Saturday, March 30, 2013

How Affirmative Action Will Bring Down the US

Believers of the Affirmative Action (AA) policy are invited to have a good look at pictures on the left, which depict the daily journey a group of 50 elementary students take to receive education.

These young men and women, aged 5 to 12 of Xinmin Village, Shimen Township, Weining County of Guizhou Province, get up before 5:00 in the morning, cook their own breakfast while they parents are working in some sweatshops somewhere hundreds of miles away. They will gather around 5:30 am and start marching to their elementary school 2 hours ahead, passing through dirty roads, mountains, graveyards and deserted illegal mining caves. Little boy Li Lei (with black and blue backpack, green sneakers) has heart problems. He will set out 20 minutes earlier accompanied by his sister Li Yao, so that he can take some breaks on their way and still get to the school on time.

After a full day's learning, they hack back together to the village via the same route to complete the daily routine.

These pictures were taken on February 28th, 2013.

Chinese across the world, rich and poor, study this hard when they have an opportunity. In the US, there are many Chinese who are professional with high income, but there are more first generation immigrants coming from poor countryside villages such as the one depicted in the pictures on the left who represents the bottom of the lower income society. Still, they work hard and educate their children to study hard, as they see that is the only way to change their fate through hard working. Look at these people, do they deserved to be punished by the Affirmative Action admission policy, just because they work too hard?

All men and women are born equal. Chinese are not more intelligent, and they too would prefer living on government welfare then working their butt off if that is a choice.

Imagine what if some US politicians descend from the sky and tell the kids that they will receive $500 each month for doing nothing. And that they will be rewarded with a 400 point advantage when applying to college. And the catch will be that they must not take learning seriously. They should not go to school unless there would be a shining school bus waiting and free meals provided. Most importantly, They must not score a passing grade otherwise not only all benefits would be gone but also they would be punished by openly discrimination in college admission process.

The US raised to the No. 1 economy in the world through hard working by late generations, not food stamp or affirmative action admission. Who should weep for the fall of the US? When?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Neil Fraser's Vietnam Problem

Google's Neil Fraser took a trip in Vietnam, where he was surprised to find computer science had been incorporated into public school curricula, despite severe resource constraints. In Vietnam, pils start learning computer science from second grade. They started real programming in their 4th grade. Where Neil made a comparison to students in the US struggling on HTML img tags, by 'students in the US', Neil was referring to 11th grade 'gifted and talented' students enrolled in magnet program in science and mathematics.

Intuitively, Neil was curious on what would a 11th grade Vietnamese student do for programming. He walked into a random school's programming class. This is the problem he found. Students have 45 minutes to design and work out a solution with PASCAL. Nearly all students in that classroom completed on time.

Google's recruitment team rated this question top one third. Neil estimated at least half of those students would pass Google interview.

This is a sad day. The Seagull estimate that in any college level computer science class at any university (with few exceptions such as MIT, CMU and Stanford) around the world, at most 10-20% 3rd year computer science students will be able to finish the task in 45 minutes. If his observance is accurate, then Neil's careless walk may have proved all the education in CS has been all wrong. In other words, as in the learning process of any other natural spoken language, it should be started in a child's early age.

Although an adult can learn a foreign language, it usually takes way longer time, and most likely will never reach the point he will be able to use it naturally. If it is not a natural process, it is hard. And that is what we have seen most computer science students doing in college, and in their programmer career: floundering and withering.

The question is actually a well known problem among programming enthusiasms. It is a variation of an ACM programming contest archive, maintained by the University of Valladolid in Spain, aka UVA 705 Slash Maze. There are some more involved solutions available from Google, but here is a most elegant solution with the Vietnamese problem's data file.

 * Vietnamese Problem - Neil Fraser - 11th Grade - Rosemont
#include <iostream>
#include <fstream>

const int row(17);
const int col(25);
bool goal(true);
int count(0);

using namespace std;

void cal(char** mat, int i, int j) {
  if (mat[i][j] != '1') {
    mat[i][j] = '1';
    if ((i==0)||(i==row-1)||(j==0)||(j==col-1)) goal = false;
    if (goal) count++;
    if ( (i!=0)&&(j!=col-1) && (mat[i-1][j+1]!='1') ) cal(mat, i-2, j+2);
    if ( (i!=0)&&(j!=0) && (mat[i-1][j-1]!='1') ) cal(mat, i-2, j-2);
    if ( (i!=row-1)&&(j!=0) && (mat[i+1][j-1]!='1') ) cal(mat, i+2, j-2);
    if ((i!=row-1)&&(j!=col-1) && (mat[i+1][j+1]!='1')) cal(mat, i+2, j+2);

int main() {

  int maxarea = 0;
  char **mat = new char* [row];
  for (int i=0; i<row; i++) mat[i] = new char[col];

  ifstream fin("data1.txt");
  for (int i=0; i<row; i++)
    for (int j=0; j> mat[i][j];

  for (int i=0; i<row; i++)
    for (int j=0; j<col; j++)
      if ( (i%2==0) && (j%2==0) && !( (i%4==0) && (j%4==0) ) ) {
        cal(mat, i, j);
        if (count > maxarea) maxarea = count;
        count = 0, goal = true;

  for (int i=0; i<row; i++) delete[] mat[i];
  delete [] mat;
  cout << "the largest enclosed area is: " << maxarea/2 << endl;



Thursday, March 21, 2013

University of Central Florida Gunner Traced Back to South India

Indian based International Business Times studiedthe gunman's family background, and traced it back to South India subcontenent.

James Oliver Seevakumaran was hailed as the 'first would-be east Indian mass killer'. Prior to this incident, an Indian based mass killer had already been recognized in Canada, when a Sikh-Canadian man named Kimveer Gill killed one person and wounded another 19 at a shooting spree at Dawson College in Montreal in September 2006.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Chinese Community Torn Over Donation for Deceased Engineer

Yu (Alex) YIN, 1969-2013, was engineer of Qualcomm in California. Yu was survived by his wife, Lei (Lily) KANG, and three children. Yin's parents live in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province. Yu was the second child among 5 siblings. Before coming to the US in 1996, Yu studied and worked at Fudan University.

The Yu family had been known for their kindness and generosity in supporting charity and community activities. Yu was diagnosed with stomach cancer in February and his condition deteriorated rapidly. Yu passed away 2 weeks later on March 6, 2013.

While some called for a fundraising campaign for Li's wife and kids, the topic soon triggered a heated debate of whether it's appropriate to make the call. Opponents argued the timing, and questioned the financial necessity.

On one hand, Li's wife Lei, also a Fudan University graduate, does not work. Lily needs to take care of his elder son, who has autism. On the other hand, social security checks and their savings and insurance should have provided a safenet for them to afford a lifestyle better than many who are struggling in low paying jobs.

Discussion over whether to donate or not occupied the top topics on MITBBS, a message board often frequented by oversea Chinese students and professionals. For days, half of the group labeled the other side as being cold blood, while the accusation was backfired as a moral lynching.

The emotional debate may become the start of ending of online fundraising for oversea Chinese community.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Biggest 2013

  • Biggest Surprise: Shutdown of Google Reader. The annotation being that how can we trust 'the cloud' in preserving user contents. Google also killed its own RSS reader extension for the Chrome browser. With power of Google, not only it can afford to discontinue a popular product (of its own), but also it can kill a widely use protocol.
  • Biggest Collapse: Zheng Yunjie, a long time 'independent voice of China', published 'pre-written soft advertisement' disguised as his own opinion.
  • Biggest Hoax: Chinese People Asks Government to Lower Housing Price. On the contrary, Chinese people are happy with the high housing price. With a average income one tenth of the US, China's housing price is ten times of the US per square feet. However, 1) the house ownership in China is close to 90%, while the figure in the US is less than 70%; 2) In China, most property owners have already paid off all mortgage. It is estimated that there are over 10 million empty houses in China while many newly developed communities dubbed as 'ghost town'. The driven force for ever rising housing price is investment. It will be easy to fix to bring the housing price to its true value: property tax. But neither the government nor the people wants that, especially the people. As a matter of fact, few Chinese would need to buy a house in a foreseeable future. At this time, many families have more than 1 house. With the Family Planning policy in place, each young family will inherit two houses from each's parents, so on so forth. A high housing price make everything wealthier, so why not?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mr. Calabash Monk Goes to Beijing (2013)

Li Yuanchao, then Provincial Party Boss of the CCP in Jiangsu, bragged about his handling of the Calabash Monk case as an example of his street smart.

Eight years later, Li Yuanchao became the Vice President of China. After the Calabash Monk case, the China had went on a different path, where not only people don't trust other people, but they all take defensive position against the judicial system. In the calabash monk case, the judge famously asked the Good Samaritan Mr. Peng Yu, "had you not hurt the old lady, why did you stop to help?" With any knowledge of the red China, readers should not be surprised on why does a Party boss mess up with the judicial system. However, anyone who cares anything about China would have noticed that as a direct outcome of the case, people would not even call the police when they witness someone in danger because they knew the next question from the authority would be, "why did you call for help if you did not cause it?"

As a member of the red-princelings, Li went to college in the middle of the Cultural Revolution in 1972, a rare opportunity reserved for privileged few. Like the rest of gang of red-princelings, he does not believe in any rules, including academic rules. In 1995, Li grabbed a J.D., conveniently from the Central Party School as a senior official.

Li's original given name was timely political 'Yuan-assisting' and 'Chao-Korea'. Li change the last Chinese character to a different word by adding 'water' to the left. This is against the traditional culture of keeping one's name.

Li shared many common traits with his partner, the President of China Xi Jinping. Both princelings, both recipients of bogus J.D., both being praised as bold and 'confident'.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Washington Post: Fraud, Death and Coverup at Johns Hopkins University

Washington Post reported today on a saga of academic struggles unfolding at this time on campus at Johns Hopkins University.

Daniel Yuan, M.D., former Research Associate in the Boeke Lab.

A Chinese American scientist Dr. Daniel Yuan should have got the hint when he was demoted by Dr. Boeke after he questioned the data published by the Boeke Lab of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. While he refused to keep silence, Dr. Boeke fired him. In the past few years, Yuan had informed Nature where the Hopkins papers published as well as NIH where the Hopkins team received millions of grants on the fishy research project. However, both Nature and the NIH refused to respond.

The Boeke Lab at Johns Hopkins specializes in genetic, otherwise dubbed 'factory science' by Nobel Laureate Dr. Sydney Brenner. In this type of research, large amount of data were produced by computerized equipments. A statistician would then run different models on these data, and hopeful some hidden information would be digged out. In plain English, the success of an experiment is often determined by advanced tricks applied in statistical analysis. Dr. Yuan was a statistician worked in the lab, who came to this research field out of pure love to science. His previous career was a pediatrician and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University. When Dr. Yuan reran some data produced by others in the group, the numbers simply do not add up.

Johns Hopkins University obviously was not happy to hear anything negative about its star researcher, not named in the Washington Post article, Dr. Jef D. Boeke. Dr. Boeke is the PI of the project associated with the fraudulent data. Another Chinese scientist in the same lab Dr. Zhang Jie who challenged the data separately was also forced out by Dr. Boeke. While all the clues led to Dr. Boeke, it's doubtful how long could he keep the secret without some help from higher up.

In any typical year, Johns Hopkins University would receive $600 million from the NIH alone. The bulk of the NIH grants are on various -omics, which happened to be categorized by Dr. Brenner as 'high throughput, low input, and no output' biology. If the quota was proved to have somewhat truth in it, then the entire functioning structure of the NIH would collapse.

The coverup had been successful, until one group member Dr. Yu-yi Lin, who allegedly forged the data, found dead on the deadline he was supposed to answer questions to the data. Before the death made headline news, Yuan had asked the US federal government who paid for the fraudulent research to investigate, but Office of Research Integrity said, the incident "no longer pose a risk" to federal research after the researcher's suicide.

One thing for sure, as long as Johns Hopkins University has been happy with federal dollars, the government could care less. After all, it's not federal dollars. It is tax dollars that grows from the trees.

EVen with a relative small size, Johns Hopkins University has been the top recipient of federal research fundings for over 30 years. Year after year, Johns Hopkins University topped much much larger schools such as Harvard University or Stanford University in terms of gaining research grants. For example, in FY 2010, Johns Hopkins University scooped in $2 billion, with $1.73 of which come from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Health (NIH), The Department of Defense (DOD) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Dr. Boeke's Lab is exemplary of Johns Hopkin's success, although it may be only the tip of the iceberg.

Wait, hold on a second, have we used the word 'suicide'? Perhaps not. Hours after Dr. Lin's death, an email was sent from Dr. Lin's email account to Dr. Yuan bragging about it. Dr. Yuan was laying with empty vials of sedatives and muscle relaxants around him. As far as we know, Dr. Yuan kept a copy of this email, but nobody seems bother/allow a criminal investigation. Anyone say murder? With billions of dollars at stake, what would you expect?

When contacted by the Washington Post, Johns Hopkins University declined to have any JHU employee interviewed.

We may never know.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Harvard University Fired the Chekhov's Gun

The Chekhov's Gun dictates that if one shows a loaded gun on stage in the first act of a play, it must be fired by the third act.

Professor Michael Smith was known for inventing methods to enable unauthorized secretive search electronic archive.

Harvard University hired Professor Michael Smith as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Professor and Dean Michael Smith ordered a secret search to email accounts of 16 resident deans, when Harvard was not happy to find a cheating scandal was leaked to the outside world.

As any educated reader would predict, the 'secretive' search was leaked. This morning, Harvard issued an announcement that it did not 'routinely' read emails.

With an endowment as large as Harvard, $30 billion last checked, Harvard University should not cheap itself on a qualified legal counsel. A federal appeal court had ruled that had an employer not conducted screening of work issued accounts, employees would have reasonable expectation of privacy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Losing at All Fronts

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) was sued over its pet policy.

A 28 year old student Kendra Velzen brought the western Michigan university to a federal court after the school asked her to remove a pet guinea pig from an off campus university owned student housing unit Calder Residence Hall. The student received a $40,000 settlement. The irony is that this was not a story made up by the Onion.

For its credits, GVSU follows the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and allows 'service animals' on campus. The student was not classified as disabled under the ADA. Even were she was disabled, the ADA specifically stated animals "whose solely function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA." However, she is covered by the Fair Housing Act because she often finds herself "depressed". The student claimed she felt good when having the rodent in sight. The Fair Housing Act defines 'therapy animals' as any used as treatment for a diagnosed condition, say depression.

Under the heavy guns of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, GVSU caved in Nov 2011 to allow the student to keep the rodent in the university apartment.

In the next step, the student asked to bring the rodent to common areas, including food service areas. Sensed an avalanche of lawsuits from students who were allergic to rodents, GVSU refused. The said rodent had died in last fall, yet the student moved the lawsuit forward. It would be interesting to learn how the Fair Housing Act regulates non-dwelling areas such as the student union and cafeterias. In the end, Kendra pocketed $40,000 from GVSU.

On a related case, the same Fair Housing Center of West Michigan who joint Ms. Velzen's lawsuit as co-plaintiffs brought a 31 woman to court under the Fair Housing Act. The woman posted an advertisement at her own church's bulletin board with the words "I am looking for a female Christian roommate. Rent is $375/mo, which includes utilities." The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan saw the note expressed 'an illegal preference'. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development concurred.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

IKEA's Crisis

For some Ikea is the symbol for pragmatic and effective design; for some it's the alias of modern cost control. But, we are not talking Swedish furniture.

Not long after Ikea was forced to pull its iconic meat balls from menu because of horse meat scandal, it was discovered to serve chocolate cakes which contains, take a big pause, fecal matter. The chocolate cakes in question was provided by a domestic supplier in its homeland Sweden.

While anyone who produce someone will run into a quality issue sometime, Ikea's cake problem is beyond apprehension.

China's Shanghai Custom discovered the fecal cakes last November, and destroyed them. The same Custom discovered more in December with exact same issue, and destroyed them. All together, two tons of chocolate cakes imported from Sweden were destroyed last year.

Ikea 'learned of' the incident in March. It was so bad, that they pulled the chocolate cakes from 23 countries.

On the surface, it seems that 1) although food quality in China is bad, that in Sweden is worse; 2) the perception of food problems in China is in part because they actually keep an eye on it.

Ikea should reflect on the reason why it looks like bad food product in the whole wild world are stalking them step by step.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

There Was a Baby in that Stolen Car

Changchun, March 4, 2013, a silver Toyota RAV-4 was stolen around 7 o'clock while the driver left the car idling to a roadside convenience store. There was a two month old baby named Haobo Xu in that car.

One day later, the carjacker turned himself in after learning police had been looking for the car. According to the guy, his target was the car. He headed off to Shuangliao Highway after taking the car. When he saw there was a baby in the back seat on his way, he took a detour to a remote route where he killed little Haobo with his bare hands. He then hid the small body in the snow before resumed his trip to Gongzhuling. Police recovered the baby's body at the location told by the carjacker.

While we mourn for the baby's death, we are deeply troubled by the former senior army officer's thought that killing a two month old baby was a less crime than stealing a $30,000 car. How was this person made?

Zhou Xijun, born 1964, is in police custody. Zhou was a Major in the PLA army. Zhou was originally from Gongzhuling, but holds Changchun residence (hukou).

If mass killing of infants and babies by family planning officials went unpunished (on the contrary, they have been rewarded with salary, promotion and national honors), how should anyone be surprised?

This is a time, when every Chinese in mainland and abroad must reflect on the political hierarchy, national policies, judicial practice, and, our own culture. At the moment, The Seagull is ashamed of being a Chinese for the incomprehensible crime committed by another Chinese and also for living under such an inhumane system without putting up a fight.

Update: The Communist Party's Central Propaganda Department just issued a directive to all media outlets, which limited further reporting on this criminal case. The ordinance read:

  • media should not question police's inaction;
  • should not demand using the system monitoring political dissidents on missing children;
  • should not display sorrow or sadness;
  • should not interview the victim's family and authorities regarding this case;
  • ......

We could only speculate the Party did not want distraction from the annual Congressional session in Beijing which would last two weeks from yesterday.

The Party did not kill little Haobo, but the message conveyed has been consistent. Was anyone surprised?

It is the system. It is 'the firm'. With the gag order on media coverage, the Communist Party pointed out who had manufactured beasts like Zhou Xijun. Do we choose to live under their ruling, or put up a fight? Do we still present asleep and not seeing a thing?

Monday, March 04, 2013

No Privacy Expectation Up In the Cloud

William Steven Albaugh, a deacon of St. Joseph's Church in Fullerton, MD was arrested for processing of child pronography.

Verizon detected the offensive files when Albaugh uploaded them to 'the cloud' (Verizon Online Backup and Sharing Account), and notified authorities. Albaugh admitted to collecting child pronography since the 1970s.

The Congress passed PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008, which mandate ISP reporting its customer on browsing or storage of child pronography. The Act contains an exit clause, that the ISP would not be held liable if they did not scan customer activities. A modern ISP has many motivations to scan customer data. In this case, Verizon used technology provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to find matches between customer data and digital patterns of known child pronography material.

In the last six months of 2012, the NCMEC had received 113,009 reports of child pronography from ISPs.

via arstechnica, the software provided to ISPs compare user data with a database maintained by the NCMEC with about 16,000 images of 'worst of worst' case. This database contains only known victims confirmed by LEA. Both MD5 (file properties) and Microsoft PhotoDNA (biometric information) hashing comparisons are performed in a scan. The NCMEC maintains another database which contains millions of offending images. The division is designed to dispute 4th Amendment claims.

However, many courts see files uploaded to the cloud invokes a Third Party Doctrine, which nullifies expectations of privacy under Fourth Amendment.