice has been decreasing with every season. Season 6 marks the biggest drop in quality yet. We've gone from a reality show which actually seemed relatively professional and grounded in plausible business quests (as far as a reality show of its kind could be) to a Melrose Place Oligarchical Circus where Trump spends one half of the episode masturbating his ego whilst his two half-siblings share uncomfortable and hateful (Freud might say incestuous! I wouldn't) glances at one-another. The other half of the episode is spent with the "Contestants" running around like a group of retarded monkeys. 

The board room is even more ridiculous. The pathetic displays of smarmy toadiness and virtual begging makes me more sick to the stomach than the contestants of American Idol who don't realise that they're embarrassing themselves, their families and anyone who's watching or listening, by begging the "judges" to "give them one more chance".

So what's been going on in California so far? Well they've pitched a tent,  had a car wash, sold bikins and run hollywood tours. OK. They may have had a lemonade-selling episode in the first season but for crying out loud, at least there was a modicum of dignity. Even that Ivanka girl from season three (was it three?) had more dignity in stripping to sell M&Ms than these idiots do in washing cars. 

35 minutes of Trump pimping himself, his products, his hair and occasionally throwing his children a bone. 5 minutes of actual work from the contestants (replete with crappy music and even crappier editing) and 5 minutes in the "boardroom" where Trump tries his best to extend the proceedings by wading around in the shitpot and kicking it about a bit.  


Chinese Idiom of the Day #6 : 临渴掘井

临渴掘井 - Lin Ke Jue Jing

Literal Meaning - Reach Thirst Dig Well

Figurative Meaning - Leaving things to the last minute

Story behind idiom:

In the Spring and Autumn Period, Duke Zhao of the State of Lu fled to the State of Qi, following palace turmoil. He admitted his mistakes to Duke Jing of Qi. Duke Jing advised him to go back to Lu, as he might become a wise ruler, since he recognised his faults. But Yanzi, an official of Qi, said, "It is too late to make weapons when one is endangered, and to dig a well when one needs water desperately."

This idiom warns against not being prepared, but seeking help at the last moment.  


January 21, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #5 : 盲人摸象

盲人摸象 - Mang Ren Mo Xiang

Literal Meaning - Blind Men Touch Elephant

Figurative Meaning - Take a part for the whole

A group of blind men gathered around an elephant, trying to find out what the creature looked like. One of them happened to touch one of the tusks, and said: "An elephant is just like a turnip." Another touched one of the elephant's ears, and said, "It is like a big fan." One put his arms around one of the beast's legs, and said: "It is like a column." One who happened to place his hands on the body of the elephant said, "It is like a wall." But the one who got hold of the tail said, "It is like a snake." They then fell to arguing with each other.

This idiom is used to satirize those who know only a part of a thing and not the entirety or essence.  


January 20, 2007

Chinese Idiom of the Day #4 : 手不释卷

手不释卷 - Shou Bu Shi Juan

Literal Meaning -  Hand Not Release Book

Figurative Meaning - Diligent in Study

Western Equivalent - Bookworm, Always with a book in hand

Story Behind Idiom:

Lv Meng was a meritorious general of the State of Wu during the Three Kingdoms Period. He came from a poor family and had not had the chance to go to school when he was young. When he became a general, the duke of Wu encouraged him to read some books. Lv Meng took his advice, and started to study hard. Even when he was marching or fighting, he would find time to study. There was always a book in his hand. Finally, Lv Meng became a learned general.

(nb Lv is a pinyin representation of an L followed by a short and sharp Oo sound. So it would sound a bit like Lew or Lieu)


January 19, 2007

MIT Researchers create 'tiny batteries with viruses'

Writing about web page http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2006/virus-battery.html

Researchers build tiny batteries with viruses

April 7, 2006

MIT scientists have harnessed the construction talents of tiny viruses to build ultra-small "nanowire" structures for use in very thin lithiuvirusm-ion batteries.

By manipulating a few genes inside these viruses, the team was able to coax the organisms to grow and self-assemble into a functional electronic device.

The goal of the work, led by MIT Professors Angela Belcher, Paula Hammond and Yet-Ming Chiang, is to create batteries that cram as much electrical energy into as small or lightweight a package as possible. The batteries they hope to build could range from the size of a grain of rice up to the size of existing hearing aid batteries.

Specifically, they manipulated the genes in a laboratory strain of a common virus, making the microbes collect exotic materials -- cobalt oxide and gold. [...] The viruses then align themselves on the polymer surface to form ultrathin wires. Each virus, and thus the wire, is only 6 nanometers (6 billionths of a meter) in diameter, and 880 nanometers in length.

[...]

Equally important, the reactions needed to create nanowires occur at normal room temperatures and pressures, so there is no need for expensive pressure-cooking technology to get the job done.

"The nanoscale materials we've made supply two to three times the electrical energy for their mass or volume, compared to previous materials," the team reported.

This seems to be one of the most interesting developments in nanotechnology over the past few years, at least from a consumer's point of view. I know that they've been investigating the medicinal purposes of nanotechnology (for example, experiments with bacteriophages in immunology) as well as the possibility of using organic material as computer memory, but this is the first I've heard of nanotech batteries, not to mention successful outcomes.

It's especially exciting for me as a consumer and a consummate gamer  because of the fantastic potential in reducing the weight of portable objects whilst increasing battery life. It could do wonders for the world of portable gaming, for photography, for portable DVD players... the possible applications make me shudder with excitement!

It will be interesting to see what the practical cons of these batteries will be. Any microbiologists/techies want to further enlighten me?


Chinese Idiom of the Day #3 : 指鹿为马

指鹿为马 - Zhi Lu Wei Ma

Literal Meaning - Point (at) Deer as horse.

Figurative Meaning - Calling a stag a horse

Western Equivalent - Calling black white.  

Story behind idiom:

In the Qin Dynasty, the prime minister, Zhao Gao, plotted to usurp the throne. Fearing that the other ministers would oppose this, he though of a way of testing them. He presented a deer to the emperor, and said, "This is a horse." The emperor laughed and said, "You must be joking; this is a deer." Then Zhao Gao asked the ministers present. Some kept silent, some said that it was a deer, and others agreed that it was a horse.

Later Zhao Gao had all the ministers who had not said that it was a horse killed.

This metaphor describes distorting facts by calling white black. 


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