Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Uncanny Valley

Scientific American on Suicide



"In considering people’s motivations for killing themselves, it is essential to recognize that most suicides are driven by a flash flood of strong emotions, not rational, philosophical thoughts in which the pros and cons are evaluated critically. And, as I mentioned in last week’s column on the evolutionary biology of suicide, from a psychological science perspective, I don’t think any scholar ever captured the suicidal mind better than Florida State University psychologist Roy Baumeister in his 1990 Psychological Review article , “Suicide as Escape from the Self.” To reiterate, I see Baumeister’s cognitive rubric as the engine of emotions driving deCatanzaro’s biologically adaptive suicidal decision-making. There are certainly more recent theoretical models of suicide than Baumeister’s, but none in my opinion are an improvement. The author gives us a uniquely detailed glimpse into the intolerable and relentlessly egocentric tunnel vision that is experienced by a genuinely suicidal person. "
Scientific American

The article is worth reading entirely.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

weakest link

Moscow police authorities said Mr. Gusev, 31, was a central figure in the operations of SpamIt.com, which paid spammers to promote online pharmacies, sometimes quite lewdly. SpamIt.com suddenly stopped operating on Sept. 27. With less financial incentive to send their junk mail, spammers curtailed their activity by an estimated 50 billion messages a day.(link)

Monday, October 25, 2010

7.5 near Padang, Indonesia



USGS

Tsunami warning is probably being raised right now. Fuck.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Creativity booster - sadness



"For thousands of years, people have speculated that there’s some correlation between sadness and creativity, so that people who are a little bit miserable (think Van Gogh, or Dylan in 1965, or Virginia Woolf) are also the most innovative. Aristotle was there first, stating in the 4th century B.C.E. “that all men who have attained excellence in philosophy, in poetry, in art and in politics, even Socrates and Plato, had a melancholic habitus; indeed some suffered even from melancholic disease.” This belief was revived during the Renaissance, leading Milton to exclaim, in his poem Il Penseroso: “Hail, divinest melancholy/whose saintly visage is too bright/to hit the sense of human sight.” The romantic poets took the veneration of sadness to its logical extreme, and described suffering as a prerequisite for the literary life. As Keats wrote, “Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?"

Wired

Paul Simon - Still Crazy After All These Years

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Iron Women



"That first run was exhilarating, and left Shannon with the warm, fuzzy and novel feeling that she was really doing some good in the world. After sponsoring several Congolese women and reading their letters, she founded an organization called Run for Congo Women that held fund-raising runs across America and around the world. Eventually, she made a trip to Congo and had a joyous meeting with her new “family.” She was bowled over when one of the women she sponsored introduced her baby girl: the mother named the baby “Lisa,” after Shannon. She poured her soul into the cause, but her fiancé grumbled as their business floundered. Finally he told her she had to choose: him or the Congolese women.


So in the end Shannon lost her business and her fiancé. She is struggling with no income, because she pays herself no salary and passes on all the money she raises to Women for Women International. Devoting yourself to helping others may seem wonderfully glamorous — until you’re single, jobless and alone on a Saturday night. Shannon has taken in five roommates to share her house, and she saves pennies everywhere she can, but at some point she will become a pauper unless she finds a way of supporting herself."
NY Times

Saturday, October 16, 2010

R.I.P Mel

Melanie (second woman from the right) with her beloved Austin crew in Winter Conference, Atlanta, December 2002.

Melanie Tong, affectionately called Mel, died October 13, 2010 in Edinburgh, Scotland. She used to be in AIESEC Austin 2000 - 2002 and a world traveller. She was vivacious, kind hearted, and generous. She is missed terribly.

I wish I could say more but I am loss for words for now. I am sad, angry, filled with guilt, and strings of emotions are going through my vein like adrenaline.

Words failed me. Maybe I should have seen the sign. I ask of you Mel nary a month ago. What people knew made sense at the time, you wanted to take your own path and your friends very reluctantly let you be because we love you. I am at loss and in deep sorrow. May you rest in peace.


A friend sent me this haunting song (in German) - lyrics translation below



A visit only


Always when I visit you, I feel free, without any borders.
Everything else is so far away from here.
I like the silence here, among all the trees.
It's as if peace on earth really existed.
It's a nice footpath that leads to you.
Yes, I like it, because it seems so bright and friendly.

I brought flowers, I don't know if you like them.
In the past you would have probably been very happy about them.
If you don't like them, it's not too bad.
They will probably be removed again soon.
You always ask how I am.
I am ok, I don't want you to be worried.

Chorus:
And so I talk to you as I always did,
as if I'd turned back time,
and as if we'd have plenty of time again.
I feel you very close next to me,
I can hear your voice in the wind.
And when it rains, I know that you sometimes cry.
Until the sun shines.
Until it shines again.

I shall say hello to you from the others.
They all keep thinking about you.
And your garten, it's doing well.
Although one can notice that it misses you a lot.
And there is still letters coming for you, very boldly addressed to you,
although everyone knows that you moved away.

Chorus...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Screwed by the Banking industry, again

"At JPMorgan Chase & Company, they were derided as “Burger King kids” — walk-in hires who were so inexperienced they barely knew what a mortgage was.


At Citigroup and GMAC, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on home foreclosures was outsourced to frazzled workers who sometimes tossed the paperwork into the garbage.


And at Litton Loan Servicing, an arm of Goldman Sachs, employees processed foreclosure documents so quickly that they barely had time to see what they were signing.


“I don’t know the ins and outs of the loan,” a Litton employee said in a deposition last year. “I’m not a loan officer.”


As the furor grows over lenders’ efforts to sidestep legal rules in their zeal to reclaim homes from delinquent borrowers, these and other banks insist that they have been overwhelmed by the housing collapse."
NY Times

Bottom line, people that are responsible for signing foreclosure documents have no clue on what's going on. Right now attorney generals across US 50 states are investigating the issue. This is so fucking retarded.

The flawed science of Medical Research



"It didn’t turn out that way. In poring over medical journals, he was struck by how many findings of all types were refuted by later findings. Of course, medical-science “never minds” are hardly secret. And they sometimes make headlines, as when in recent years large studies or growing consensuses of researchers concluded that mammograms, colonoscopies, and PSA tests are far less useful cancer-detection tools than we had been told; or when widely prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil were revealed to be no more effective than a placebo for most cases of depression; or when we learned that staying out of the sun entirely can actually increase cancer risks; or when we were told that the advice to drink lots of water during intense exercise was potentially fatal; or when, last April, we were informed that taking fish oil, exercising, and doing puzzles doesn’t really help fend off Alzheimer’s disease, as long claimed. Peer-reviewed studies have come to opposite conclusions on whether using cell phones can cause brain cancer, whether sleeping more than eight hours a night is healthful or dangerous, whether taking aspirin every day is more likely to save your life or cut it short, and whether routine angioplasty works better than pills to unclog heart arteries." The Atlantic

This article is a must read. It's quite mind boggling. It highlights some evidence that up to 90% of medical research findings are either flawed, wrong or greatly exaggerated.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chilean Miner Rescue Live


Follow the Flickr photostream and The Lede live blogging.

Richest women in the world

"The world's three richest women are Chinese -- as are 11 of the top 20 -- according to the Hurun List of Self-Made Women Billionaires, published on Tuesday.


Zhang Yin, 53, the Chinese head of a recycled paper company, Nine Dragons Paper, ranks as the wealthiest self-made woman on earth with an estimated personal fortune of $5.6bn. Wu Yajun, 46, of Longfor Property, comes in second with $4.1bn and Chen Lihua, 69, of Fuhua International, a Hong Kong conglomerate, ranks third with $4bn.


The richest non-Chinese is Spaniard Rosalia Mera of Zara, the fashion house, with $3.5bn, and two others who made their fortunes in fashion: Doris Fisher for Gap is eighth and Giuliana Benetton of Benetton is 11th.


Oprah Winfrey, the US television show host, ranks ninth with $2.3bn."
CNN

Iceland - the country with greatest gender equality in the world



"Iceland remains the country that has the greatest equality between men and women, according to an annual report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).


It is the second year in succession that Iceland has topped the foundation's Global Gender Gap Report.


Nordic nations dominate the top of the list of 134 countries, with Norway in second place and Finland third.


The report measures equity in the areas of politics, education, employment and health."
BBC

These global rankings are getting ridiculous. You can pretty much expect the Scandinavians to dominate any top 10 of the "best, equal, cleanest, etc" country ranking in the world. Have they made Valhalla into reality? Hey Russia, need more territory?

Top 15

1 Iceland - no change from 2009
2 Norway - Up from 3rd
3 Finland - Down from 2nd
4 Sweden - No change
5 New Zealand - No change
6 Republic of Ireland - Up from 8th
7 Denmark - No change
8 Lesotho - Up from 10th
9 Philippines - No change
10 Switzerland - Up from 13th
11 Spain - Up from 17th
12 South Africa - Down from 6th
13 Germany - Down from 12th
14 Belgium - Up from 33rd
15 UK - No change

The full ranking can be obtained here (pdf).

Windows Phone 7



Engadget

I have no idea about the quality of the phone but I can verify that the development tools for Windows Phone 7 by far is the best compared to Android and iOS (the ones that power iPad and iPhone). The tools for designers are mature, the support for internationalization is amazing and the time it takes to compile/deploy the app to the phone simulator is FAST.

I think that's going to make a big difference in the long run - assuming Microsoft doesn't make some stupid decisions in the mean time. They have a real good chance on this.

Software Estimation

Welcome to Project Estimating Club.

  1. The first rule of Project Estimating Club is: you do not talk about Project Estimating Club.
  2. The second rule of Project Estimating Club is: you DO NOT talk about Project Estimating Club!
  3. Third rule of Project Estimating Club: if someone yells "CMMI!", mentions Gantt charts, or starts Excel, the project estimation session is over.
  4. Fourth rule: only two estimators to a project estimation.
  5. Fifth rule: one project at a time, fellas.
  6. Sixth rule: the estimations are pure engineering. No marketing guys, no applications guys, no sales guys.
  7. Seventh rule: schedules will go on as long as they have to.
  8. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Project Estimating Club, you have to estimate.

  Reddit

If you ever deal with a bunch of software developers, be advise that whatever estimation you get in the beginning are utter bullshit.

刘晓波 - more of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner

"Late last year, when Liu was brought up for trial on "subversion" charges after months in detention, Perry Link wrote a valuable overview of his case here, in the NY Review of Books. And just today, in the Asia-Pacific Journal's "Japan Focus" site, Feng Chongyi goes into considerable depth about the "Charter 08" movement that was the cause both of Liu's arrest and of his Nobel Prize.
"

James Fallow

Follow the link and discover trove of information about Liu Xiaobo. The dude is amazing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Global ranking of ease of doing business

http://www.doingbusiness.org/economyrankings/


The top ten on the list are:

  1. Singapore
  2. New Zealand
  3. Hong Kong
  4. United States
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Denmark
  7. Ireland
  8. Canada
  9. Australia
  10. Norway

Last September's Oktoberfest



It should be on anyone's "things to do before I die" list. These are the schedule for next year
2011: September 17 - October 3
2012: September 22 - October 7

Courage



"With the eyes of the world on Chile's no-expense-spared effort to ensure all the men emerge unharmed, the miners' physical and mental health was being fastidiously monitored. Precautions were taken against all manner of complications — aspirin to prevent blood clots, a special drink to settle the stomach, video monitors to watch for panic attacks.


And officials said the men were so giddy with confidence they were squabbling on Saturday, the day drills broke through to them, over who would get to be the last to take a twisting, 20-minute ride the half-mile up to a rock-strewn desert moonscape and into the embrace of those they love."
Yahoo

With so many shit going on in the world today, it is heartening to see an event that shows the resilient of human spirit and bond.

Stupid Corporate Tricks



The one of the right is GAP new logo. Great, yet another insipid boring corporate logo. Even a Soviet Union Politbiro committee can come up with something better. Why bother change your logo if you can't improve upon it?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Liu who?



" NEWS that jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo had won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize quickly made headlines around the world on Friday, but in China the award was hard to find on TV and major Internet sites.


China's official Xinhua news agency carried news of the prize in English and Chinese - by headlining the government's angry reaction to it.


But searches using the key words 'Nobel Peace Prize' and 'Liu Xiaobo' brought up no results on Chinese web portals Sina, Sohu and Baidu while similar searches on Weibo, a Twitter-like service, also drew a blank."
Strait Times

China should just release the guy from jail and let him be.

Friday prayer, the most dangerous time in Afghanistan and Pakistan

" A bomb blasted through a mosque in the capital of Takhar Province in northern Afghanistan, killing the governor of a neighboring province as he attended Friday Prayer and at least 12 other worshippers, said a spokesman for the provincial governor.


The slain official was Mohammed Omar, the governor of Kunduz, a Takhar native who returned there each week for the Muslim weekend and Friday worship. Mr. Omar — who had survived one other assassination attempt — was believed to have been the target of the attack, said Faiz Mohammad Tawhidi, the spokesman for the Takhar governor."
NY Times

The Friday prayer has become the most dangerous event in Af-Pak region. This past year we have witnessed attack upon attack during the prayer simply because it is a soft target due to many people congregating in one single place.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Bow before the great (new) leader



The man in black is going to be the new Big Daddy of North Korea.

Burj Khalifa time lapse overnight

Monday, October 04, 2010

And the game begins



A crowd of about 60,000 packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in central Delhi for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on Sunday. Audience members danced in their seats, and the applause was spontaneous and enthusiastic.

NY Times

Field of Rape and disgrace of UN peacekeeping missions



"Four armed men barged into Anna Mburano’s hut, slapped the children and threw them down. They flipped Mrs. Mburano on her back, she said, and raped her, repeatedly.


It did not matter that dozens of United Nations peacekeepers were based just up the road. Or that Mrs. Mburano is around 80 years old.


“Grandsons!” she yelled. “Get off me!”


As soon as they finished, they moved house to house, along with hundreds of other marauding rebels, gang-raping at least 200 women.


What happened in this remote, thatched-roof village on July 30 and continued for at least three more days has become a searing embarrassment for the United Nations mission in Congo. Despite more than 10 years of experience and billions of dollars, the peacekeeping force still seems to be failing at its most elemental task: protecting civilians."
NY Times

Here are the problems of UN peacekeeping force:

  • Sometimes stupid legal restrictions (soldiers are only allowed to fire their weapons when attacked). So yeah, that woman being raped in front of the base? We can't intervene because the UN troops have not been attacked.
  • Ill equipped third rate soldiers. Some countries have been using peacekeeping missions as a revenue source for their military and doing the job at the most minimum to make it profitable. They can't fight and have confined themselves in their own bases while atrocities happen outside the barbwire of their bases. 
  • Chicken shit missions. They are sending "peacekeeping" missions to region that need peacemaking, a comprehensive approach to stop hostilities and restore orders by diplomacy or by guns.
We have witnessed Somalia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Congo and more places as evidence of the criminally negligent management of UN peacekeeping operations. 

Sunday, October 03, 2010

ignorance is bliss is mental health

Stress in mothers seems to have particularly strong effects on their offspring, perhaps through release of cortisol, a hormone released when a person is anxious. Studies show that children who were in utero during the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War of 1967 were more likely to have schizophrenia diagnosed as adults. And The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that Chinese born during the terrible famine from 1959 to 1961 were twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as those born at other times.(NyTimes)

Chinese' Japan Syndrome



"As pleasurable as it must be for China's leaders to have beaten Japan at its own game, the joke might soon be on them. In fact, they would do well to veer off of Japan's development path promptly. Sure, Japan's export boom funded stellar growth for four decades. But its undervalued currency eventually helped blow one of the largest bubbles in history, the bursting of which still hobbles Japan today. Japan's famously dismal demographics didn't help, but China's aren't much better. Beijing's one-child policy, introduced in 1979, has worked its way up the population pyramid such that China's supply of rural workers ages 20 to 29 will halve by 2030. Worse yet, China is much larger than Japan -- which means that the global consequences of a crash would be far greater. For the moment, Beijing is riding high, but China's sustained success depends on understanding where Japan went so badly wrong"

FP

Friday, October 01, 2010

Another bruce lee video

China!

What is an issue on which Paul Krugman and House Republicans agree?

They deny that they are deliberately manipulating their exchange rate; I guess the tooth fairy purchased $2.4 trillion in foreign currency and put it on their pillows while they were sleeping. Anyway, say prominent Chinese figures, it doesn’t matter; the renminbi has nothing to do with China’s trade surplus. Yet this week China’s premier cried woe over the prospect of a stronger currency, declaring, “We cannot imagine how many Chinese factories will go bankrupt, how many Chinese workers will lose their jobs.” Well, either the renminbi’s value matters, or it doesn’t — they can’t have it both ways.
(link)

Post Conflict

It will take some time before everything returns to normal again. The immediate security situation has been resolved and right now we are the stage of continuing the process of reconciliation and maintaining the peace. The short 3 days intense conflict pretty much ripped open the community fabric in the island and we have a lot of work ahead.

The government thankfully gets this. The head of Indonesian Police is currently in town to talk to the local people and consult with his team about maintaining the security situation. He has instructed his deputy to stay in town for the next two weeks to strengthen the peace achieved so far.

One name keeps getting repeated and credited to bring much calm to the situation. Panglima Kumbang, a respected Dayak tribe leader from Central Kalimantan. He flew in on the second day of the conflict trying to control and break up the mass and he has been working tirelessly to calm down his Tidung brethren (Tidung is a sub tribe part of the Dayak tribe which is native of the island of Borneo/Kalimantan)


Central Kalimantan Province with its capital Palangkaraya and the infamous Sampit city of the Sampit Conflict (2001)

He is respected throughout the big island and he has seen the worse of Dayak tribe warfare.
This report comes from Time

""All my children, my grandchildren were killed," he mourns. "They cut off their heads and then cut them up and took them away to eat. There were a lot of Madurese in Sangai. Now 95% of us are dead."

The quote above is not an exaggeration. We who are living or have lived in Kalimantan have seen these atrocities either via photographs or videos - this was the reason this 3 day conflict generated around 32,000 refugees in an island of 170,000 people.  By any measure they are quiet and peaceful tribes but once they declare war (by performing "Mangkok Merah" ritual - passing a drink of blood in a bowl), they are hard to control. And being people of the forest, they are well versed in using hunting weapons from arrows to machetes.

My mother was raised and grew up in part in the jungle of East Kalimantan in the interior which takes a couple of days by boat to reach (I've never been there) so she is well versed with the Dayak people and their culture. On the other hand, my neighborhood is full of Bugis tribe, the umbrella ethnic group of one of the faction that fought the Tidung people this time. My neighborhood was never really in danger (Map) because we are tight and can easily be secured (the nearby Navy station helps) - but had the conflict entered the neighborhood (it's only 15 minutes driving to the center of the clash;it's a tiny city), the Navy station would have been overrun and we would have been looking at massive burning of wooden houses that perched on various wooden bridges on the sea - and Tarakan would fall.

The decisive actions by the government and local communities to end this conflict comes from the lesson of Sumpit. End them as soon as possible and reconcile the warring factions. Do not let it reach the state of war being declared by the tribes.

We have avoided that this time. It's a close call - and good job for everybody involved.


Panglima Kumbang trying to calm down the Tidung crowd on Tuesday in Tarakan. Check out his cool tattoos. 


Panglima Kumbang embraced the head of Indonesian Police Bambang Hendarso in Tarakan Friday (October 1st, 2010)