gambitch - now available in blue Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
Today was all right.
Yep, that's a rather odd opening line from me. But there it is.
I just received a new problem to think about. It's a mathematical problem. I was challenged to solve it.
So perhaps I shall.
The problem goes like this:
Let G be a graph of order n (that is, G has n vertices). Suppose the minimum degree of any vertex in G is at least n/2. Prove that G is Hamiltonian - that is, G contains a spanning cycle, or a cycle passing through every vertex exactly once. gambitch [
I came close to being involved in a traffic accident again. Same spot, same direction. This time I was going out to buy some lunch, and it was raining like there was no tomorrow. At least the driver of the car (it was a car this time, not a truck) was very nice about it. He even managed to muster a smile to indicate that everything was all right.
It could have been worse. The driver could have screamed at me something along the lines of asking whether I was courting death.
After coming close to being hit by a vehicle at the same spot twice in a week, I had to do some serious thinking about why I kept having such close brushes. Certainly my mentality had something to do with it. I was not being safety-conscious enough to remember to look left for oncoming vehicles. That would be my fault.
But would it also have something to do with the design of the place? Crossing the narrow lane from the pavement would involve walking down a little ramp that happens to be parallel to the lane, in the same direction as the lane itself. So as a person walks down the little slope, he would have no idea about whether there were vehicles moving along the lane, because he would not see them. When turning towards the left to cross the lane, he would not turn his head further left to look and check if he was not careful enough - and that's rather easy.
So, sure, the spot is a little dangerous. But I don't think asking the authorities to sort it out would be helpful, because how do you sort the spot out? It is a very very small spot, and I think the only thing I can advise is for pedestrians to be more alert for their own sake.
Naturally, I should heed some of my own advice. gambitch [
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
The recent news about Taiwan's intention to revise its history syllabus sure got me in stitches. But it's also a serious matter.
The way the Taiwanese authorities wants to divide up history sounds nothing short of absurd. Chinese history up to and including the Ming Dynasty will be included in the section known as "national history", but the Qing Dynasty and beyond will be slotted into "world history", therefore implying it is not part of Taiwan's national history.
So what happens with the break in continuity? Did China cease to exist as part of Taiwanese history the moment the Manchus crossed the border? Why should Taiwan include the Han, Tang and Song Dynasties, among others, in its own national history only to quietly drop the Qing Dynasty? I'm sorry, but if this is an excuse to exclude Sun Yat-Sen's contribution - the Nationalist Revolution of 1911 - then I think it's utterly stupid.
It's equally stupid when you consider that the Kuomintang, the one-time ruling party of Taiwan until current President Chen Shui-bian's election into office, is basically continuing the "bloodline" of the nationalists led by Sun, and later continued by Chiang Kai-shek. Thus historically, the KMT can only owe its legitimacy to the part of Taiwan's national history that Chen's lot wishes to erase. It doesn't take an idiot to work out that that's not politically very clever.
Taiwan cannot claim that it was colonized by the Chinese long ago, but broke free of this colonial status for no reason whatsoever the moment the Manchus rode into the Central Plains. It has just about no logical basis. Taiwan never actually proclaimed independence from imperial rule. Sun Yat-Sen's China definitely included Taiwan island. Chiang Kai-shek found fleeing to Taiwan the logical choice when he could not outfight the Communist guerrillas. Was that considered an invasion? It doesn't look like it.
In fact, I would like to see how the new Taiwanese history describes the Kuomintang army's landing on Taiwan and subsequently building a working government there. I'm sure the tale would be interesting for its contortions.
Is de-sinicization the way to go for Taiwan? I personally doubt it. If they want to contort history this way and that, the next thing they might well do is dump Chinese as a national language, and promote the use of indigenous tongues. Even the way of writing would have to be changed from Chinese script to some other kind of script. There has long been talk about Romanizing the written language used in Taiwan, and this could indeed be the path Chen and his allies choose to take. An alternative is to switch to the Japanese script - kanji, hirakana, katakana, the works. That would really play to former President Lee Teng-hui's heart, but I doubt it's likely to happen.
I don't really want to go much further than that, but the moment Taiwan decides to ditch Chinese as its de facto national language, I think the Chinese race is in for a disaster. I love Taiwan for its intellectual value and its Chineseness, a Chineseness different from the Chineseness of the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong has gone a little too Westernized, too commercial, too hollow beyond the sessions of yamcha and tim sum one can enjoy at Hong Kong's teahouses. China has a little spiffy arrogance to it nowadays, replacing the country bumpkin images that we used to have in the 1980s, and the shadow of the Communist Party's obsession to control the people's thoughts leads to us having distorted impressions about China. Of the three territories, I think Taiwan has done the best job in preserving a semblance of most things culturally Chinese.
If the pro-independence camp in Taiwan wants to rob us of these cultural treasures unique to the Chinese - Han or otherwise - I would be massively upset. To me, it might as well be the end of the Chinese world. gambitch [
A few days ago, I was having a discussion with a friend about music. It all began when I was taking out a CD by Bond that I was listening to, and somehow the discussion moved on to the topic of downloading music from the Internet.
Now I'll be frank and admit, I have downloaded one or two tunes from the Internet before, but I found the sound quality of those tracks a little poor, and as it happened, I subsequently got my hands on the original CD, so the downloaded tracks were useless to me by then and so I deleted them. But I haven't really downloaded that much compared to what people hear about. Apparently users of Kazaa, Morpheus and Napster, among others, have individually downloaded upwards of a hundred songs on average per person.
But I've never been a great fan of downloading music. I believe music is an audio experience, not a text one, so there really is no point if the download sources keep listing out file names that are text rather than audio. If I hear a song and I like it, I would want to find the same song again. But to borrow technical terms from somewhere else, my search key would not be the song title most of the time, simply because I don't know what the title is, or indeed who played it.
Let's say, for example, I wanted to find the track used in the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers movie trailer. (I actually did.) I probably would not know what the track title was, so when I go down to the music store downtown, I would have to say something like "I'm looking for the track they used in the trailer for The Two Towers." Of course, there was the official soundtrack released by the moviemakers, but that CD was full of track names and I had to search through all of them to see if any one matched. And determining a match would have to depend on listening to the track. If it sounds the same, then bingo.
And that's the point - searches on Kazaa and the like don't let you hear the track in advance to determine if you want the track. You would have to adopt a fish-trawling strategy of downloading everything you suspect might be right, and then listen to the track, and if it sounds wrong and you don't like it, then you discard. That's fine and cool, but sometimes you're searching for a piece of music that is of a certain mood, and other such stuff. Then this does not quite work.
The basic problem for internet music file-swapping comes down to this: The only search method available so far is, for the most part, by song title, and other things like genre, or artist. But this limits the user from being able to search by other criteria, or even run into other new discoveries. Why, I don't remember when it was I bought this only Brian Culbertson album I had, and it sure took me a while before I started listening to it, but I liked the music and thought it the lounge type. If I wanted to find other lounge-y music by people other than Brian Culbertson on the Internet, I'd have a lot of trouble.
And there's another thing. I'll bet you a dollar that more people remember Beethoven's 5th Symphony by its famous opening four notes than by its title. Similarly, the lovely piano ditty "The Entertainer" remains better known by its tune. Oh, you don't know "The Entertainer"? If I hummed out to you the tune, you would probably say you recognize the song.
Speaking of music, it has been a long time since I last did some serious CD shopping at my local. Maybe I ought to go stock up soon. gambitch [