SGI

SGI is short for “Silicon Graphics, Inc..” Even though i’ve never worked for them, i have always paid attention to any news related to them. In my mind, SGI’s fate seems to illustrate the Chinese philosophy of “Thirty Years River’s East, Thirty Years River’s West”, which basically means what goes up has to come down, although the Chinese saying didn’t end with the failure, it has the well-known Chinese circular theory in it. In other words, once you come down, you can go up again. Your position relative to the river could change periodically.

When i graduated from college, in the eyes of EE/CS majors, SGI was pretty much the “Google” then. I remember listening to co-workers describing the amazing engineering centric culture that SGI advocates, “The engineers are the ones have offices with windows because they need the space and privacy to concentrate, and the managers end up in cubes in the center of the building.” “They have amazing food!” “They have really nice offices.” “They got huge bonuses.” Even today, you could still hear googlers rave about how they love these ex-SGI offices. “It is airy! It is bright! It’s artistic! and it is really enjoyable to work here.”

Maybe I’m a fatalist. But when I heard that Google’s current main Mountain View campus was originally built by SGI, who has gone bankrupted and had to lease their buildings for peanuts to get by. First thing came to my mind was, wow, someone climbed that high could fall so fast. SGI was once as glamorous as Google today. How fast things change, how soon people forget.

That’s why today when i saw this news item:
Silicon Graphics: Revs Grow; New Chairman; Needs Capital
. I was amazed. Who would have thought? in today’s economic climate, that a long forgotten name is coming back, admittedly slowly, but coming back nonetheless…

Speaking of the Righteous…

The Girl With The Uneven/Crooked/Buck Teeth and the Fat/Chubby Face

So where did Chen Qigang talk about the “chubby/fat face” and “crooked/uneven/wonky/buck teeth”? Nowhere. Go back and re-read the western media reports — they are the ones who thought that she had those physical attributes. Lin and Yang were among the final three candidates who were listed on the playbill, and therefore it cannot be the case that they are not ‘presentable’ or could not sing. But today, the world knows Yang as having “chubby/fat face” and “crooked/uneven/wonky/buck teeth” and Lin as having no singing talents. Well, who needs Politburo members when we have western media showering such ‘tender, loving care’ on Chinese children? DJ’s post at Fool’s Mountain is titled The cruelest insults come from ones pretending to speak as the righteous. Right …

The article also offered some brilliant detective work using Google:

This was too good to sit just in Comment #117 by JXie at Fool’s Mountain’s The cruelest insults come from ones pretending to speak as the righteous.

Personally love a good puzzle …

* First a google news search with keyword “teeth opening ceremony”, there are a lot of returns.

* Take out those who picked up from AP (”-AP”).

* Further limit with dates 8/12 to 8/13, when the “crooked teeth” meme first broke in the English world.

* Now the number of returns is more manageable. Reverse sort by dates. Look over the first 20 or so pages. The google spiders work pretty hard, and pieces from major news outlets rarely take more than a few minutes to hit the google news.

* This is the source in the English world, especially given the richness of its content that wasn’t fully picked up by others: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/olympics/article4512250.ece

* It credits china.com.cn for the picture. Now use baidu.com instead since its spiders on Chinese contents are more reliable. The keywords are “site:(china.com.cn) 林妙可 杨沛宜”. The page was removed by china.com.cn. However there was a baidu cached page: http://tinyurl.com/62oyun. No mention of crooked teeth and chubby/fat face.

Conclusion: the meme of “crooked teeth” and “chubby cheek” was started by Jane Macartney and Ashling O’Connor of The Times (The UK newspaper).

The New Yorker: Running to Beijing



Running to Beijing
The making of a long-distance runner.

by Peter Hessler

All articles by Hessler is a must-read. This one is no exception. Ryan Hall is an All-American young man, who will compete in this year’s Olympic Marathon competition in Beijing. His coach, Mahon, says that “He looks like a white Kenyan.”

…the Flora London Marathon has been the most competitive race in the world, and spectators hve been shocked to see Ryan Hall with the lead pack of African runners.

Reason being, he has a lot in common with the top African marathoners: come from high-altitude parts of the continents, efficient runner, body-mass index, and leg shape.

It is also quite a humorous read, when it comes to the running scene in the States:

These days, recreational runners tend to be educated people with good jobs. The average participant in the ING New York City Marathon has an annual household income of a hundred and thirty thousand dollars. The people who read Runner’s World have a median income virtually the same as that of the readers of Forbes….”Running has demographics that are comparable to golf.”

Interesting, but so what? Turned out, these wealthy runners are the real backers of each marathon race now held in the US cities!

In the United States, track has never drawn significant income from television, and neither has the marathon –but American marathons don’t rely on TV money. Nor do they need to sell tickets to spectators. Instead the participants raise the case, because they can afford to pay high entry fees and their demographic appeals to advertisers. marathoning may be the only sport in which sponsors target the losers, and the losers pay for the winners. That’s how the running boom played out for the Kenyans and the Ethiopians: it created a lot of slow, rich American marathoners willing to pay big money to get beat.

LOL.

As a result, money coming out of these races are now also helping sponsor elite running programs for real athletes. Plus, because of huge number of participants, sponsors is willing to give ludicrous contracts to athletes that is targeted for the “hordes of affluent recreational runners.”

The circle of “life” completes itself in the world of capitalism. Nice.

Strong Opinions

Was there on Sunday, The Green Apple bookstore’s used book division seemed to have gone through some re-shelving. Each alphabet section seemed to have expanded a bit. For the first time, i realized that I only linger in front of a selected few shelves.

I often start with N, which is always a good one. It helps that M (Maugham) is not far away. Afterwards, I moved deeper into the isle and would find I (Irving). A couple of shelves further up the chain, actually used to be horizontally shifting two shelves from I along the backwall of the store before they did the reshelving. Now I had to turn a corner to reach G (Greene). The last shelf i visit would be at the head of the alphabet, now back toward the front of the store where the cash register and the entrance to CD/DVD section are close by., A (Auster).

Under section N, I had been interested in Naipaul. But this time, Nabokov caught my eyes. The store seemed to have recently expanded both author’s selections. In addition to Nabokov’s fictions, there were a few non-fictions as well. I randomly picked up one thin volume “Strong Opinions” which seemed to have been mentioned in J. M. Coetzee’s recent work “Diary of a Bad Year.” Although I can’t be sure whether it was referring to Nabokov’s work or merely a description of Coetzee’s character’s work. But the connection seemed interesting enough. Turned out to be a collection of interviews given by Nabokov.

Would you agree to show us a sample of your rough drafts?
I’m afraid I must refuse. Only ambitious nonentities and hearty mediocrities exhibit their rough drafts. It is like passing around samples of one’s sputum.

Haha. So Nabokov prefers a flair of exaggeration. “hearty mediocrities”, interesting phrase.

And there is more:

Could you describe this work? [ referring to Eugene Onegin, Nabokov’s current translation work]
During my years of teaching literature at Cornell and elsewhere I demanded of my students the passion of science and the patience of poetry. As an artist and scholar I prefer the specific detail to the generalization, images to ideas, obscure facts to clear symbols, and the discovered wild fruit to the synthetic jam.

“the passion of science and the patience of poetry”? I always thought it was the other way around…

In a couple of passages he mentioned 100 lectures he gave on Russian literature, and I could see that volume right on the shelf “Lectures on Russian Literature”. I opened the book at Leo Tolstoy-Anna Karenin:

…we might list the greatest artists in Russian prose thus: first, Tolstoy; second, Gogol; third, Chekhov; fourth, Turgenev. This is rather like grading students’ papers and no doubt Dostoevski and Saltykov are waiting at the door of my office to discuss their low marks.

Fantastic, isn’t it? I’m intrigued by his witty language. Despite his cockiness.

These two books have to go with me. As i continued browsing my usual sections, I picked up Paul Auster’s Brooklyn Follies as well.

Satisfied, I walked back to the N section where there was a chair and started reading. In that very moment, I wish i could just sit there and do nothing until i finish reading all three books. I was surrounded by books, sitting on a comfortable chair, even with a sky light right above my head. Not one, not two, but three books waiting for my consumption. Nirvana.



Sadly, I couldn’t sit in the store and read forever. As I was checking out. The cash register suddenly fell into character, for the first time, what was described by other author, a typical used bookstore clerk appeared in front of me. He looked at my selection and locked his gaze on Nabokov’s Strong Opinions. “Is this the one that has his letters?”
“Uhm, I think this is a collection of his interviews.”
“Oh, there is one with all of his letters and it is fantastic. We are not allowed to buy books here, otherwise i would have gotten that one.”
“…” [agonizing whether to rush back to the Nabokov shelf, locate the collection of letters (i thought i did see something under that kind of title, “letters by Nabokov”? “Nabokov letter collections”?) and bring it back and pay for it.
“You’ve read Pale Fire?”
“Excuse me, Pale what?”
“Pale Fire.” incredulous look as if i’m some kind of alien.
“Oh, no, don’t think so.”
“You like Nabokov but you’ve never read Pale Fire?!” [implying…SHAME ON YOU! You don’t deserve to own any Nabokov. Give back that book, put it back on the shelf!]
“…” smiled and shrug.

I guess people weren’t making it up that used bookstore clerk are judgmental. Oh well, what do i care? The only Nabokov I find interesting enough was Lolita. Until today. Maybe i will try pale fire someday. But no rush, really. My hands are full, for the moment.