Monday, September 24, 2007

An Open Letter to the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Project

Dear OLPC manager,

Thank you for your hardworking and the excellent idea of enabling information technology for millions of children born in underprivileged families. OLPC will be remembered something the technical field has done that put a positive compact to the progress of the whole world.

However, I want to make a suggestion to expand the countries that you implement the great idea, including which first comes to my mind, my home country China. Regardless how many Made-in-China product you have bought at Wal-Mart, China remains to be a poor country, to be specific, as poor as the average of those in Africa. The per-capital personal income of China is lower than half of African countries. And with the vast gaps between inland and the seashore cities, most Chinese families' income is far less than the average of those in Africa.

The government budget on education in China is a friction of the average of those in Africa. The Chinese people have been made in up by family-based investment, and with the help of generous donations on education from other Chinese people. There are many active education assisting programs supported by oversea Chinese that help poor kids to realize their dreams to read and write. If you can expand your project to include China in the receiving countries, I am sure it will have a great long lasting effect on the generation to come.

Many Chinese are ready to give on this worthy cause to needing children around the world. Having first hand experiences with prevailing poverty in rural China, they are also eager to help their countrymen if possible by all means. I wish you won't be misled by the $29.97 DVD-player you bought last week. Chinese workers and manufacturers made pennies out of it, while the greater share of profits go to designers, distributors and patent holders in the West.

Thank you for your time, and please give this proposal a thought.

The Seagull

Friday, September 14, 2007

LSU's Computing Program Ranked 38th in the Nation

A study (1) published in the June 2007 issue of the ACM communication ranked LSU's computing graduate program the 38th in the nation, echoed a 1996 study (2) which placed LSU the 40th using different ranking methods.

  • 1 MIT
  • 2 U of Maryland
  • 3 Carnegie Mellon University
  • 4 Georgia Tech
  • 5 Stanford
  • ........
  • 10 UC Berkeley
  • ........
  • 20 U of Minnesota
  • ........
  • 38 LSU
  • ........
  • 41 Harvard
  • ........
  • 50 New York University

1.Ren and Taylor, Automatic and Versatile Publications Ranking for Research Institutions and Scholars, Commun. ACM, 50, 6(2007), 81-85;
2. Geist, Chetuparambil, Hedetniemi and Turner, Computing Research Programs in the US, Commun. ACM, 39, 12(1996), 96-99;

YMH Spoke on His Personal Success

Mr. Yu Minhong, Director of New Oriental School attributes his success to a persistent personality.






Monday, September 10, 2007

Are You in Harmony Today?

The Propaganda Department of the CCP is shutting down all online discussions, communities, forums and BBS systems across China amid the upcoming 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CCP) scheduled on Oct 15, 2007. If one website found in violation of the rule, all servers hosted by the same Internet Service Provider (ISP) would be shut down. Hundreds of thousands of servers that didn't violate any rules were unplugged without warming. According to the Department of Propaganda of CCP, they will not be put back online until the conclusion of the Congress. CCP under Hu's leadership has been pressing on the harmony coexistence of people of all levels, which is seen as a positive step by underprivileged. However, the control on information and communication has also been under unprecedented tight.

The picture above was posted by a web manager in place of his vapored site. The color, font and portrait style of people are iconic in the culture revolution period. The people in the picture were celebrating the downtime from Internet connection while holding a sign shouting 'We are in Harmony!'

Friday, September 07, 2007

Calabash Monk in Nanjing

In Chapter Four of the ancient Chinese classic "The Story of the Stone", a calabash monk in Nanjing presided a case made an absurd ruling to please powerful officials. A recent case in Nanjing presented us a living calabash monk, Judge Wang Hao of the Gulou District People's Court.

The case is about an incident happened in downtown Nanjing, near a bus station. The plaintiff, the accused, the witness and the police gave conflicting accounts of what happened on Nov 20, 2006. What has been recognized by all parties is that a young man, Mr. Peng Yu, helped an old lady, Ms. Xu Shoulan, who was found lying on the ground near at a bus station to the hospital. Their memory differs from this point:

Mr. Peng Yu, the accused: I saw an old lady lying on the ground with painful expression when I got off Bus route 83. I walked to the lady to check out her condition. With help from other people, I moved the old lady to a safe place, and notified her family. After arriving the scene, the old lady's son asked me help to escort the old lady to hospital, because he's afraid he couldn't handle by himself. He also said he didn't bring much cash with him, and borrowed $30 for doctor's fee and examine fees etc. Doctors examined the old lady's legs, and told her it's a serious and costly problem. All in a sudden, the old lady grabbed me and said, 'You bumped me young man, and you should pay'.

Ms. Xu Chuanlan, the old lady and the plaintiff: I was trying to catch a bus, when bumped by Mr. Peng as he rushed out from another bus.

Chief Lu, the Chengzhong police station: Mr. Peng admitted he bumped somebody when we investigate the dispute on the same the incident happened.

Mr. Peng: I never admitted I bumped into anybody. We can check the original deposition on record in the police station.

Chief Lu: The original document was lost, but we had an unsigned version, which I took a picture with my own cell phone.

Mr. Peng: That's not the original document that I signed, you forged the document! Wait a minute, the Exif data of the picture showed it could not be taken with your cell phone.

Chief Lu: ......
(laster it was revealed by reporters, the pictures were produced by the old lady's son, a police officer working for the No. 8 division of Nanjing Police Department)

Mr. Chen Erchuan, the witness: I was walking that direction when I saw an old lady rushing from bus No. 3 to bus No. 2. Then she collapsed to the ground at the tail of the bus. Then I saw Mr. Peng walked to the lady from the bus. I also approached to help. The old lady thanked Mr. Peng and me for the help. Also she acknowledged at the scene that none of us had anything to do with her collapse.

The old lady: I have never seen this man before in my life. He was not at scene that day.

The witness: Oh my God, I have no interest with either of you, why would I bother to lie? You thanked me for the help that day! Do you remember you asked me to call your son from the scene to tell him you had an accident?

The son, a police officer: I have never talked to this man. By the way, I don't even recognize the number he said he called.

The witness: this is my cell phone bill printed by the telephone company.
(The witness called the number, which is listed on the bill as being dialed at the time when the incident happened. Sure enough, the son's cell phone rang)

Mr. Wang Hao, the judge: I have made the verdict: Although I can't find enough useful evidents, but the case is clear to anyone with common sense. If Mr. Peng didn't bump the old lady, why would he help her in the first place? Common sense told us the best thing for anyone at an accident was to get away from the wounded person ASAP. Mr. Peng not only helped the old lady at the scene, he even assisted her son to get her to the hospital, and borrowed his son $30 to pay the examinations. What an absurd and ridiculer behavior if it was not him who had caused the accident? Therefore, Mr. Peng must be the one who caused the old lady's injury. Therefore, he should pay the old lady $6000 for medical bill, sufferings and mental distress.

This case is an example of how privileged few play the legal system to take advantage common people, even when this common people is a high profile good Samaritan with solid backup from independent witnesses. To fight against the malicious allegations, Mr. Peng's lawyers asked the local police station who took the initial depositions for copies of the depositions. At first, the police station said the depositions were lost. Given the obsessed enthusiasm in document collecting of Chinese police forces, this is one of the most bazaar excuse of loosing an official deposition. Innovative maybe, but less convincing then dog-eat-my-homework excuse used by grade school pupils. Then, before the final debate, the police chief presented a cell phone photo, which he alleged having taken with his own cell phone before the critical deposition vapored in his station. The Seagull lost his jaw on this behavioral art level perjury attempt. There are hundreds of ways to back up a Word document file, such as copying to another file, sending to another EMail account, writing to a USB thumb drive, burning a CD/DVD, uploading to a server, printing to a printer, etc, etc. The police chief took cell phone photos to back up his own file on his own computer! Did GEICO just open a new branch in Nanjing and sent in the Caveman? However, this is not the reason why people are angry on the verdict made by Judge Wang Hao.

It is certainly not expected, nor is it acceptable for one of the party involved in a civil case to lie. However, it's up to the judge to sort out truth and lies. Unfortunately, Judge Wang Hao bowed to the police officer son of the plaintiff, at the cost of punishing a high-profile good Samaritan.

According to Article 69 of the Civil Procedure Law of China, a piece of materials can not be admitted as an evident if it fails any of following tests:
1) Testify made by underage that does not match ones age and intelligence;
2) Testify made by a party has an interest in one party or its agent;
3) Doubtful video and audio materials;
4) Duplicates or duplications that can't be matched to originals;
5) Testify made by a witness who can't show up in the court with proper reasons;
The critical evident that the judge relied on to make the controversial ruling fits prohibited tests 2,3,4 and 5. Even after the media revealed that the police chief and the son of the old lady forged the document together, the judge admit this as evident while ignored testimonies made by the only witness.

Having had the police forged the deposition to connect Mr. Peng to the accident, the judge Wang Hao doctored the witness's deposition himself. The witness said on record that he saw the old lady on the ground, then he saw Mr. Peng getting off the bus, and approached the old lady to help. The judge changed it to "the witness saw the old lady on the ground and saw Mr. Peng was helping her."

People was shocked not only on the reality that the court and the police played the system to take advantage of a common people, but also the fact that this was done under the spotlight of media attention. Chinese people recognize senior officials historically enjoy favorable treatment by legal system. However, they can not be comforted by the fact that a normal police officer's connections in the legal system out weighted all the otherwise crystal clear evidents. Furthermore, people are scared on the thought that they would be left alone on the street someday should any misfortune happened.

It wouldn't be a total surprised when Nanjing residents read the story reported by a local newspaper, Nanjing Modern Express on Sept 7, 2007. An 80 years old plunged into a muddy pot near Hebei Street around 9 o'clock in the morning. Legs shaking in the mud, the old man couldn't get up by himself. Although many people observed in distance, nobody approached the old man. It was not until 10 minutes later, when a Mr. Chen passed by and helped the old man stand up. If you read the verdict of the aforementioned case, you would understand why people are hesitated to help. Even if you just made a phone call to the medical service or the police, Judge Wang Hao might hold you responsible for the suffering or mental distress of the old man, if he also happened to have a son being an police officer.

After the sentencing, besides an outraged online community, many newspapers joint the chanting of denouncing the judge and the sentence. Among the total of 21 newspapers carried the story (found through Google News links), not even one of them support the sentence, and every one of them proclaim the sentencing a justice failure and moral disaster:

河北日报:《 “影响性诉讼”要注意影响》
金陵晚报:《输了官司彭宇哭了 法院一审判决认定非见义勇为》
法制晚报:《彭宇撞老太太案 能依推理判案吗》
东方今报:《搀扶摔伤老人反被诬告索赔 法院判他赔偿45876元》
北京青年报:《彭宇一审败诉与可疑的自由心证 》
海峡都市报:《老妇摔倒 你还敢不敢扶?》
南方都市报 :《彭宇:以后还有谁敢做好事》

Monday, September 03, 2007

Pizza and beers, my friend

In the August issue of the Runner's World, there is an article about an exclusive training club, the Hansons-Brooks Long Distance Project. In short, they are the dominant, best, US marathon team of American runners. Among the top 10 US runners, half would be in their team of 23 members. The lengthy article was on the effectiveness of group training, but what drew my attention was their dinner menu.

So what's on their dinner menu?

Pizza and a couple of beers, and, that's it. That what I would call it 'life'.

The moral of the story is that regardless of what other people say, elite trainers and runners know what their body needs to win.

Saturday, September 01, 2007






(1)资—资质,天资。昏—愚鈍。不逮(代dāi)人—不及别人。(2)材—才能。(3)旦旦—天天。(4)怠—懒惰。焉—语尾助词。(5)迄乎成—直到成功。(6)倍人—高出别人。(7)敏—敏捷,能干。(8)屏(bǐng)弃—放弃。(9)其与昏与庸无以异也—那末和天资愚印、才能平凡的人也没有什么不同。(10)圣人—品德学问远远超出常人的杰出人物,这里是指孔子。(11)卒—终于。于—由。鲁—迟钝,指孔子的弟子曾参。《论语·先进》:“参也鲁。”这句说:孔子的道统,终于由天资不高的曾参传了下来。(相传孔子之道传给曾参,再由曾参传给子思,然后由子思传给孟子。)(12)岂—难道。这句说:那末愚笨平庸和联明能干(对于一个人)所起的作用,难道是不变的吗?(13)蜀—现在四川省。鄙—边境,偏僻的地方。(14)语—告诉。(15)之—往,去。南海—指浙江省的普陀山(我国的佛教胜地之一)。(16)子—您,古时对人的敬称。这句说:您凭什么前去?(17)瓶、钵(bō) —和尚盛饮食的用具。(18)买舟—雇船。(19)犹未能—还不能够实现。(20)越明年—到了明年。越,及。(21)有惭色—感到羞愧。(22)—顾—还,反而。(23)可恃而不可恃也—又可以依靠又不可以依靠的。(24)自败者—自甘失败的人。(25)自力者—自求上进的人。