Captain Phillips

captainphillips
A really good movie. After i came home, i found out the director was the same who made the Bourne trilogy. No wonder!

It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Amazing actor from Hanks as well as the supporting actor, excellent editing, and impeccable story telling. A very satisfying experience.

I’ve spent the evening reading up on the Somali Pirate situation wikipage (turned out Indian Navy has been capturing, defeating the most Somali Pirate hijacking in Gulf of Aden), interviews with director Greengrass, Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi–a first time actor and a Somali-American, and interview with the real Richard Phillips. I even started readying the real Richard Phillips Memoir “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea”.

All the scenes of the movie was shot on real ships, Greengrass ensured they were of the same model/type of ship as in the real story, from the Cargo ship to the Navy destroyer. They shot the movie off the coast of Malta. The four main pirates were all Somali-American who now live in Minneapolis, where there is a large Somali community. And the four were friends in real life when they auditioned. The other Somalis in the film were recruited from UK.

Greengrass also kept the US cargo ship crew actors separate from the pirate actors until they shot the real scene of their encounter. Tom Hanks mentioned their first meet during shooting, when the four got onboard of the ship and shoot their way to the bridge where “Captain Phillips” were at the time, “these were the four skinniest and scariest people i’ve ever met in my life.” Hanks said in the interview on Fresh Air. Hanks and the other two crew on scene also didn’t know what they were shouting at each other in Somalian.

Tropical Vacations

During my traveling days, I’ve always been partial to mountains and cities. Tropical vacations has been very few.  Looking back, I found out the only two tropical vacations I had both happened to be during Thanksgiving week. Both time i went with Gui, who loves the tropics and a veteran of all the tropical paradise: Tahiti, Bali, Bahamas, British Virgin Island, yucatan peninsula, Costa Rica, and many trips to Hawaii since she moved to San Francisco.

Nov. 2001 Cabo San Lucas, Sea of Cortez

I went with my diving partner Jenny, Gui and Matthew. It was right after Jenny and I got our PADI diving certificates from West Valley college. Jenny and I got off work twice a week to attend the classes (usually one lecture, one pool session) for 10 weeks. Final certification happened in the cold water of Monterey bay with amazing kelp forest. Two full day dives of four dives total if i remember correctly. I also failed the swimming test at the beginning of the quarter and had to retake it (and passed, whew!) prior to our ocean dive certification tests.  I forgot how many laps it was required to pass the tests, but it was a longer distance than I could manage initially.

Diving in tropical water is so different from diving in Monterey. I’m very glad we did the trip. I remember seeing my first octopus in flight while diving (thanks to Jenny who noticed him, and i did the incorrect touristy thing by poking it with my flashlight, unknowingly forced it to put up a show for us). It was an amazing sight, not only the octopus changes color as it skid past rocks, ocean vegetation; but its skin also changes texture to match its background. All these happened within the blink of an eye. Then it was gone.

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on the beach in between our diving trips.

tropical

I loved the open air lobby of our hotel, where sparrows flew in and out as we were waiting to check in. The air felt warm and comfortable on the skin in the evening, and hot and blazing during the day.

Nov. 2003, Phuket, Thailand

Looking at the photos, i remembered in addition to Gui and Matthew, Gui’s college friend Sara also joined us. I think she was working for a non-profit in Thailand then and used to send Gui funny stories of her work there. I don’t remember if I dived in Phuket.

I remembered snorkel off the beach in front of the hotel during the day, as i was heading back to the beach, i saw a local boy swimming into the ocean holding a long pole with some fixture of ropes and hooks.  I then joined Matthew sitting under a local food stand on the beach. A while later, the local boy with the pole came back with a freshly caught octopus in hand. Turned out Matthew ordered an octopus salad. And we witnessed the entire process of harvesting and cooking in one shot. Matthew said it was the freshest octopus salad he has ever tasted.
tropical1
I also remembered the last day of the trip when Gui, Matthew and Sara continued on to a diving expedition on the other side of Phuket, I checked out my hotel, still have a few hours to kill before heading to the airport. I walked into the airy patio of Le Meridian on the beach which was next to our hotel but with a much better view and higher price tag, and sat in one of many comfy chairs and read my book on that trip, Enigma by Robert Harris. It was such a pleasant morning, with beautiful view of the Andaman sea, the breeze, the tropical fragrant in the air, always smiling wait staff, leisure sail boat on the sea, and a satisfied read. It must be the low season, the entire morning I almost had the entire large and beautiful patio to myself. Only one other woman customer came in and sat a few seat from me about mid-morning.

16_view

In between these two trips, there was also the three weeks Ecuador trip Sara and I ended up going April of 2002. It was also in a tropical setting since Ecuador is right on the equator, and our trip also included one week cruise among the very special Galapagos, but it felt less a tropical trip, more an adventure.

I never quite shook my unease with diving. My sister happened to be an advanced diver, she learned diving in Tahiti while attending a summary school session with Cal’s ocean-biology(or something like that) department. My mom loves swimming more than anything else and she still swim laps three days a week now. I’m the black sheep in the family. The year 2000 was my year of adventure, after mastering skiing, got hooked on rock climbing, and skydived once and loved it. I went for the scuba certification.

But i was always nervous before each dive (even though i really haven’t done that much). Later when i found out my sister also had her own fear about diving each time before she went in the water all suited up. I suddenly felt relieved and decided not to force myself to dive. Snorkel was just as fun in the tropicals and so much more relaxed for me.

My best snorkel experience has to be during our cruise at Galapagos. I remember a penguin shooting past me like a missile and missing my face by a hair as i was entering the narrow entrance of a sunk crater; I remember swimming in the crystal clear water and watch a group of sharks “circling” a large group of fish right beneath me; I remember a sea lion swam up to me and floated itself upside down, stared at me with its huge pretty eyes, and then blew a series of bubble at my mask…

I’m about to visit Hawaii for the first time this Thanksgiving. Surprisingly, everything i read about Hawaii, especially the scenery, reminded me of Ecuador. People’s description of the drive to Hana match exactly what i remembered from our bus ride from Papallacta in the Andes to Pimpilala in the Amazon Jungle. The description of the volcanos reminded me of our mountain biking trip down the volcano Cotopaxi in Quito Valley. And the varied colored sand beaches reminded me of Galapagos.

If Hawaii is a smaller, tamer, more civilized version of Ecuador that’s only 5 -7 hours away from home, then I can see myself visiting it more often. I could also understand why people will equate Hawaii with Paradise.

The New Yorker Digest: San Francisco, Collapse of a Top NY Law Firm, The Guardian, Jack Dorsey

Another classic cover from Oct. 14, 2013 The New Yorker magazine.  Subtle and funny.

CVC_TNY_10_14_13_580px

Two interesting articles so far.

Bay Watched – San Francisco transforms the culture, again. by Nathan Heller

I’m taking a huge grain of salt with this article.  The tone of the article reminded me of the days prior to dotcom bubble burst. When things sound too outlandish to be true, it is probably not true. Many of the phenomenon described in the article has a lot more to do with how much money are over flowing at the moment. What happens when that overflow stops? A business model should be one that works through thick and thin, not extravagant life style of some individual during the best of times.

One message i like about the article is that more silicon valley millionaires care more about quality of life after they made it.  That is encouraging. Wish the country will become less workaholic, and more like Europe.

The later part of the article on the VC trend is pretty interesting.

The Collapse – How a top legal firm destroyed itself by James B. Stewart

A fantastic run of events that caused the collapse. I kept on wondering “what if”. I’m often of the opinion that the inevitable is inevitable. But in this particular case, i kept on feeling that a reversal of one particular bad decision could have turned things around. It didn’t have to end this way.

Two articles from outside the Money issue.

Freedom of Information – The newspaper that took on the N.S.A. -BY  (Oct. 7, 2013)

bluedogAn article about the editor of the Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger.

Rusbridger, who is fifty-nine, has been its editor for eighteen years. He wears square, black-framed glasses and has a mop of dark hair that sprawls across his head and over his ears. He could pass for a librarian. “His physical appearance doesn’t tell you how tough he is,” Nick Davies, the investigative reporter whose byline dominated the Murdoch and WikiLeaks stories, said.

I’ve grown to respect The Guardian a great deal after their  coverage of News of the World scandal and Ping Fu the liar.  This article centered on their coverage of Snowden and their search for a viable feature of the newspaper in the ever more digital world.

Reading this article made me want to go out and subscribe the newspaper so to contribute something to a still great newspaper, which is such a rarity in today’s world (just subscribed their kindle’s edition!)

Two Hit Wonder – Jack Dorsey, of Twitter, is now making big money at Square—and is out to prove that he’s more than a lucky man. BY D. T. MAX (Oct. 21, 2013)

thehauntedhouseThe New Yorker is looking west more often nowadays. Maybe because silicon valley topics are become more trendy.  Some of the New Yorker’s profile are very good, such as the one on zuckerberg. But most the others are not so good. Comparing to the other more thoughtful writings, The New Yorker seems largely still stays in the fascinated stage with this little valley of ours. Fascinated but not understanding. As a result, most of these articles don’t really go beyond gossip.  Classy gossip told with more restraint. But still are just gossip.

Very well written gossip, though!

Dorsey loves cities and the way movement within them can be charted and broken down into millions of parts. A city is a system that is at once flexible and stable, searchable and random. He expressed a similar interest in ant communities and aspen trees. “I really like any colony-based structure, where you have a strong dependence on a network,” he said. “Aspen trees grow in groups. If one of them dies, they all suffer. I think humans have the same thing, though it’s not as much on the surface.” He likes to draw ferns. (In his twenties, he studied botanical illustration.) “They’re a single structure that tends to repeat itself,” he said. “They’re fractal.” Exotic as these enthusiasms are, they seem suspiciously apt for the creator of Twitter, a service defined by its “strong dependence on a network.” As a thinker, Dorsey seems at once earnest and improbably coherent.

The article ends with an interesting exclusive headline, that Dorsey is interested in becoming the mayor of New York City.

Certainly, if Square eventually follows Twitter and becomes a public company, Dorsey would have extraordinary resources to fund a campaign. He owns 23.4 million shares of Twitter stock; an initial public offering is upcoming, and his stake could be worth nearly half a billion dollars. In March, at a celebration of Twitter’s seventh anniversary, Dorsey asked Bloomberg if he had any suggestions for how to succeed him in his job. Stone recalls, “Bloomberg told him, ‘Become a billionaire!’ I was joking with him recently, and I said, ‘Well, you’ve checked that box off.’ ”

A Satire of SF & One of NYC

Someone in the name of Peter Shih wrote “10 Things I Hate About You – San Francisco Edition” on Aug. 14th, last Wednesday.  I learned of its existence the next day on Twitter, where it was causing lots of anguish and harsh words. Shih tried to soften the tone of his article by adding a clause claiming it is satire, and also removed some of the most offending clauses, these all happened on Thursday.

I told ZM about this incident over the weekend. Today ZM sent me a Chinese news article talking about Peter Shih! and the Chinese news article also indicated that Shih has removed his essay and apologized! wow!

Apparently the Shih Storm is all over town (literately) and all over the news.

So i went back to reread the screen capture of Shih’s original article.  To be honest, quite a few items he listed are very true, such as how bad SF’s public transit is, how monotonous SF is comparing to any real city.  I remember commenting to friends after watching Billy Elliot on 2000, that it was so depressing to be born into a mining town and all you are expected to do is to be a miner. My friend Jennie at the time laughed at me, “and how different do you think the silicon valley is?”

What surprised me was Shih liked NYC, while complained about the various shabby elements in SF, such as transvestites, homeless, and unsafe areas.  I asked ZM, who lived in NYC for nine years, isn’t NYC even more dirty and dangerous and has more weird people than SF? ZM said NYC is larger and more segregated(gentrified?). Just like Shih said, an uptown guy doesn’t have to mingle with the shabby elements if he chooses.  But in San Francisco, such a compact city, everything is jumbled together. People like Shih couldn’t live in a bubble even when he has lots of money.

Shih is also correct about San Francisco’s nightlife (or the lack of).

This whole incident reminded me of the famous monologue delivered by Edward Norton in “25th Hour”.  ZM and I watched that movie in a little theatre off Union Square in NYC. That satire monologue was even more extreme than Shih’s “hate -list”, it was about NYC.  And while we were in that NYC theater, that monologue earned a standing ovation from the crowd. Everyone was clapping, laughing and cheering.

When i told ZM about 25th hour, his first reaction was real life is very different from the movies.  I made him read the monologue and suggested, “could it be possible that New Yorkers are more secure than San Franciscans?”  ZM contemplated a bit and reluctantly agreed, “maybe. Maybe because New Yorkers are a much more diverse group. While San Franciscan are mostly of the same type.”

I thought ZM had an excellent point. Basically we are back to monotonousness vs. metropolitan.  San Francisco has a limited categories of residents, while New York City has many. Going down the list of Norton’s 25th Hour monologue, i could safely say none of the guys listed in Norton’s list are watching that movie in that theater, or very few.  In other words, Norton’s list didn’t make a left-wing liberal a target, who is probably the target audience of that movie.

But Shih’s attempt at satire was met with a much limited audience as well as resources. He didn’t have much choice at who to pick on.  And whatever he picked on happen to belong to the group of people who is reading his publication.

I happen to love both cities: San Francisco and New York City. I wish San Francisco will grow into a real city some day, with great public transportation, a functional public school system, and the diversity of New York City, while keeping our great weather, interesting architecture, and our nice parks. I wish San Franciscan will become more secure and tolerant of people with different opinions. Next time when someone deliver a Norton style monologue about San Francisco, we can have the confidence to call it a “love letter”, give it a standing ovation, instead of threatening to chase him out of town.

The New Yorker Digest 7/29/2013: Kayaktivist, Ask Ayn

I don’t usually read “Talk of Town” or “Shouts and Murmurs” sections and realized I’ve been missing out!

Some quite hilarious pieces in the latest New Yorker (7/29/2013) issues in the “Talk of Town” and “Shouts and Murmurs”.

Kayaktivist

A women kayaker who noticed the Manhattan ferries don’t follow a marine rule. i.e. They don’t sound their horns during maneuver around the ferry terminal.  Making it dangerous for kayakers like her.  So she started a e-mail campaign to the Coast Guard. Early June 2013, her effort paid off. To the surprise of many luxury waterfront residents every morning starting at 6am.  The horns are very loud. Now the residents started their own mail campaign to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has an easier time answering these residents protest, “Until the International Maritime Organization and the U.S. Congress change the rules, there is nothing I can do.”

Repeat Customer

A Tokyo resident finally passed the New York Bar exam after 17 tries starting from 2005. He wasn’t even planning on practicing law in New York.

Ask Ayn

Excerpt from an Ayn Rand newspaper column in “Parade”. True Ayn Rand style with a real life flavor such as freedom of taking drugs, why she loves “Charlie’s Angels”, her take on movies such as “Caddyshack” and “The Shining”.

 

The New Yorker Digest:Everest, Sniper, Silicon Valley, & An Manhattan Apartment

Spent the last day of the long weekend reading the most recent two issues of the New Yorkers. For the first time I can now read the magazine on my phone! Thank you Google Play for bringing in the New Yorker!

CV1_TNY_06_03_13Hall.indd1. THE MANIC MOUNTAIN
BY NICK PAUMGARTEN

An article originally intended to be the profile of Ueli Steck, one of the world’s premier alpanists–“The Swiss Machine” and his final epic climb on Everest. But it turned out to be more about the confrontation a month ago on Everest between Ueli and Nepalese Sherpas. The news and blogs i’ve heard about that story was one sided blaming the climbers. This article served as testimony of the story from the Climber’s view. Sobering.

The article is behind a subscription wall.  Failing that, you could listen to this interview of the author Nick Paumgarten and Peter Hessler on climbing culture and a summary of the article by Paumgarten, by Sasha Weiss.

and here is a video of Ueli climbing Eiger!

2. IN THE CROSSHAIRS–Chris Kyle, a decorated sniper, tried to help a troubled veteran. The result was tragic. BY NICHOLAS SCHMIDLE

How some people could use this story to make a case for pro-gun and against gun-control is beyond me!

ana-juan-the-new-yorker-cover-may-27-20133. Change the World By George Packer

Throughout most of Silicon Valley’s history, its executives have displayed a libertarian instinct to stay as far from politics and government as possible. But the imperative to change the world has recently led some Silicon Valley leaders to imagine that the values and concepts behind their success can be uploaded to the public sphere.

It is mainly a story about how Zuckerberg turns political. Entertaining, but please take this article with a grain of salt. Some of the statements are overly sensationalized, which made me question the truthfulness of the remaining of the story.

4. Crowded House by Tad Friend

In the spring and summer of last year, people from Brazil, Norway, Spain, South Africa, Bangladesh, Japan, and even the Upper West Side pounced on a Craigslist ad for a twenty-five-hundred-square-foot Chelsea loft with two large bedrooms and two baths. The apartment’s owner and impresario was a photographer named Michael Tammaro who assured potential tenants that he’d get them membership in Soho House. Everyone wanted in. They couldn’t all rent the apartment, of course. Unless they could!

A hilarious read!

My favorite part of the story is how the Asian couple used sympathy to recover most of their money after learning the truth. And the advice the D. A. gave to a couple of the victims. “I”ve been in this job fifteen years, and I’ve heard everything — but I’ve never heard of the scammee locking the scammer out.” He went on, “I’m going to give you some advice – get out of the apartment. You’re two young people, starting out together, and you don’t want your lives to be about this terrible person.”

To “melty” who has commented on “True or False” blog on NYT by Ms. Tatlow

“All our silences in the face of racist assault are acts of complicity.” –bell hooks

melty,
I loved your comments on NYT, and I’ve collected them together and posted on Amazon discussion forum.
If you are reading this, would you mind to join our facebook group?
http://www.facebook.com/groups/fair4voice/
Thanks,
jean
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A collection of posts from “melty”.

1. Feb. 20, 2013 at 3:24 p.m.
melty
West Orange, NJ

These scurrilous accusations of “nationalism” and “paid shills of the Chinese government” are absolutely disgusting. Imagine if they had been directed at some other ethnicity (African Americans?! Hispanics?!! Jews?!!! — what an outcry there would be!). But no-one in the media cares about Chinese Americans.

Chinese Americans and people who genuinely want answers on the glaring inconsistencies between the book and the various PR pieces (talk shows, articles) are the ones being smeared here.

We want the truth — will the NYT spend any serious time on this, or will it simply parrot Ping Fu’s version?

2. http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/true-or-false-the-tussle-over-ping-fus-memoir/?comments#permid=19
Feb. 20, 2013 at 3:25 p.m.
melty
West Orange, NJ

Ms. Tatlow, in your NYT article you concluded “The fact just aren’t available” [i.e., facts that either support or undermine the credibility of Ping Fu’s memoirs]. However, this should be easy: if anyone can provide any record whatsoever of the infanticide report that Ping Fu says she wrote, we would have a much better idea. So far: nothing.

Also, in that same article you wrote: “By 1983, state news media were reporting on female infanticide. “At present, the phenomena of butchering, drowning and leaving to die female infants and maltreating women who have given birth to female infants have been very serious. It has become a grave social problem,” People’s Daily reported on March 3 of that year, according to a New York Times article dated April 1.”

You also wrote: “If it’s difficult to establish the truth, there’s a reason: 37 years after the Cultural Revolution, it’s still impossible to research, discuss or publish about it freely in China.”

Do you see the irony here? It was the NEW YORK TIMES that reported on The People’s Daily report on the evil of female infanticide in China. Still, an easy sell to a western readership I suppose.

3. http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/true-or-false-the-tussle-over-ping-fus-memoir/?comments#permid=44:2
Feb. 22, 2013 at 5:58 p.m.
melty
West Orange, NJ

Dear Ms Tatlow,

Thank you for your reply. I understand why this might have hit a nerve but I think that the criticism is justified (see my first mail: there is a strong whiff of prejudice surrounding the media’s treatment of this story).

Since you speak Mandarin, why is it so difficult for you to follow up on this story by asking people of that generation what they think of Ping Fu’s claims? Also, why not request Suzhou U. to find the research paper, or any other relevant records?

I do not understand why this should be so difficult. Why should amateurs have to do the sleuthing? I maintain that it is an abdication of your duty as a journalist to fail to make best efforts to illuminate these issues.

Sincerely,

melty

4.
http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/true-or-false-the-tussle-over-ping-fus-memoir/?comments#permid=44:3
Feb. 23, 2013 at 1:45 p.m
melty
West Orange, NJ

Hi Didi,

Thank you again for your response. You have completely missed the point. The “important era” we should be concerned about is not the Cultural Revolution: it is today, right now. What happened during the CR is well documented both in China and elsewhere by Chinese and other authors — it is about the attitude on display in the US media towards people of Chinese descent.

The issue is not whether Ping Fu was economical with the truth in her book and/or interviews. The question is whether this will episode will go unremarked, shoved under the carpet, subjected to false journalistic balance, and/or typed up as yet another he said-she-said story. In the most tactful terms I can muster, will this be treated as just too terribly trivial to use technological or other techniques to even tentatively determine the truth — and to offer even a tidbit of tolerance towards and rectitude for people who are clearly far from inscrutable. You, dear journalist, are what stands between us and atrocities such as the internment visited terribly and unjustly on the heads of American orientals not so very long ago in time. Dig?

The seething prejudice towards all things Chinese that is seeping into Western culture via the MSM — disguised as patriotism — is insidious and has no place in American discourse. Thus, to remain silent in the face of such insipid slackness would be an unspeakable oversight.

Sincerely,

melty

p.s. If your mother says she loves you…. well, you know the rest.

5. http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/true-or-false-the-tussle-over-ping-fus-memoir/?comments#permid=47:4
Feb. 23, 2013 at 1:49 p.m.
melty
West Orange, NJ

Hey Reformer, I’m not even Asian, never mind Chinese. However, I have strong family ties and I have visited many times*. Might I suggest that the comments here and elsewhere are similar because we are addressing the same issues? This really _isn’t coordinated: it’s a bunch of people who are justifiably outraged — and by the behavior of the media as much as by that of Ping Fu, Meimei Fox, Professor Erica Brindey, Evan Yares, et al. The NYT lost my respect big-time after Judy Miller’s coverage of the lead-up to the Iraq War: where was the skepticism? It was obvious what was happening — and yet not a peep. Then we have the “Science” pages — please don’t get me started.

–melty

*p.s. Elvis Costello sang that “They say that travel broadens the mind, till you can’t get your head out of doors.” — maybe this applies to me but I maintain that you ought to spend some time outside your own county. I think it was Eric Blair who pointed out that you cannot truly appreciate your native culture until you have seen it from the perspective of a foreigner.

——–Reformer’s comment attached here as reference. melty was replying to him——-
Reformer
U.S.A.

I’ve only read the first page of comments but many of them are very similar to the comments on Amazon. A certain community of people is very vigilant and are surprisingly coordinated in their attacks on the author and her book. Interesting.
Feb. 22, 2013 at 1:37 a.m

6. http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/true-or-false-the-tussle-over-ping-fus-memoir/?comments#permid=78:5

Feb. 24, 2013 at 10:36 p.m
melty
West Orange, NJ

Dear Ms. Tatlow,

I stand by the tone of my earlier comments. There have now been more than a handful of media reports on this story and I am sorry to have to say that only the Guardian has come close to an investigation of adequate depth. At the same time, Ms. Fu continues her despicable tarring of honest US citizens, now even daring to call them “internet terrorists”. If you want to discuss civility, why not start right there?

When a culture has decided that it is ok to downplay the concerns of its citizens; and when journalists engage in false balance that allows prejudice, hatred, and misunderstanding to flourish, then you will hear passionate appeals for decency — and perhaps even expressions of anger. Perhaps when the civil rights movement was gaining momentum, those people should have been told to “tone it down” as well?

I hope you understand that as a journalist you have a special responsibility to discover and tell people the truth (“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”).

Wrt Wang Long’s 7:53 pm comment, above: I would like to point out that I am not part of any “Chinese community”: I am British. So: not Chinese — most Chinese are better behaved than me — but still angry at the failure of the US media to really get to grips with this.

7.http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/true-or-false-the-tussle-over-ping-fus-memoir/?comments#permid=83

Feb. 24, 2013 at 4:56 p.m.
melty
West Orange, NJ

Ms Tatlow wrote: “The fallibility of memory may partly explain the fracas surrounding “Bend, Not Break…”.

No. A thousand times no. You can easily find not four different dates but FOUR DIFFERENT YEARS given for her departure from China.

In her book Ping Fu writes: “On January 14, 1984, my parents, aunts and uncles, and siblings gathered at the Shanghai International Airport to send me off for my flight to San Francisco. I’ll never forget the cold, wet afternoon”.

Well, apparently she did forget it because she told CNN it happened in 1980 Source: http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/tag/ping-fu/

In the 2005 article in Inc. magazine entitled “Entrepreneur of the Year: Ping Fu”, indicates that — according to her — in February 1981 she was locked up for three days and then 2 weeks later boarded a United Airlines flight from Shanghai to San Francisco.
Source: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20051201/ping-fu_pagen_3.html

Finally, a US CIS article says: “Ms. Fu arrived in the United States in 1983 as a 23-year-old student with virtually no money or English language skills.”
Source: US CIS

I can see how a faulty memory might result in the citation of one wrong year — but FOUR? — and in 1980/1/3/4, she was “terrified” to come… to the USA?

8. http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/true-or-false-the-tussle-over-ping-fus-memoir/?comments#permid=105

Feb. 25, 2013 at 8:18 p.m.
melty
West Orange, NJ

There has been some praise for Ms Tatlow’s articles here but I beg to differ. Her narrative conforms to the popular line: “China bad”. The evidence is right here in “Ensnared in the Trap of Memory”:

—-
“If it’s difficult to establish the truth, there’s a reason: 37 years after the Cultural Revolution, it’s still impossible to research, discuss or publish about it freely in China. … “Proof” is often merely recollection, Ms. McCarthy’s unreliable friend.

Is Ms. Fu telling the truth, but people just don’t know it? Or are “nightingales” singing in a self-dramatizing narrative? Until China opens its archives and permits open debate, we won’t know. Not for sure. Because even “experts” on China are often wrong. The facts just aren’t available.”
—-

Clearly, Ms Tatlow’s article offers us this choice: either Ping Fu is telling the truth, or she has a poor memory — but what about the obvious third possibility: that she is a pathological liar and her “memoir” is full of absurdities? It is an astonishing omission. Is Ping Fu a member of some kind of aristocracy, such that journalists should not dare question her integrity? The China bad/America good narrative offered is almost certainly a very sweet dish to a certain bigoted, parochial, xenophobic, and racist tranche of American society. This narrative breeds nothing but hatred and misunderstanding — so why feed it?

“All our silences in the face of racist assault are acts of complicity.” –Bell Hooks

Ping Fu Controversy IV – Timeline (updated 3/19/2013)

A Wikipedia user Parisapril created this timeline originally. Apparently it scared the Ping Fu and Co. so much that they have their wikipedia friends deleted the page soon after its creation. I salvaged most of the content from Google cache after its deletion by wiki and added progressing events since then. Will try to keep this up to date. All Dates are PST.

December 31, 2012, Penguin Portfolio published Ping Fu – memoir Bend, Not Break.

Jan. 22, 2013, Tina Brown went on NPR to recommend “Bend, Not Break”.[1]

Jan. 22, 2013, The book received its first one-star review on amazon.com from reader “lin”.[2]. The review has since been truncated by Amazon due to length limit. Original review can be found in this doc I don’t believe her story

Jan. 23, 2013, Forbes published its interview with Ping Fu on-line. Under the title “One Woman’s Journey from Chinese Labor Camp to Top American Tech Entrepreneur” [3]

Jan. 25, 2013, Forbes article was translated into Chinese and published on Forbes China website. [4]

Jan. 29, 2013, Fang Zhouzi published his first installment of questions against Ping Fu’s memoir on his Chinese microblog.[5] Fang simply pointed out the inconsistency and unlikelihood of many major events to actually happen. He didn’t ask anyone other than Ping Fu herself to do anything.
Within 24 hours after Fang Zhou Zi’s post, over fifty ethnic Chinese spontaneously came to amazon.com and provided one-star reviews. The book’s rating went from 4.5 out of 5 stars to 2 out of 5 stars during that period of time.

Jan. 28, 2013, Ping Fu explained on her twitter account that “the Forbes article has some inaccuracies, media does not let me review before…“. [6]

Jan. 30, 2013, John Kennedy published first English Translation of Fang Zhouzi’s blog on Ping Fu on South China Morning Post: “‘Liar-hunter’ Fang Zhouzi accuses Ping Fu of selling fake tragedy to Americans”

Jan. 31, 2013, Forbes changed the title of its Jan 23rd article to “One Woman’s Journey from China’s Cultural Revolution to Top American Tech Entrepreneur”, and also published a follow up “‘Bend, Not Break’ Author Ping Fu Responds To Backlash“[7]
Forbes article unveiled more questions than it attempted to answer. More one-star reviews kept coming, the book’s rating continued to plumet on amazon.com.

Jan. 31, 2013, Daily Kos member xgz published his first installment of a series of blog posts on Ping Fu’s Memoir: “Bend, Not Break: A Lie in Two Worlds“.

Feb. 1, 2013, Professor Erica Brindley started a discussion thread on Amazon book review page of ‘Bend, Not Break’, with the title “Do not bomb this book if you have not read it! I am a professor of Chinese history and philosophy (PhD from Princeton) and I vouch that her story is a true reflection of what happened to some people in China during the Cultural Revolution.“[8], calling the reviewers “Chinese Nationalists”. She was soon found out by information on-line that she is the sister-in-law of Meimei Fox, ‘Bend, Not Break’ co-author, and her specialty in Chinese history was limited to “early China (500 BC to 200 AD)“[9], far removed from Cultural Revolution time period.

Feb. 1, 2013, Fu published two blog posts on huffingtonpost.com: “Sad, But Not Broken“[10] and “Clarifying the Facts in Bend, Not Break“[11]. She called the negative reviews “the smear campaign…dark side of China.”

Feb. 2, 2013, “Bend, Not Break” made it to #24 for Hardcover-Nonfiction category and #32 for Combined Print and E-book category of Feb. 10, 2013 New York Times “extended” Best Seller list, which reflected sales ending Jan. 26, 2013[12]. “Bend, Not Break” didn’t make it to the next issue (Feb. 17, 2013) New York Times Best Seller list, which reflected sales ending Feb. 2, 2013.

Feb. 4, 2013, The Guardian Beijing & New York published “Chinese cast doubt over executive’s rags to riches tale“. [13]

Feb. 4, 2013, Tina Brown’s Dailybeast.com published “Ping Fu Defends ‘Bend, Not Break’ Memoir Against Online Chinese Attack” to defend Ping Fu. [14]

Feb. 5, 2013, UK Telegraph published “Doubts over Chinese author lauded by Michelle Obama“. [15]

Feb. 8, 2013 – An new Amazon user Van Harris joined Amazon.com’s book review discussion, started threatening amazon book reviewers with lawsuits.[16]Among the many discussion threads he started, “Could you really be sued?” [17] and “Is this legal?“[18] are among the earlier ones. After Van Harris googled one reviewer Zhaomin Yang[19], VH emailed Yang directly threatening to get Yang fired or his employer in trouble with its 3D suppliers.[20].

Feb. 11, 2013, Sir Harold Evans published “The Persecution of Ping Fu“. [21].

Feb. 13, 2013, The Guardian followed up with another article with more in-depth investigation on Ping Fu’s story. “Ping Fu’s childhood tales of China’s cultural revolution spark controversy“. [22]. In the Guardian article Ping Fu admitted “she had been wrong to call the criticism a smear campaign, adding she had realised the people she thought were attacking her were telling their own stories of the cultural revolution.”

Feb. 13, 2013, Agence France-Presse(AFP) published China bloggers vilify US executive’s memoirs.

Feb. 14, 2013, Influential short-seller Citron Research published report warning bubble in 3D printers. Identified Ping Fu as 3D printing industry’s spokesperson and linked to Sir Evans’ article. [23] DDD stock started sliding at the rate of 5%/day[24]

Feb. 15, 2013, Ping Fu appeared on a Book promotion interview @CNBC “On the Money with Maria Bartiromo“, “Communist Factory Worker turned Capitalist Queen – The incredible story of Ping Fu, the entrepreneur who overcame a childhood in labor camps of China’s cultural revolution to running an award-winning 3-D technology company.” Ping Fu repeated many of the statements she has retracted in her own Huffington Post “Clarification”, “Forbes”, and “Guardian”. e.g. “Labor Camp”.

Feb. 16, 2013, Original location of this page on wikipedia was deleted citing “personal information of a wikipedia editor” was exposed.

Feb. 16, 2013, #1 review on Amazon, also the first 1-star review on the book by lin was deleted by Amazon, citing “Visual Distractiveness”.

Feb. 18, 2013, lin posted a new review, Amazon preserved the initial publication time “Jan. 22, 2013”, but removed the 1400+ helpful vote and 70+ pages of comments. Within 6 hours this new review was voted back to the top, “most helpful in 5 star category” and also among the “most helpful review overall”, trading place with now 3 weeks older earlier 1-star reviews by reviewer “Henry” and ‘Chris”.

Feb. 19, 2013, Fidelity stepped in and placed a 1 million shares order to buy DDD, thus stablized the decline of DDD from previous diving trend.

Feb. 19, 2013, for a brief period of time, lin’s original 1-star review was back, both her 1-star and 5-star reviews were alive side by side during this period of time.

Feb. 19, 2013, China Daily published “Fabrications fail as world flattens” by Berlin Fang.

Feb. 20, 2013, International Herald Tribune (Global Edition of New York Times) and New York Times published two articles by the same reporter DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW covering this controversy:
– New York Times: US Edition: Letter From China: Ensnared in the Trap of Memory.
– International Herald Tribune – Global Edition of NYT: True or False? The Tussle Over Ping Fu’s Memoir

– “The marriage took place while she was living in California, she said. “I had a first marriage and that’s how I got my green card,” she said by telephone. She married on Sept. 1, 1986 and divorced three years later. “
– “contentious issue, …were the result of exaggeration or unclear communication with her ghostwriter, MeiMei Fox of Los Angeles, she said.
“Ms. Fox “wrote it wrong,’’ she said. ‘‘I corrected it three times but it didn’t get corrected.’’
“In general, Ms. Fox may have ‘‘just made some searches on the Internet that maybe weren’t correct,’’ Ms. Fu said.”

Feb. 21, 2013, Amazon brought back lin’s original 1-star review, her new 5-star review was taken off-line. However, lin decided to replaced the content of her original 1-star review with the newer 5-star review instead.

Feb. 22, 2013, MAKE published “Ping Fu Stands Her Ground“.

Feb. 23, 2013, A North Carolina local newspaper published “Geomagic founder Ping Fu says Chinese bloggers are tormenting her over memoir“. In which Ping Fu reverted her consolitary tone in Guardian and went on calling her critic “Chinese hackers”, “smear campaign”, “Internet Terrorists”. Within hours, a dozen or so thoughful and rational comments appeared protest the newspaper’s lack of journalistic integrity and demand Ping Fu to address the fack-checking reviewers’ questions instead of labeling them. The comments were deleted the next morning and commenting function turned off for the entire article. Some of the deleted comments were saved on Amazon Discussion Forum. The newsobserver.com article also revealed that Ping Fu got most of her story line from a hypnosis session done in 2005.

Feb. 25, 2013, 3D system announced their 4th Quarter Earning where they missed analysis expectation, DDD stock dropped ~9%+. seekingalpha.com analyst Georgi Dimitrov published a couple of informative reports on 3D Systems: “Making Sense of 3D Systems 2012 Results“, and “3D Printing’s Intersection of Promise and Reality – An Interview with Terry Wohlers“.

Feb. 25, 2013, Eddie Cheng announced the creation of http://www.debunkingbendnotbreak.com/

Feb. 27, 2013, 3D System completed Geomagic acquisition. Geomagic seems to have been sold at a discount of 55Million cash (instead of much speculated stock). There was no mention of Ping Fu becoming 3D System future Chief Strategy Officer in the press release. Original mention of CSO was also removed from her wikipedia page.

Feb. 27, 2013, Fang Zhouzi published 10th installment on Ping Fu, “Ping Fu’s Two Memoirs in Two Worlds“, comparing her “Bend, Not Break” to her 1996 essay collection on life in the US published in Chinese “Floating Bottle – Essays on Life in America.” 漂流瓶旅美散记傅蘋著湖北少年儿童出版社1996 ISBN:7-5353-1544-5

Feb. 28, 2013, Chinese American author William Poy Lee published “Bent & Twice Broken: Penguin China-bashes to Protect Ping Fu’s Flawed ‘Memoir’“.

March 1, 2013, Ping Fu gave a talk at Downtown Speakers Series in Las Vegas.

March 4, 2013, Amazon reviewer “Romantic Realist” created a wiki page Bend Not Break. 25 minutes after its creation, a proposal to delete was put on the page by a wiki editor, citing book being not notable. If nothing is done, the page shall be systematically deleted within 7 days. 1.5 hours later, VanHarrisArt proposed to delete the page immediately, citing “Attack”. 15 minutes after VanHarrisArt’s proposal, Tokyogirl79 rescued the page, indicated there were enough high quality coverage to warrant the book’s notibility. Tokyogirl79 is still fighting with VanHarrisArt for the page’s right to existence as of March 8, 2013. Currently the dispute is being reviewed by Wiki Admin Board.

March 11, 2013, UK Engineering and Technology Magazine (IET) published “Interview -Ping Fu“, by Nick Smith.

March 12, 2013, Sylvester Stallone Rear End Ping Fu blogger site went live. Focusing on an encounter illustrated in Ping Fu’s book between her and Sylvester Stallone in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during 1984-1985.

March 15, 2013, Mr. Liangfu Wu published A Comprehensive Review of “Bend, Not Break, A Life in Two Worlds” on Amazon Discussion Forum.

March 19, 2013, The Sydney Morning Herald published Bending with the winds of 3D change by Matthew Hall.

March 19, 2013, Information from SuZhou University was disclosed on Amazon and various news outlets that stated Ping Fu withdrew from SuZhou University in March 1982. No degree was granted, no thesis was submitted, and other details such as her English class grades, thesis topic and a discipline demerit on her school record.

[1] ^ http://www.npr.org/2013/01/22/169355935/tina-browns-must-reads-hidden-lives
[2] ^ http://www.amazon.com/review/R22LIB1HMUDXPB/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R22LIB1HMUDXPB
[3] ^ http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2013/01/23/one-womans-journey-from-chinese-labor-camp-to-top-american-tech-entrepreneur/
[4] ^ http://www.forbeschina.com/news/news.php?id=22981&page=1
[5] ^ http://fangzhouzi.blog.hexun.com/82986007_d.html
[6] ^ https://twitter.com/pfugeomagic/status/295992561808576512
[7] ^ http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2013/01/31/bend-not-break-author-ping-fu-responds-to-backlash/
[8] ^ http://www.amazon.com/professor-philosophy-Princeton-reflection-Revolution-/forum/Fx1M49LYP8YZYQ4/TxN4C295ZFQO4X/1/ref=cm_cd_fp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&asin=1591845521
[9] ^ http://history.psu.edu/directory/efb12
[10] ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ping-fu/sad-but-not-broken_b_2603466.html
[11] ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ping-fu/clarifying-the-facts-in-bend-not-break_b_2603405.html
[12] ^ http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/2013-02-10/combined-print-and-e-book-nonfiction/list.html
[13] ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/04/ping-fu-book-chinese-critics
[14] ^ http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/04/ping-fu-defends-bend-not-break-memoir-against-online-chinese-attack.html
[15] ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9849838/Doubts-over-Chinese-author-lauded-by-Michelle-Obama.html
[16] ^ http://www.amazon.com/Thoughts-share-everybody-know-opinions/forum/Fx1M49LYP8YZYQ4/Tx22LN92Y4MJT6I/3/ref=cm_cd_et_md_pl?_encoding=UTF8&asin=1591845521&cdMsgID=Mx1VR91XHG8D3EX&cdMsgNo=73&cdSort=oldest#Mx1VR91XHG8D3EX
[17] ^ http://www.amazon.com/Could-you-really-be-sued/forum/Fx1M49LYP8YZYQ4/TxHGM6UGDYXBVN/1/ref=cm_cd_fp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&asin=1591845521
[18] ^ http://www.amazon.com/Is-this-legal/forum/Fx1M49LYP8YZYQ4/Tx1UUF8HDHXIJGV/1/ref=cm_cd_fp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&asin=1591845521
[19] ^ http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1WHTYYSWTZO9V/ref=cm_cd_et_pdp
[20] ^ http://www.amazon.com/Who-is-Van-Harris/forum/Fx1M49LYP8YZYQ4/Tx3D0YM6Q4P3SV2/3/ref=cm_cd_et_md_pl?_encoding=UTF8&asin=1591845521&cdMsgID=Mx23KIM2ZWAHFL3&cdMsgNo=55&cdSort=oldest#Mx23KIM2ZWAHFL3
[21] ^ http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/11/the-persecution-of-ping-fu.html
[22] ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/feb/13/ping-fu-controversy-china-cultural-revolution
[23] ^ http://www.citronresearch.com/citron-reports-on-ddd/
[24] ^ http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/15/us-3dprinters-stocks-idUSBRE91E01S20130215

Ping Fu Controversy III – 3D Printing, the Next Solyndra?

The Saga of Ping Fu Controversy has entered the stock market and the national political scene.

Jan. 22nd, 2013, when i first heard the name “Ping Fu”, while Tina Brown was recommending her book on NPR, i spotted one fraud who was fabricating stories probably for money and fame. But i had no idea there was a much bigger fraud hiding behind Ping Fu’s.

Feb. 14, 2013, Citron Research published a report to warn bubble in 3D printing industry. One day earlier, during his State of Union speech, President Obama identified 3D Printing as one of his major investment to move Manufacture job back to the US.

Citron’s research has some interesting points on the reality of 3D Printing technology (difficult, expensive equipment far from mass market ready, and only capable of producing trivial plastic trinkets one could get from dollar-stores mass produced in China today), outdated technology (20+ years old), and fraudulent claims by the industry’s hyping PR team. The report also has a nice paragraph on Ping Fu:

It is obvious that Obama has been listening to Ping Fu, a representative for 3D Systems (CEO of a tiny software company acquisition target) as she has become a press darling and a mascot for the whole 3D printing industry. We are not going to use this column to disparage Ping Fu, but she is not shy of promoting herself or her industry beyond boundaries of realism

A disclaimer about Citron Research itself:

Citron Research is a famous stock shorting website and has been famous for indentifying companies that later became targets of regulatory interventions.

Anyone else remembered Solyndra at this point? Why is Obama Admin so easily cheated? again and again?!

I was puzzling earlier why motley fool(a stock peddling site target consumers) bothered to get itself dragged into a book review fight and defending Ping Fu by slandering amazon book reviewers as “paid bloggers who virulently defend China’s reputation …”

Now it all makes sense.

What a great plan on paper!

  • Ping Fu, the press darling, will be the spokesperson, as the double minority, to do the White House lobbying, with the help of her fabricated tales of her miserable childhood during Cultural Revolution tailor made for innocent western audience, and can earn sympathy from the First Lady. She will publish a book, get on NYT best seller, maybe a movie. Earn money for publisher, co-author and herself. Earn fame for herself. All those inspired readers will turn around and buy 3D stock. The bigger fool in the game.
  • 3D and Ping Fu get more money out of the stock hype, and government contract from the Obama Administration.
  • Tina Brown is probably also part of the deal, otherwise, it is hard to believe she is willing to risk Sir Harold Evans reputation to defend someone’s book in the face of mounting evidence pointing it out as a fake.
  • and with slogan such as “3D will be as big as iPad/iPhone”, “3D will be as big as the Internet”, who can say where the 3D stock will end up? Sky is the limit.

That’s why it is so annoying to all party involved (3D Industry, Ping Fu, Tina Brown, Meimei Fox, etc. etc.) when something unexpected happened.

The quiet, usually private, usually avoiding spotlight by all means Chinese and Chinese American spoke up when they watched this pile of lies parading the US mainstream media. Amazon.com refused to play the media game by not taking down the 100s of 1-star reviewers (amazon.com did delete the first 1-star review from reader “lin” on Feb. 17, 2013, citing it being “visually distracting” WTF?!).

The PR team didn’t expect there are still idealistic Chinese and Chinese American who care enough to point out a liar when they see one. They didn’t expect them to keep at it for weeks on end.

Most annoying of all, Forbes and Guardian actually bothered to publish follow-up reports on the controversy.

But then all these chatter and mishaps surrounding the fake-memoir is still not a big deal for the 3D plan. As long as the stock continues to be hyped up with the Obama Admin’s help, then all will end well for the planner of this plan. Even though the publisher might have to concede a NYT bestseller and a potential movie, in the bigger scheme of things, the book is a small potato.

Then come the Citron Research report that is trying to pop the bubble. This is a lot more serious than all the amazon book review plus Guardian combined. Because this actually impacts the stock price.

3D’s earning call is scheduled to be Feb. 25, 2013. We shall find out what kind of tricks they have in their books.

Maybe it is already too late to pull back the Obama Admin from another Solyndra disaster, maybe it is too late to stop 3D becomes another hype and millions of investors fooled into investing in 3D.

At least we Chinese American has the small consolation that we have spoken up to defend the core value of the US society: Honesty and Integrity. We have tried to warn the greater public from becoming the greater fools in the 3D stock scam. We have tried to alert the US media by pointing out endless discrepancies. Someone on the web joked that when the next Ping Fu comes around, their PR team should all be sent a memo:”Do Not Tell the Chinese!” If what happened around Ping Fu Controversy will give pulse to any publisher before they publish another fake memoir on China and actually does some factcheck against Chinese History, then it is well worth the fight.

Each society deserves its own frauds and cheats. The US Media, the US people, and the Obama Administration will have to answer to their negligence someday.

We’ve tried to warn you.

Ping Fu Controversy II – The Elite vs. the People

Huffington Post, Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, and Fox News
What do these three news outlets have in common? They would uphold their ideology at any expense. Truth be damed.

A while back, i read an article where the author was concerned that the US liberal left was being compromised with their commitment to political correctness. I didn’t fully undertand what that meant then. Turned out 2013 would be the year that i understand that point of view.

First Kathryn Bigelow didn’t get the nomination of best director while she obviously demonstrated a much superior directing work than those who did get nominated.

Then the Ping Fu controversy.

Given the mounting evidence and discrepancy in Ping Fu’s book, Bend, not Break; and the obvious grassroot nature of the Amazon.com reviewers, Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, instead of addressing the unanswered questions with facts, continues to sensationalize and mislead. Yesterday even Sir Harry Evans joined the fun, calling Amazon critics “hired by Chinese government Communist Party”, “Paid 50 cents for each post”, without a shred of proof. So much for “been knighted by the British Crown for services to journalism.”

Sir and Lady Evans loom large over the Western Media, they would like to silence any dissent from their own party line. The rest of US media just look on without a word? How sad is that? And i thought Chinese main stream media was bad. Whenever there were large number of detractors inside China, the Chinese Communist Party Media will always invoke the proverbial “foreign anti-revolutionary elements”. Turned out the US media works exactly the same way. Even the accusation were similar. Did they all go to the same journalist school?

I’ve been reading up on Lady Evans career. It is ironic that she is struggling to find Daily Beast a place in today’s digital media landscape. Yet, she didn’t even get how open internet works, and calling Amazon naive with its openness. Daily Beast’s defense for Ping Fu and Meimei Fox’s tweets have proved that they asked Amazon to take down the hundreds of 1-star review repeatedly and Amazon won’t agree to that. (Bravo to Amazon!)

How lucky we are to live in today’s world, where grassroot people could have a voice even when the Media Elites want to silence them. Yet, how fragile this freedom can be. Lady Evans’ troll in the name of Van Harris has started threatening the Amazon book reviewers with lawsuits after calling them KKK. Sounds like they are threatening to sue Amazon as well. Shouldn’t they be suing the Chinese government (United State’s banker) instead? Since they have been so sure it is all organized by the Chinese Communist Party?

We all know Lady Evans have great backers among the rich and powerful, who had let her burn through 54 million in 3 years for her failed Talk Magazine. How much will she be willing to spend to silence Ping Fu’s critics this time?

The only good news is Ping Fu’s salacious memoir hasn’t been selling that well. Amazon sales numbers indicated that the books sell better whenever Ping Fu has a TV interview aired. Will she dare to take another interview with the unanswered questions mounting? If not, how will they keep selling the book?

A bit of fun review of Lady Evans’ current endeavor, no wonder her troll is working so hard on Amazon, it is Daily Beast’s signature move!

Brown had herself officially become an institution, and it wasn’t one she could exactly go about disrupting.

Newsweek, on the other hand, was a brand very much in need of a shakeup. But the problem was that Brown’s own editorial bones had gotten a bit creaky. Despite her enthusiasm for her web-only project, The Daily Beast, Brown hasn’t been able to keep up with the very media landscape she helped to create. We’re living in the high era of buzz (c.f. industry leader Buzzfeed), in which everyone is grabbing for attention in almost precisely the way Brown used to do (Now you build this person up! Now you tear her down!), and, arguably, the low-level chatter about stories has overtaken the stories themselves. To get their attention, Brown’s been forced to resort to what all those chatterers have labeled trolling (though, to her credit, often of a particularly imaginative bent): the Michelle Bachmann eyes, the gay Obama cover, the ghost of Princess Di, the Heaven Is Real argument. If they look like moves of desperation that’s because, well, they are. Former employees say that Brown had, quite clearly, lost her confidence. Many of her editorial decisions look more like catchup than agenda-setting: her recent efforts to amp up coverage of philanthropy, politics, and feminism seem driven more by her rivalry with Arianna Huffington than by any particular moral or intellectual imperatives. According to a former employee and Brown fan, “Tina didn’t have good concepts by the end, so she just started attacking public figures.”
Buzz Changed. Tina Brown Didn’t.

She apparently has broadened her attack from public figures to Amazon book reviewers now.

Ping Fu Controversy I – Defending the Indefensible?

When I was watching Sorkin’s Newsroom, i loved its wit. But i didn’t relate too strongly with the show, because i didn’t really think the US media is as bad as Sorkin was trying to portray: jaded, sensationalism, interested in the rating only, not interested in exposing the truth.

In real life, none of the media focus has been anything I can vouch for, so even when i took a side, it was mostly based on my judgement on people’s character rather than on facts (e.g. Obama vs. Romney).

Until now. Over the last four days, I watched this controversy over Ping Fu and her new book “Bend, Not Break” unfold, going from semi-amused, stunned, entertained, and then angered, I couldn’t believe how jaded, non-critical, sensationalist, and ignorant the US Media has been in dealing with this incident.

Ping Fu is a very successful Chinese American business woman. She is the CEO of a cool 3D printing company and serves on the National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the Obama Administration. She released her memoir “Bend, Not Break” recently. The book detailed her childhood during China’s Cultural Revolution, and her amazing success in America.

I first heard of the book on NPR, when Tina Brown was reviewing the book. When Tina mentioned the phrase “labor camp for children as young as four year old”. I filed the book in my mind as fabricated talltales tailored to Americans who know nothing about China. I let it go cuz i thought it was a fiction. There were enough of those around. This is a free country. People are free to read what entertains them. Later last week a friend started to tell me about Fang Zhouzi’s new target. Fang was famed to expose fraud surrounding famous Chinese returning from overseas, who took advantage of Chinese ignorant of Western world and parading around with fake Western credentials. His blog was baned by China because in the process of exposing varies famous and well connected figures he has touched on too many sensitive nerves for Chinese Government’s taste. Fu is the first case he has trying to expose that’s trying to cheat the other side. As a result, most of his followers were laughing instead of getting angry. They couldn’t believe how gullible the US Media is.

As Fang’s findings grew, I became interested. First the book is labeled as Non-Fiction, categorized as Biography/Memoir. Also I couldn’t believe how someone could be so bold and tell so many obvious lies, yet still get away with it. Initial research indicated that Fang started exposing Ping Fu after the Forbes article on Fu was translated to Chinese and published on Forbes China. My research also brought me to amazon’s book review page where someone named “lin” has already posted a one-star review a week before Fang started exposing Fu. Admist all the raving five star reviews, “lin”‘s review was detailed and full of facts and pointed out inconsistency between the book’s claim and reality as we know it.

I started participating in the discussion on amazon.com review page.

Initially I was merely curious and amused. Curious why despite all her success she still needs to take such a risk and publish her lies, curious how could she be so bold and blatant (e.g. providing a photo that shows herself as a red guard while her story all along portraying herself as a victim of red guard abuse), curious how could she get away with so many lies for so long (the earliest news report on her fairytale started with Inc.’ interview of her dated 2005). Amused that spontaneously the flood of Chinese and Chinese Americans came to amazon’s review page dragged down the book rating from its original 4.5 stars pumped up by Fu’s PR team to 2 stars within 24 hours since Fang broadcasted his findings in weibo (Chinese version of twitter), where Fang had 127k followers.

Events started to twist and turn like a roller coaster. With the mountains of evidence piled up against Ping Fu, she started blaming Forbes article author Jenna Goudreau, “mis-interpretation” “lost in translation” “they didn’t let me review the article before publishing…”. To my surprise (i guess Forbes didn’t rate as high in my mind when it comes to journalist integrity as some other news media. My apology, Forbes and Jenna. I underestimated you.), Jenna responded with a great article. She started fact checking and asked Fu to clarify some of the questions raised by Fang and the comments on Forbes.com.

The original Forbes article was published on Jan. 23, 2013. Jenna published a follow up on Jan. 31, 2013. The followup article exposed more inconsistency than it answered. amazon review community became more excited and more evidence and testimony of Fu’s classmates and neighbors in China started surfacing.

More one-star reviews continues to grow on Amazon.com’s review page. Fu released a clarification on her Huffington Post blog on Feb. 1, 2013 around midnight.

Her “clarification” marked a turning point in my attitude toward this entire fiasco. Fu indicated she would release a public statement on an early morning post to amazon review’s comment section. I thought maybe she will offer some statement in the line of “I took too much liberty at exaggerating my own history, in the hope of being the spokes-person for all those suffered during Cultural Revolution and have the world known how much atrocity has been committed.” I thought that would be a graceful way to say, yeah i fabricated this book with good intention. Then i would have been fine with it. Because then the media has to retract their story and the book will go to line up with the other “fake memoir” instead of “non-fiction”.

I was stunned when her “clarification” finally came out. It stone walled all the major controversy, produced more lies to cover previous ones, accusing everyone questioning the authenticity of her story as motivated by political means to protect China’s image(LOL), and engage in smear champaign. What angered me the most was Huffington Post’s role in this. As “lin” has put it

“huffingtonpost… let Ping Fu open a blog at their website yesterday.So now she is enjoying her free ride provided by huffingtonpost, accusing all the critics of engaging in a “smear campaign” against her personally and her book. She can cover, spin and spread her lies with more lies freely without being challenged or questioned. And huffingtonpost don’t need to take any responsibility for that. I would say this is very irresponsible journalism.”

I think “lin” has been too kind. What Huffington Post has done has shown not a speck of journalist integrity. They might as well be a celebrity gossip column that is aimed at sensationalize whatever story come their way and they believe will please their audience.

I was looking through all the book promotion Fu’s PR team were able to book, produce, and publish during Janurary 2013, ranged from radio shows, tv interviews, newspaper publication, editorial book “review”(more like copy and paste of Fu’s PR team’s brochure), live recording. Among the twenty or so such publications, both in UK and the US, including lots of great names that i used to trust: NPR, PBS, BBC, WSJ, Reuters, Economist. There was only one host who obviously not only has read the book but also has some basic knowledge of Cultural Revolution, and he showed his skepticism during the show. Fu was obviously irritated at the end of it.

Only One!

The rest were whoo and waa, fanning the sensationalism of Fu’s story. Cheering her on. It partly explained one of my original questions on why she dares to do this. Because she has been able to get away with telling her fairytale with such a cheerleading media force around her.

This only host who demonstrated critical thinking ability was Leonard Lopate on WNYC radio station’s The Leonard Lopate Show. From the likes of Sorkin’s Newsroom, i learned that good journalists are supposed to ask sharp question and tease out the truth from chaos, guiding the public to arrive at a fair picture of what really happened. My immediate thought was it is probably really hard to find such sharp question to ask. One has to do lots of research, able to find suspecting gap among mountains of information. But in Ping Fu’s case, all it required really were some common sense questions that no one but Leonard Lopate asked.

“why were you sent to SH( instead of staying with your parents in Nanjing)?”
“were your SH family impacted by the Cultural Revolution, too? were they sent away? (implying: if you weren’t taken away from your SH family, you would be parentless too, without hukou in SH, how will you survive?)”
Lopate will start by using the more rational and trueful term “school dorm” and “student dormitory”, trying to prevent her from delivering her usual graphic sentionalized stories, which all other talk hosts/reporters relished.
“did working in factory help your interest in technology?”
“are you the only child in the factory?”
“the red guards raped you? The red guards were supposed to be the moral conscience of China at the time, how can they reconcile with being rapists?”
“You published a book in China?! But you were in so much trouble with Chinese government that they had to deport you, now they allow you to publish a book?!”

I was talking to a friend about this today. She said the book rating is at 1.6 stars, you guys found so many convincing evidence that proves the inconsistency of her story, she had to cover one lie with more lies, their defense has been so pathetic that they had to rally people on G+ and Twitter to come and fake positive reviews. Aren’t you guys already win? What more do you need?

Then i realized. All along, Fu, Fox and Co. has been calling the one-star reviewers on amazon “Chinese Nationalists” “Holocaust Deniers” “Communist Hack” who were trying to defend the image of China. How wrong they are!

Here is one excerpt from one of best reviews on amazon (there were so many! If nothing else, I have been truly inspired by my fellow reviewer’s words!)

Why we speak up, February 1, 2013
By Xin Liu
Most people who commented here are Chinese American professionals. We came here 10, 20 or 30 years ago, just like Fu. This country offered us more than the first-rate education; more importantly, it reshaped or reinforced the moral standards that were once lost or distorted in the dark ages of China. Honesty, Integrity and Responsibility are the true assets of this society, on this land we call home. My salute to everyone who speaks up –we are fulfilling our citizen responsibilities to ensure zero tolerance to lies, to make sure our children growing up in a society where they have true role models to look up to.

We’ve either heard from older generation or personal experienced varies horrors of recent China. We’ve been depressed by China’s current human right violations and ever tightening Orwellian style censorship to the free flow of information. We loved the ideal that America stands for: Freedom, Democracy, and a media that care about right and wrong, care about public interests, and care about the truth. For the past week, we’ve spent so much time on amazon.com, forbes, and (god forbid) huffington post, arguing with the other side, looking for truth, because we want to believe in our ideal, because we want to defend the media that we thought we had here in America, because we thought if we spent enough time providing evidence, bridging the knowledge and culture gap between the east and the west, the Media would see their mistake and act as the true public guardian it should have been.

To Fu and Co.’s surprise, and probably beyond their comprehension, we are doing what we do because we want to defend the America Media.

Are we defending the indefensible? Is the American media as bad as Sorkin described in The Newsroom? I started to think maybe it is. Especially after i went through all these Ping Fu’s book promotions provided by great names i used to trust. Am I too pessimistic? We will find out in the following days or weeks.

Thank you Leonard Lopate for being the pleasant surprise and the only bright spot of a very depressing evening during my research.
Jenna Goudreau, Thank you for your follow up and I hope you would continue to investigate further and help us get to the bottom of this tory.

The rest of US and UK medias, the ball is in your court.

—–
REFERENCES:

A list of unanswered questions with evidence and inconsistency identified.
A list of best reviews on the book (not comprehensive since good ones continue to pop up, i’m so proud of this grassroot community!)

~~~the worst, promoted Fu’s fairytale biography and now publicly supporting Fu ignoring all the evidences already uncovered~~~~

Huff Post Live
Josh Zepps (Jan.11, 2013)

GoogleTalk series
Ping Fu: “Bend not Break”, Authors at Google via @googletalks –
Host: Chade-Meng Tan (Monday, Jan. 7, 2013)

Feb. 4, 2013
Daily Beast
Katie Baker Defending Ping Fu despite mounting evidence

~~~~Still promoting the fake Biography
Jan. 30, 2013 PST
Tavis Smiley
PBS

Jan. 29, 2013 GMT
BBC Hardtalk
Stephen Sackur

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 9:54 PM EST
interview with Yahoo finance/CNBC, “Off the cuff”.

Monday, Jan 28, 2013 4:30PST, on XM Radio “the Fran Tarkenton Show”, live.

Jan. 22, 2013 NPR
Tina Brown
reviews the resilient @PFuGeomagic’s Bend, Not Break

Jan. 20, 2013
Daily Beast

Fri. Jan. 25, 2013 at 1:15p / EST 10:15a PST
WSJ LIVE
Mary Kissel (this interview didn’t get into any specifics on PF’s life in China, so it sounds less ridiculous than the others)

Jan. 17, 2013
ReutersTV
Ping Fu’s dramatic journey from captivity to computer entrepreneur
Editor-at-Large Sir Harold Evans.

Jan. 21, 2013
BBC Women’s Hour
Jane Garvey.

Jan. 18, 2013
Fortune.CNN.COM
An entrepreneur’s long, strange trip
By Jessi Hempel, senior writer

Jan. 15, 2013
MSNBC: Today on The Cycle: Ping Fu
Abby Borovitz
(an excerpt inside that hasn’t surfaced before, on how she perform self-abusive activities on stage, this woman and/or Fox need help)

Four Hosts: “Touré TV”, “Per S.E.”, “Steve Speak”, and “Krystal Clear”.

Jan. 15, 2013
Swissmiss
Tina Roth Eisenberg

Jan. 12, 2013
Economist Print Edition

Jan. 3, 2013
The Fast Company
By Jessen Obrien

Jan. 8, 2013
WSJ
By MELANIE KIRKPATRICK

Jan. 1, 2013
Oprah.com
Leigh Newman

Jan 1, 2013
NY Journal of Books
Diane Brandley

~~~~Journalists demonstrated their obligation to public interests, trying to expose the truth, with a healthy dose of skeptism
Jan. 14, 2013
The Leonard Lopate Show | WNYC Radio
Bend, Not Break: From China to America

Jan. 31, 2013
Forbes
Jenna Goudreau

Feb. 4, 2013
Guardian
How Chinese readers Fact Check a Book Intended for Western Audience

New Yorker 1/21/2013 – “Ganster Squad” & “Psychology of Space”

“Ganster Squad” has gotten pretty bad reviews all around. The latest from Anthony Lane was really funny.

Gosling, who did such demanding work in “Blue Valentine” and “Drive,” must have laughed when he got the “Gangster Squad” script and realized that his principal duty, as Sergeant Jerry Wooters, would be to deliver The Look. You know the one: imagine that your local animal shelter sends out a fund-raising leaflet, and Gosling is the beagle on the cover. It never fails.

Another article from this issue of the New Yorker that i liked is about the Norwegian architecture firm: Snøhetta. “The Psychology of Space” – Solving the problem of Times Square. The firm’s most famous work is the Norwegian National Opera House in Oslo. The roof of the opera house become a public square that attracts lots of residents and tourists.

Rising from a fjord, Snøhetta's Oslo Opera House has become a kind of public square.

Rising from a fjord, Snøhetta’s Oslo Opera House has become a kind of public square.

The firm is also chosen to build the SF MOMA expansion project (2013-2016).
sfmoma_expansion

expansion_design_from_ybca expansion_design_howard_entrance_view

The article spent most of its attention on how Snøhetta will solve the Times Square problem. One interesting aspect of the article is how observant these architects are. They are trying to understand how people use a public space and what will appeal to them. The main problem of current Times Square is “Ninety per cent of the people using TImes Square are pedestrians, yet ninety per cent of the space was devoted to cars.” Once Snøhetta is done, TImes Square will look very different. Snøhetta’s landscape architects made an interesting observation during their survey of the place.

“…Times Square isn’t flat. It’s actually hammock-shaped.” Three creeks once flowed together near the low point, not far from the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Ave. Although the old streambeds are now buried deep beneath asphalt and concrete, the depression they created remains. … “We blew up a photograph and connected the dots of all the heads of all the people, and when we did that the elevation change was obvious. There’s an eight-foot drop over two or three blocks, and that’s the reason the area floods in a heavy rain. ” The topography of the square compounds the sense of congestion, creating a kind of “nightmare” zone near the bottom of the hammock; to a pedestrian walking there, the crowds to the north and the south seem to be pressing down from above. Snøhetta can’t change the city’s contours, but its redesign should reduce the sense of menance, by widening the pedestrian space near the pinch point.

Timessquare
I’m so looking forward to the completion of this. Times Square always seemed such a claustrophobic place to me. It was a place I desperately wanted to escape from the first time i set foot there.

A couple of other highly interesting tidbits the architect at Snøhetta shared with us in the article.
1. Architect as sheepdog

Both the TImes Square and the Oslo Opera projects are attempts to use architecture to alter a city’s relationship to itself. Both also depend on successfully managing the complex psychology of public space – a Snøhetta specialty, and a field in which the firm has drawn insights from an eclectic range of sources. Dykers told me that among his architecture influences for Times Square are books and articles about livestock management by the animal scientist Temple Grandin, Whose work has been informed by her autism. “There’s so much emphasis on consciousness in philosophical discussions,” he said. “But I think consciousness is a small part of who we are. I have a friend who had a sheepdog, and he said whenever he had a party it would herd the guests. It would tap their ankles or their knees, until, by the end of the evenig, everyone at the party was in one corner. The dog was happy, but the important thing was that nobody noticed. As architects, I think, we have to try to be like the sheepdog at the party.”

2. Gum Splats and Subway Doors

Dykers and I … took the subway uptown to look at the site. As we waited for an express at Fourteenth Street, he said that in most stations you can anticipate where the doors of the next train will open by looking for concentrations of chewing-gum splats near the edges of the platforms. (Subway riders apparently tend to spit out gum either just before entering or just after existing a train.)

How fun!

While i was searching for their design images, i came across this interview. Quoting an interesting Q&A below:

What are the big differences between working in the United States and internationally?

There are different ways of understanding what an architect does. In the United States, clients like to be heavily involved in the design process and often like multiple alternatives to choose from. In Europe, where we’ve done much of our work, if you come to the table with several alternatives, they’ll say, “Why are you showing us these” We hired you to provide us the best. What are these other two things doing here??

Zero Dark Thirty

ZeroDarkThirty2012PosterZero Dark Thirty is such a great movie from all aspects: smart script, good acting, smooth and intriguing editing, beautifully done production. All in all a good story well told. It is *the* movie that showed off excellent directing. What a shame Kathryn didn’t get the Oscar Best Director nomination. She won that award fair and square for 2012 in my book.

On our way back from the theater. I started speculating the future of “Maya” (the main CIA investigator who spent 10 years finding Bin Laden). ZM thought she would lead a quiet life after this. Because she has fulfilled her mission in life, even though she is still so young. I disagreed, for someone that brilliant and focused, how could she avoid doing more great things even if she wanted to? ZM reasoned that for something this big to succeed, there were lots of luck involved. It is unlikely she would get this lucky again.

Maybe ZM is right.

We watched the movie on a Saturday. I spent the remainder of the weekend researching on the characters and events covered and not covered in the movie. Found a couple of interesting things that weren’t in the movie.

1. Biden
Among all the materials the CIA uncovered in the Bin Laden house. They discovered directive of assassination of David Petraeus and Obama during any of their visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, “US Vice-President Joe Biden should not be a target according to bin Laden, because ‘Biden is totally unprepared for that post [of president], which will lead the US into a crisis.’“.

During the final meetings between Obama and his cabinet prior to the Navy Seal raid, the only member that’s against the raid was Biden.

2. Contingency Plan
The worst outcome of the raid was for Pakistan to capture any member of the Navy Seal team. The original plan was that “Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen would call Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and try to negotiate their release”. But Obama doesn’t like the uncertainty of the plan. So he gave the order that the SEALs should be equipped such that they can fight their way out if need to. “To bolster the ‘fight your way out’ scenario, Chinook helicopters with additional troops would be positioned nearby. ”

So basically when “Maya” was writing angry “number of days” of inaction on her boss’ wall every day, Obama and his team were busy debating and evaluating options, planning for all possibilities.

3. Secrecy
It was amazing that it took the US 192 days to act after “Maya” found the house. What was even more amazing was the secret didn’t leak One main reason was the US didn’t share it with any other country (especially not Pakistan, who “would leak this in a nanosecond”). They kept this close to their chest.

The Pakistani military was largely equipped by the US。 The only fighter jets that Pakistani had were from the US and were stationed in a US base per US request, so the US would know Pakistani’ every move.

It was amazing how well everything turned out at the end. Luck, indeed, was on Maya’s side.

A Sense of Well Being

After such a crazy year, this 2 week holiday break has been much anticipated and it didn’t disappoint with 3 more days to go. Things started mellow out a week before the holiday break began. Many people have taken off then, the office was getting quieter and quieter by the day. The sense of wellbeing started with a simple meal.

As i mentioned before the cafe in my building was considered by many to be too healthy. It became my default cafe to grab lunch because there would never be a line even during peak lunch hour. However, there will be days even i would avoid it. The cafe only has one main meat dish a day. I am not picky but i draw the line when it comes to turkey. Holiday season usually means lots of turkey. So i had to branch out.

Unfortunately the other two cafes in my office complex both are extremely popular which means super long lines between 12-1. But there is other ways to avoid the lines. One of my co-workers would opt to get noodle soup which never has a line. I found something else. One of these cafes always put out two extremely great pasta dish every day, one meat, one veggie. Some sample entries to give you some idea how great these pastas are:

Day X:
* Whole Wheat Saffron Tortiglioni with Creamy Butternut Squash Puree, Toasted Walnuts & Citrus Zest
Whole Wheat Pasta (Whole Wheat Flour, Semolina Flour, Egg, Saffron), Squash, Cream, Walnut, Onion, Carrot, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Parsley, Thyme, Wine, Cheese, Corn Starch, Lemon, Mild Pepper
* House Made Spaghettoni with a Braised Veal Ragout & Caramelized Shallot
Semolina Pasta (Semolina Flour, Egg), Beef, Onion, Celery, Carrot, Shallot, Wine, Chicken Stock, Cheese, Tomato, Sugar, Thyme, Citrus, Corn Starch, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Parsley,

Day Y:
​* Whole Wheat Pasta with Grilled Endive and Beurre Rouge
Whole Wheat Pasta (Whole Wheat Flour, Semolina Flour, Egg), Endive, Pequillo Pepper, Onion, Butter, Red Wine, Butter, Garlic, Citrus, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Bay Leaf, Parsley, Sage,
*​ House Made Angel Hair with Mussels in a Bacon & Mushroom Cream Sauce
Semolina Pasta (Semolina Flour, Egg), Mussel, Bacon, Cream, Wine, Mushroom, Shallot, Garlic, Corn Starch, Thyme, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Parsley,

Day Z:
* Whole Wheat Penne with Sauteed Arugula in a Crimini Mushroom Cream Sauce
Whole Wheat Pasta (Whole Wheat Flour, Semolina Flour, Egg), Arugula, Cream, Mushroom, Butter, Cauliflower, Wine, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Parsley, Thyme, Corn Starch, Cheese, Truffle Oil
* House Made Buccatini with Braised Pork Belly in a Roasted Garlic & Tomato Sauce
Semolina Pasta (Semolina Flour, Egg), Pork, Tomato, Onion, Garlic, Canola Oil, Salt & Pepper, Parsley, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Sugar, Corn Starch, Cheese

Incomprehensibly there was never a line in front of the pasta station. So i would load up in both pastas, then get a soup and a salad. It reminded me of those days traveling in Italy.

One such day right before my holiday break, i got my lovely pasta and a great salad with all kinds of green, walnuts, and pears. This simple yet delicious meal made my day. Not only the tasty pasta reminded me of our happy travel days in Italy, but also the greens reminded me how we craved for fresh veggie and fruits while we were in Paris one Thanksgiving holiday. Whereelse could we be blessed with such abundance of fresh foods if not in the Bay Area, in the dead of the winter?

Things only got better since then. Watched good movies in the theatre, did some shopping, took Noah to all kinds of places that I haven’t been for a while, the Sutro bath ruin on Ocean beach, the Flora Grubb nursery in Bay View, an empty playground in a rainy day, the local library, our farmers’ market (again loaded with all kinds of fresh fruits: apples, persimmon, all kinds of oranges, grapes, avocado, and even raspberry), or just a walk around our neighborhood blocks. It also didn’t hurt that Noah has been so cooperating, he seemed to enjoy these activities as much as i did.

This afternoon when Noah and ZM were napping. I took the car out for an oil change. Read a surprisingly entertaining article in the latest New Yorker magazine while i waited for the car to be ready. As I was driving home, after days and days of continued rain, the sun broke through, and the blue sky started to show. That moment of bliss seemed so complete. I thought, “This is it.” Everything was in balance in my life. My world is a perfect circle.

I will try to remember that moment when things get tough again.

Third Try is the Charm

My first encounter with a tablet was over a year ago. It was a Galaxy Tab 10.1″. I was intrigued by this new toy. I was coming up with all kinds of theory why tablet was popular, and i thought it all made sense. It is mobile, and it is perfect for browsing.

The honeymoon lasted for about two weeks. Then it just sat there collecting dust. Because whenever i wanted to look something up, i would always opt for my mackbook air. The Air was just as light and it had a keyboard. Just for light reading, i much prefer my kindle. The Tab’s 10.1″ formfactor seemed clumsy and awkward. I was also turned off by the Android OS on the Tab, the fact it never updates with the latest Android OS release seemed backward and frustrating.

Then Nexus 7 came out at Google IO, and i thought, perfect. It was smaller, and it would always have the latest Android since it is part of the Nexus family. When it arrived, played with it for about an hour and i realized it was again a mistake. I quickly sold it to a co-worker who wanted a Nexus 7 without the 7-10 days wait.

Could it be Android vs. Apple? Maybe i should try an iPad and then i would know. But some of my co-workers said they had both iPad and Android tablet, but they didn’t really use either on a regular basis. The weight of iPad also turned me off.

Maybe there were tablet people and laptop people. and I happened to fall into the latter category?

Another Nexus 7 materialized in my hands this Christmas as a gift. I tried it again, who would have known? I’m now hooked.

The reason is a single piece of software: Flipboard.

The browsing experience was so pleasant on Flipboard that I don’t want to read anything outside of Flipboard. When a link led me to a web browser, i would immediately close down the browser(mainly cuz most web page looks hideous on a tablet, especially when you just left something as gorgeous as flipboard). It was like a drug. I also loved the fact that so many popular Apple applications have been ported to Android: Flipboard, Zite, Pocket, Instapaper.

I’ve only had the new Nexus 7 for less than a week, but i’m already gravitating toward it whenever i am about to read anything longer than a tweet. My only complaint now is its weight. I wish it could be as light as my kindle, which is the perfect weight to hold in one’s hand for a long period time/read.

So it seems when it comes to consumer (this one in particular) satisfaction. Hardware, OS are all less important than the application that eventually runs on it.

Joseph Kennedy, ‘Patriarch’ of An American Dynasty

It was a very interesting freshair interview yesterday: Joseph Kennedy, ‘Patriarch’ of An American Dynasty.

I didn’t know much about Joseph Kennedy at all. This interview was a great history lesson for me. Two things stood out for me.

One is that Joseph advised all of his nine children to go into public service, instead of going to business. “I’ve made all these money for you so you don’t have to. Give something back to the public, instead.”

Another is his remark to Churchill at the end of WWII, “what good did it do [referring to US entering the war]? now we have Stalin instead of Hitler? Both are threatening capitalism. One is no better than the other.”

The latter was such an interesting question. Indeed, why is Stalin better than Hitler? Is it because a cold war is still miles better than a hot one? Stalin won’t openly invade Europe like Hitler had?

Chairman Mao’s Great Famine

Gui left a pointer to this New Yorker article on Chairman Mao’s Great Famine. It is a very interesting read.

The main theme of the article seems to be how wrong the west has been about China. From their judgement on Chinese famines in the past to the vitality of today’s communist party. Although on the surface it is supposed to be a book review on two recently released books on Chinese’s Famine during the Mao years. One is an English (abridged) translation of a research published by a Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng–“Tombstone” and another by Alexander V. Pantsov and Steven I. Levine, “Mao: The Real Story,” draws on Russian archives.

The opening paragraph of the article described the “Incredible Famine” happened during Qing Dynasty, between 1876-1879. 13 million perished.

…according to the British-owned North China Herald, an influential mouthpiece of the Western business communities clustered in Shanghai, the famine was proof of the folly of big government — the Qing imperial administration. A fatal Chinese indifference to science, to railroads, and most important, to laissez-faire economics was to blame. The famine and the many deaths in China would not have occurred “in vain,” the Herald editorialized, if they could persuade the Chinese government to cease its paternalistic interfering in the laws of “private enterprise.”

Never mind that more than twelve million people had died during the Madras Famine of 1877, even though India had been equipped by its British rulers with railroads and a free market in grains, or that Ireland, during the Great Potato Famine, thirty years earlier, had suffered from Britain’s heartlessly enforced ideology of laissez-faire. The herald deplored the “antiquated learning” of the Chinese, and described the heroic figure who could rescue China from misery: “The man wanted in China now, as in its early days, is a patriotic engineer,” someone “single-minded and energetic” and possessing “commanding energy and resolution.”

In due course, China got just such a big-thinking, single-minded “patriotic engineer.” His name was Mao Zedong.

That’s one fantastic piece of writing! Even though I won’t ever characterize Mao as an engineer.

The article went on to conclude that the West continuous to underestimate Chinese communist party’s ability to learn from lessons of their own and the rest of the world, and their ability to adapt and adjust itself to today’s world.

It reminded me of what Peter Hessler has noted in his first Book from his China trilogy, ‘River Town – Two Years on the Yangtze‘。

He was the only student who has anything like a dissident, and I remembered how I had imagined those figures before coming to Fuling. I had always assumed that they were noble characters — charismatic, intelligent, farsighted, brave. Perhaps that was the way it had been in 1989, and perhaps it was still like that in the bigger cities; but here in Fuling things were very different. My best students — Soddy, Linda, Armstrong, Aumur; the ones who were charismatic, intelligent, farsighted, and brave — those were the ones who had been recruited long ago as Party Members. If you had any talent you played by the rules; being a Party Member was good for your career, and in any case all of the students seemed to think that it was good to be patriotic in the narrow way that they were told to be. The image i had once had of the Chinese dissident had no reality in Fuling.

All I had was Rebecca — he was the only one, and he was a loser. He was a bad student, and he was socially awkward. He had no friends. He had a girl’s name. Some of these characteristics had conspired to set him apart, and in his bitterness his ideas had undoubtedly swung even further from the Party line. If there were big changes in China’s future, it was hard to imagine them coming from people like Rebecca, or, for that matter, from any of my other students.

Back to 1942

On Chinese cyberspace, people have been raving about Feng Xiaogang’s new movie “1942” (English title was “Back to 1942”).  I was envious of people in China who could watch this in the large screen and bitterly resenting the fact that we had to wait it comes out on bittorren land, and watch it in our small screen at home.

Then i accidentally saw it is currently playing in a Cinemark theatre in the bay area! Afraid it would be moved off the theatre’s play list soon, we rushed to watch it this afternoon.

It is one of the best movies come out of P. R. China in the last few years. A very well told story, extremely moving without being overly sentimentalized.  Good staging, custom design, and epic style cinematography over the rugged landscape of northern He Nan province. It’s a kind of “Schindler’s List“ for Chinese people.

I was surprised by how diverse the elements involved in the story was: the peasant, the corrupted officials (from army to civilian, from the governor circle to the local township), the grand display of Nationalist central government in Chongqing, the Japanese (again from the strategist to the foot soldier), the American Journalist from Time Magazine, the Priest (One American, One Chinese), and the Nationalist armies(again from the foot soldier to the top generals). Everyone has its place and role, they each help the story to unfold. Adding their own shade to further the misery of the refugee fleeing from the famine.

ZM told me of 1942 before its release. He said it really should have been called 1962. The people who made the movie couldn’t make one about the great famine in 1962 under the communist rule, so they chose the famine 20 years earlier under nationalist rule. Surprisingly, the movie was allowed to show in China without getting killed by the propaganda department.

3 Million people died in the 1942 famine, ten times of that died in 1962.

On our way back to the city, i asked ZM, “If communist party had been in power during the japanese war, do you think they will do the same by retreating from He Nan, so they could hand off the starving He Nan people to Japanese?”  ZM was quiet for a long while. First i thought maybe he was thinking of an answer. Later i realized he was just dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe i would ask such a naive question and he was trying to figure out whether i was joking. Finally he said, “they would only do worse. and they had. Just look at 1962.”

I knew he was right. But somehow i thought a government tends to be much worse during a civil war than when it was fighting a foreign power. Somehow the brainwash i have received since i was young in mainland china still left its mark. I somehow still think communist party would care about its image more than the nationalist and they won’t dare to be found out they have abandoned their own starving people. Maybe that fear will hold them to do the right thing.

On the other hand, the movie portrayed Chiang Kai Shek as someone who was extremely calculating and shrewd.  Then i realized that being calculating and shrewd is the easy part for a politician. The hard part is for people in power to have a principle in mind, to try to do the right thing even when it doesn’t agree with the calculation and common sense politics.  From that sense, communist party is even more reckless and has less (zero) sense of morality than the nationalists. They couldn’t care less about right and wrong.

They learned from all the Nationalist Party’s mistakes and made sure no one could interfere with their famine in 1962. There was no journalist(foreign or native) to create troublesome investigation report.  Communist party didn’t even allow people to flee the famine. Instead they were forced to die locked in their barren homeland.

In the movie 1942, the small band of refugees were given some kind of hope throughout of the movie, even at the end, there was a flickr of hope remain.  In 1962, there would be none. We’ve all read Yu Hua’s novel depicting that time “To Live”.

Not sure i would ever want to watch a movie about 1962 if anyone ever managed to make it.

I realized that my rant made this movie seemed really depressing. But in fact i was surprised at how restraint the movie has been. It didn’t really try to sensationalize the tragedy. It just tried to tell a story, and it did, very well. The diverse elements of the story makes it an interesting one. It is a good movie.

Some reference material i dug up tonight about the events depicted in the movie:

– Theodore White’s chapter on “Honan Famine” in his book “Thunder out of China”
Theodore H. White and Journalism as Illusion
Photos accompanied Theodore White’s March 1943 TIme article on Honan Famine.

Skyfall

Sean Connery’s 007 was before my time, I don’t even remember if i’ve ever watched them.  I’ve watched Pierce Brosnan’s 007 movies, they were entertaining. Until I saw Casino Royale, then i suddenly understood what it was like to love a 007 movie. Daniel Craig is totally my favorite 007.

I don’t remember how many times i’ve watched Casino Royale.  I loved the title sequence, loved the actors, loved the lines, loved the plot, loved the action, loved the scenery, loved the heart-breaking love story, loved the chemistry between Bond and Bond’s girls.

Then i watched Skyfall.  I don’t remember i’ve ever watched a more beautiful title sequence. It gave me the goose bumps just thinking about it now.  I want to watch the movie again. It would be worth it to just experience that five minutes of the title sequence one more time.

The first half of the movie was pure bliss.  The cinematography was gorgeous. The action sequences were breathtaking: Istanbul, Shanghai, Macau.  The story went flat once the plot reached England. The subway chase and the final shoot out at Skyfall just seemed too long. I simply lost interest.  But the first half was so good, that one would forgive its faulty 2nd half.

Motorcycle chase seems to become really trending these days.  Bourne legacy ends with a super long and boring motorcycle chase scene in Manila. Dark Knight Rises has some decent motorcycle chase scenes in the middle (after the stock exchange “robbery”).  Skyfall opens with a fantastic motorcycle chase in Istanbul.

One detail really bothered me. M’s decision at the beginning of the film. She later told Bond that she was deciding between one agent’s life against all those agents’ whose names were on that Harddrive (people still use harddrive? what happened to cloud computing?). But that was such a false argument. At that moment, the real decision for M was whose skill she trusted more: Bond’s ability to get the job done, or that girl’s marksmanship (ability to take a shot at two guys fighting on a moving train).  Apparently M trusted the girl’s ability with the gun more than she does Bond. Which seemed rather odd.  But then as one reviewer said, logic has never been a strong suite for 007 franchise. I shall not be so picky.

A bit of gossip behind the scene, apparently Daniel Craig recruited both the director Sam Mendes and Javier Bardem for this movie.

It mattered that it came from him,” says Mendes. “I don’t think I would have done it without Dan. It’s much easier going to Javier or Ralph knowing they’re already into the franchise because of Daniel. He’s made it cool in a different way.”

 

Craig also approached Bardem, a selective actor whose performance in “Skyfall” is already being considered among the best Bond villains.
“I asked him as well,” Craig confesses sheepishly. “Overstretching my job description. You’re an actor! Stick to f(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) acting! You can’t go hiring people.”

“Obama Won!”

On the Chinese social site douban.com, a girl living in Boston said she went to watch the movie Argo last night. The theater was pretty much empty. Half way through the movie, the girl who was manning the popcorn stand burst into the auditorium and announced very excitedly to the audience, “Obama won! Obama won!”

So Obama won.

Before i was about to regain my confidence in the democratic process and the people of the USA, i remembered that GWB also was elected to his second term in 2004. How bad a president do you have to be before you are denied the 2nd term? Maybe we should all have seen this from a long way off, like Nate Silver has. Maybe all these drama was nothing but hot-air artificially drummed up by the media and talking heads.  Closely contested race makes better entertainment and ratings.

But then, maybe election has nothing to do with the job performance. Maybe it is all about the ground game, as depicted in this New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza: Obama’s Ground Game.  Apparently the President’s campaign team has been working on the ground for the last five years. They meticulously collected data, analysed the potential demographic that they could persuade, and they did the tedious and hard work of knocking on as many doors as they humanely can, doors that met the demographic need their data analysis told them to target.

And it worked.

Maybe that was how GWB won his two terms too. But this year the Republicans got lazy, they decided to throw hard cash at it, instead. Apparently hard cash can’t beat face to face human interaction.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter what the message those people peddled, the key is to perform that peddling face to face. The key is to talk to those voters face to face and have them feeling guilty if they don’t go and vote.

How else would you explain no one talks about white Evangelical now? While that was all the rage during GWB’s terms? Did all those powerful Evangelicals disappear into the hot air behind the middle class women who happens to be latino this year? It is like the marry go around, who will be the next hot demographic group in in 2016? Probably depends on what the winner of 2016 will be peddling. If you believe the talking head on TV, you would have to believe the country has, overnight, turned from extreme religious zealots into thoughtful middle class who cares about the environment, wants the congress to work together, and to redistribute wealth. :-/

In Chinese, we say 成者为王败者为寇。”The Winner Became the King, the Loser Became the villain. ” Same goes for the message they peddle. Whoever wins the election gets to broadcast their message in the main stream media.

While the real show happens behind the scenes, on the ground, face to face between a campaign volunteer and a potential voter in a county of a swing state that could contribute to the 270 electoral votes statistically.

The New Yorker Digest: Sept. 10, 2012

It is another issue I read cover to cover and love every article.

First off, the cover. Noah has taken an interest in the magazines lying around the house. Sometimes, he would pick up a copy up, flip through the pages, and “read” for a few minutes. Mostly he was attached to a commercial insert of on the back covery, e.g. a close up of a classic watch, or some celebrity’s portrait. But this time he saw me reading it at the kitchen counter, and fell in love with this cover. He spent a good 2-3 minutes studying it, very seriously. ZM and I were amazed, wondering what he was thinking, what aspect of this cartoon that drew the attention of a two year old?

I started reading this issue on the night when Bill Clinton gave a speech during DNC. Naturally i started with the first article The Political Scene – Let’s Be Friends – Barack Obama and Bill Clinton reconcile. It is okay. Informative. I found the Fresh Air interview with Michael Lewis on “Obama’s Way” more interesting. Michael Lewis is the author of “Big Short” and “Moneyball”. He spent lots of time following Obama around for a few months and wrote this piece for Vanity Fair. For me, the most interesting tidbit from the interview was that Obama learned that one’s ability of decision making degrades as the number of decisions one faces increases. So he eliminated lots of trivial decisions from his daily life so he could concentrate on the decisions he had to make on the job. Trivial decisions example: which suit to wear every day (Obama get rid all of his suits except the black and blue ones),

“Check, Please” – The challenges of fine dining. It is about the owners of Eleven Madison Park a four-star ranking in the Times and three stars in the Michelin Guide. Innovation of changing restaurant protocol to meet the bottom line. Apparently the single most important factor that contributes to a restaurant’s profitability is how fast it could turn over a table to the next guest.

 – “Beyond the Matrix” – The Wachowskis take on “Cloud Atlas.” It is no longer “Wachowski Brothers. Because Larry Wachowski has became Lana Wachowski during the shooting of The Matrix III. Reading this made me so looking forward to the upcoming movie “Cloud Atlas”, and also wanting to read the 500+ pages novel beforehand.

“High Rise” – A young architect’s building boom. Profile of a Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, thirty-seven years old. He is living in NYC right now to oversee the construction of this apartment building in Downtown NY.

 As cool as this building looks. Ingels’ first apartment build “8 House” in Denmark seemed even more impressive. “a figure-eight path on the exterior ‘lets you walk and bicycle along the rowhouse gardens all the way to the 10th-floor penthouse so you get this intimate, spontaneous social interaction on all levels—just like a public street…'”

 

The New Yorker: The Throwaways – Pawns in the War on Drugs

John Irving is one of my favorite authors. With the exception of his most recent three novels, I’ve read all his works. He once summarized the essence of a bunch of his novels. One of those comments stayed with me till this day. “…that’s what A World According to Garp is about — a father’s fear”.  I couldn’t explain why that particular comment left such a strong impression with me. I wasn’t a parent then.  Unlike Hotel New Hampshire, A Widow for One Year, or A Prayer for Owen Meany, A World According to Garp was not one of my favorite Irving tales.  I hardly remember its story line.  But i remembered his summary, “a father’s fear”.

This morning I had half an hour to finish reading this article in Sep. 3rd Issue of The New Yorker:

The Throwaways

-Police enlist young offenders as confidential informants. But the work is high-risk, largely unregulated, and sometimes fatal.

by Sarah Stillman

It made me angry, dumbfounded at how awful the law enforcement can be, how untrustworthy the machine of government can be. It also reminded me of John Irving’s comment about “a father’s fear”. Of course it also offered a flicker of hope, one advantage of a democratic society. It was fortunate that The US society have parents like Rachel Hoffman’s, who would try to make things right after they lost their daughter. While they themselves were left in the shadow of the tragedy still.

The article was very well written. The ending made me cry.

Living without the Cloud

Trying to work from China is such a bizarre experience.  The Cloud I have been taken for granted simply doesn’t exist in China.  While on-site in our business partner’s office, we would be lucky to have minimum internet access (http/https). VPN was not allowed. So we are subject to the full brutal force of the Great Firewall. No Docs, Sites, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, flickr.com. Gmail is intermittent, trying to download anything from a gmail attachment is hit and miss. Search on Google was unbelievably bad.  We happened to be in Chongqing during the same week of the carefully orchestrate murder trial of Gu Kailai. As a result, the word “Chongqing” became a “banned” search keyword. Trying to search anything contains that word will result in “connection reset by peer” (classic indication you’ve been GWFed).  So i had to use Baidu even when all i wanted to search for is as political as a “good restaurant”.

One of the first thing i did was to purchase a Chinese SIM loaded with data plan. I have a Galaxy Nexus, and used to getting HSPA+ connectivity in the bay area on T-Mobile’s network. With a CMCC SIM, the best connectivity i got was Edge.  Then with the often blocked Google.com connection, i felt like i was dropped back to the days when one has to use modem dialup connection to the internet.  Everything became excruciatingly slow.

Eventually i got so sick of watching the little spinning wheel indicating the never ending loading process, I avoid using the internet all together when i’m not in the hotel wifi range.

I understood the value of native applications.  They  provide a semi-sane user experience and the illusion of connection to the outside world. I used off-line Gmail on my desktop, Gmail app and Google Reader App on my phones.

But overall, i felt a strange sense of isolation. The world in the Cloud faded into the distance. Even more interesting was i stopped using the Chinese sites that i now have full access to (there is a reverse Great Firewall effect you don’t hear people talking about, for Chinese site with sensitive contents on them, trying to access them from outside of firewall will also result in “connection reset by peer” error).  I couldn’t explain the reason. As if accessing the consolation price only intensified the feeling of isolation.

All the while, the Chinese society kept on bustling along. All these people were happily enjoying the limited internet without the strong sense of loss and withdraw that i was experiencing. Even more admiringly, there were people “climbing over” the Great Firewall on a daily basis, merely trying to get to all these trivial content that we have been taken for granted.

Now i’ve been back in the comfort of highspeed Internet connectivity of Silicon Valley. Everytime I heard people say the word “Cloud Computing”, I would shudder and remember that little spinning wheel on my phone while i was in China, and the despair I felt then.

Magaret

Heard this interview on Freshair yesterday. ‘Margaret:’ Inside the ‘Fall’ Of a Teenager. Really interested in watching the movie. The director Kenneth Longergan also directed another movie that i loved, “You Can Count on Me”

The poem that was mentioned in the interview and apparently the reason of the title of the movie:
Spring & Fall: to a Young Child
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By & by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep & know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Chocolate, Santa Cruz

Unless a restaurant we used to love had gone downhill, I rarely bothered with the ones we didn’t like. But this experience was so jarring, I felt the need to warn all parents with young children to stay away from this place.

There should have been a sign up front the restaurant that stated “No kids allowed”,  then i won’t have come in to experience the single worst restaurant encounter ever.

We were on our way back from a long weekend in carmel. It was a Sunday, we decided to grab a bite in Santa Cruz. We arrived around 1pm. and Chocolate happened to be the first restaurant we saw, we liked the menu and we walked in. The place was mostly empty, only 20% of the tables were occupied out in the patio. Inside it was nearly empty. We were a party of 4 adults plus our 2 year old. Anyone who has been close to a 2 year old knows that they are never easy. Especially when they are hungry.

Shortly after we sat down, the curtain rod crashed down on top of my son! These were the lacy long curtains draped over the seat, maybe he accidentally pulled on it as he stepped over the seat. Thank God, my son wasn’t hurt! The waitress was very quick to pick up the curtain and the rod, she said “don’t worry about it, it happens all the time”.

The food came, my son sat down and started eating quite properly. When we just started to enjoy our meal. the most unbelievable thing happened. The owner marched to our table and started scolding us for “pulling” down the curtain. Shouldn’t we be the ones complaining them having unsafe decoration that fall on the top of a toddler?! I would imagine any other restaurant owner would be most concerned with the wellbeing of the child!  This owner has the guts to whine to us how difficult it is to put the curtain back up! Then the owner proceed to complain our son made too much noise.

If Children is not allowed, WHY didn’t this place has a sign up front? It is a restaurant. If i want quiet and peace, i would either eat at home or i would shell out $300 to eat at French Fucking Laundry.

We’ve eaten at far classier places with Noah in and around San Francisco and have never had such an awful experience.

I’m never coming back to this place, with or without my son, ever.

I don’t believe the owner of this place understands the meaning of “hospitality”. He has no business running a restaurant.

I always thought people in Santa Cruz are those who are into peace and love. In reality, i guess maybe it is just snobbery in disguise.

What a shame!

Euro Crisis

In the midst of Euro 2012 Championship, but all the media attention were focused on Greece’s potential withdraw from Euro.

Germany is trying to save Euro single-handed-ly. Or i shall say the US is trying to ask Germany to save Euro on its own.  TV pundits are trying to predict the doom of Euro, and the hardship ahead for Europe.

I couldn’t help remembering the book “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. The ultimate answer i was seeking while reading that book was, why did China fall behind while Europe blossomed in modern history.

“It[China] also led the world in political power, navigation, and control of the seas. In the early 15th century it sent treasure fleets, each consisting of hundreds of ships up to 400 feet long and with totla crews of up to 28,000, across the Indian Ocean as far as the east coast of Africa, decades before Columbus’ three puny ships crossed the narrow Atlantic Ocean to the America’s east coast. Why didn’t Chinese ships proceed around Africda’s southern cape westward and colonize Europe, before Vasco da Gama’s own three puny ships rounded the Cape of Good Hope eastward and lauunched Europe’s colonization of East Asia? Why didn’t Chinese ships cross the Pacific to colonize the America’s west coast? Why, in brief, did China lose its technological lead to the formerly so backward Europe?”

The book revealed its conclusion at the end, and it made perfect sense to me then.

“…precisely because Europe was fragmented, Columbus succeeded on his fifth try in persuading one of Europe’s hundreds of princes to sponsor him. Once Spain had thus launched the European colonization of America, other European states saw the wealth flowing into Spain, and six more joined in colonizing America. The story  was the same with Europe’s cannon, electric lighting, printing, small firearms, and innumerable other innovations: each was at first neglected or opposed in some parts of Europe for idiosyncratic reasons, but once adopted in one area, it eventually spread to the rest of Europe.

These consequences of Europe’s disunity stand in sharp contrast to those of China’s unity.  From time to time the Chinese court decided to halt other activities besides overseas navigation: it abandoned development of an elaborate water-driven spinning machine, stepped back from the verge of an industrial revolution in the 14th century, demolished or virtually abolished mechanical clocks after leading the world in clock construction, and retreated from mechanical devices and technology in general after the late 15th century.  Those potentially harmful effects of unity have flared up again in modern China, notably during the madness of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, when a decision by one or a few leaders closed the whole country’s school system for five years.

Europe’s disunity has been its strength!  So Greece’ breakaway from Euro is no accident. It is burned into Europe’s DNA.  Germany, as always trying to play the unifying role. But Europe, being the diverse Europe, doesn’t want to be China.

In the long run, it might not be a bad thing.

W Taipei

Staying at W Taipei is like participating in a scavenger hunt without realizing it.  One continues to make new discovery of the amenity of the room.

On my second night, i was staring at this wall of white blocks, thinking to myself, what a waste of space. If this had been a regular residential room, what a lovely shelf space it would have made.

Then i walked closer and noticed the shelf right below the red dianosour seems to have a gap that is hinting at a door. I pushed the front of the shelf, viola! Coffee presser and electrical tea kettle!

When i shared my discovery with my co-workers at breakfast the next morning. One of them just made exactly the same discovery and the other was pleasantly surprised. He even complained of the lack of a tea kettle in the room on his survey after his last stay! Ha, i wonder what percent of patrons actually find the kettle.

Then yesterday evening when we were meeting up in the hotel bar after work. The conversation topic shifted to how nice the shower head is. I was puzzled. i thought the shower is fine, but nothing to write home about. One of my co-worker has this grin on his face, “that’s because you haven’t discovered the shower head on the ceiling!”

There is a shower head on the ceiling?!

Sure enough, there is! and it is HEAVENLY! Next time i renovate our bathroom, i’m putting one on the ceiling too! 🙂

This morning when i walked out the room to check out, i was wondering to myself how many hidden gem were left undiscovered as the door closed behind me…

New York City Trip Highlights

Gui said once that the biggest advantage of living in SF is you rarely gets “post-vacation-blues” because this is such a damn beautiful city. No matter which vacation spot you just returned from, SF is so unique and lovely that it could always hold its own ground.  The only exception will be during the summer of SF. 🙁

For the first time in his 22 months of living on earth, Noah tasted the sentiment of “home sweet home” last Saturday night when we got back. He stepped into our living room and started screaming in joy to be reunited with his old toys and familiar surroundings. I figure he probably had no idea what had happened in the last week while we were in NYC. Maybe he thought we have moved to NYC for good.

Chatting with Gui on the phone this morning, she laughed, “my apartment looked so NEW!”  I nodded in agreement, “yeah, our place has so much SPACE! and my roses are blooming like crazy in the BACKYARD!”

Before i’m settling into the comfort of San Francisco living. I want to record a couple of more highlights of our trip.

1. High Line Park in Chelsea

I’ve seen lots of photos of High Line park on the net, i’ve heard the rave review of its design. I had very high expectations of this park.

High Line Park Photo from the web.

High expectation usually means disappointment when one sees the real thing. But not high line park. It exceeds even my hyped up expectations. It is original, creative, and such a perfect fit for New York City. When design is done right, it not only provides pleasing and original visual, but it is also highly functional.  It is such a perfect park for this metropolitan.  Even for visitors like us, we thoroughly enjoyed it during our short visit.  The elevated pathway gives every visitor more space to breathe and a different perspective of the city.

Pictures don’t do its justice. One has to experience High Line park by being there to appreciate it. The environment, the sound, the various aspect of the neighborhood as you stroll along the park pathway from 14th street all the way to 30th.

Noah Loves Highline Park

so did i…

2. Met Opera

I’ve only heard of Wagner’s The Ring Opera series from serious Opera lovers. When Gui suggested Siegfried as pat of our NY trip. I happily agreed. Even though it is five hours long. I haven’t seen an opera for over three years. It was such a treat. Not only the stage design and lighting were creative and beautiful, but also the story line and music were rich and full of twists and turns (unlike most typical opera’s story line that just goes on and on about some silly love story).  Not to mention the thrill of being entertained by real actors for such a long stretch of time!

Watching this in New York City added another layer of attractiveness to the whole experience. It is one thing to drive home after a show like we do in SF. It is totally different to walk into the warm night, catching a subway train at Columbus Circle, surrounded by the still alive nightlife of a big metropoli. It makes the whole experience more “alive”. It made me feel part of a city–an almost alive organism that has its blood running 24/7.

We loved Siegried so much that we wanted to watch the next and final opera of the series which was scheduled to show on the Thursday of the same week and it is six hours long! But all the sub-100 dollar tickets were gone by then. We didn’t want to shell out $250 per head. Maybe next time when it comes to San Fran…

3. Metropolitan Museum

I forgot it was supposed to be the Louvre of the States until i saw the room after room filled with Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, and Monet. Until we asked a gallery attendee 10 minutes before closing time, “Vermeer?” and he replied, “We have five Vermeer…” FIVE!!

What a treat!

Vermeer @ Met

Picasso @ Met

Modigliani @ Met

Madly In Love with NYC

Three years ago, Mi and I visited Alice in Seattle over July 4th weekend. We had a great time. But i thought Seattle was way too homogenous comparing to SF, too clean, too new, too YUPPIE. SF was a lot more diverse and gritty than Seattle. I was very proud of our little city by the bay.

The past Sunday we landed in NYC for our first vacation with Noah. and for the first time i realized the hugh contrast between SF and NYC. SF is too homogenous, too clean, too new, too YUPPIE.  Mostly it is too filled with the same kind of Silicon Valley people.  But NYC, OMG. all the bibles i’ve been reading on city planning, on how to create a vibrant and energitic city. They were all written based on NYC! They are living it!

The amount of energy is contagious. So many people, so many shops, so many neighborhoods, so many stories happening, 24/7. Gui and Matthew came with us this time, too. They were equally impressed. “It is like Europe and China combined, but better”. “it is a truly urban cosmopolitan.”

London, Paris, and Rome were all once the cosmopolitan center of the world. Now they are still great urban cities where people have been enjoying urban living for centuries. But they are no longer as diverse as they used to be. Like Paul Theroux said in “The Pillars of Hercules”:

The great multiracial stewpot of the Mediterranean had been replaced by cities that were physically larger but smaller-minded…they…had sorted themselves out, and retreated to live among their own kind. I had yet to find a Mediterranean city that was polyglot and cosmopolitan.

Even under the Ottomans, Smyrna had been full of Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Circassians, Kurds, Arabs, Gypsies, whatever, and now it was just Turks; Istanbul was the same, and so were the once-important cities of the Adriatic..It was hard to imagine a black general named Othella living in Venice now, though there were any number of Senegalese peddlers hawking trinkets there.

Certainly London and Paris are better than the current port cities of the Mediterranean. But when it comes to diversity they can’t hold a candle to New York. I met a British trador on my 3 weeks Ecudor trip, and we became really good friend. She blurred out once at dinner during our trip, “i’ve never met a Chinese person outside of a Chinese restaurant while i was in Europe.”  That was 2002. Things must have improved in the past 10 years. But the US have at least a few decades ahead of Europe in that respect.

Not sure if i’m crazy, but i’m seriously tempted to move to New York for a year or two. Just to experience such a great city first hand.  It is amazing it takes me this long to appreciate it.  I’ve visited NYC after i graduated from College. One would have thought being young, i would have loved the fast pase and the aggressiveness of the city. But it only intimidated me then.  Somehow, walking the same street, watching the same fast paced city living around me, i’m no longer bothered by its aggressiveness or its fast pace.  Maybe it was like swimming in treacherous river.  On one hand, i’ve learned a thing or two about myself and the world, so i could navigate it better. On the other hand, i also felt more grounded that I am no longer afraid of being sweeped away by the current.

Oct. 2002, when I visited Mi in NYC for the first time, he took this photo of me in the Temple of Dendur.

Nine and half years later, May 2012, he took this photo of me and Noah at the same place in the Metropolitan Museum. 🙂

Bees! Bees!

Coming to work today I got a couple of warnings from facility about thousand of bees swarming in a corner of our building complex. Our building cafe’s chef even did a special post about “swarming behavior“. Basically a beehive split into two when a new queen bee leaves and takes thousands of worker bee with her.

So this new group of bees coming out and doing house hunting in our neighborhood yesterday, and they decided to settle on a flowering tree in the front of our building.

The looped off area is on the right hand of the photo. In the center of the looped off area is the said flower tree.

I snapped the photo above from my window. It is raining and i saw people walking by and taking photos of the flowering tree with their cellphone.

Here is a close up photo our cafe chef used in his post:

Closeup on the bees on the tree trunk

Facility is trying to figure out how to gently tell the bees that this real estate is not for rent and they  have to move.

We’ve all heard all the cellphone towers have reduced bees population lately. And there happened to be a few mobile carrier’s cell installed on top of our building. We are wondering if the bees are attracted to these signals in the air?

Update: A little more research on Colony Collapse Disorder in bees, turned out the cause are not cellphone related, but more to do with infections or chemicals.  So our little plaza may not be a bad place for them, afterall, except all the foot traffic…