Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Martians and Venetians

Above is a very interesting survey conducted by a Chinese dating website. On the left are male's minimum expected income for female; on the right female's minimum expected income for male. Each gender is further divided into three age groups: those were born after 1990, 1980, and 1970. The left most column lists provinces in mainland China.

For example, a 30 year old Shanghai man looks for a woman with minimum income of RMB 3,146 Yuan ($525) per month, while a similar age woman looks for a man with minimum income of RMB 8,562 Yuan ($1,430) per month. In other words, an ideal match between a man and a woman requires a 1:3 salary ratio.

And it should be put into the context of the movement that men should do all the housework alone.

Last night, 2 billion Chinese around the globe cheered Ang Lee's Oscar 'best directing' award for Life of Pi (2012). This is the second best director Academy Award after his 2005 Brokeback Mountain.

Little had been said on Lee's life upon arrival in Hollywood. Lee remained unemployed for six years, during which time his wife Jane Lin, a molecular biologist was the sole breadwinner for the family of four.

When Chinese intellectuals are reflecting how the communist rules are suffocating innovations in China, perhaps they can also mull on how the modern marriage settings are affecting the economy.

Monday, February 25, 2013

PLA's Kitty Hawk General Turned Out a Chickenhawk

Major General Luo Yuan created an account on Sina's Weibo service last week. Within hours, he was found bleeding profusely after being attacked by a mob of posters.

General Luo was found to have a billionaire brother living in the US. That he was elevated to senior post not because of experience and skills but because of his father, a senior Communist official. That he was suddenly extracted from a troop and sent back to PLA's headquarters in Beijing the night before it was sent to battlefield for the Sino-Vietnam border conflict. In his first hour on the popular social network service, the proud kitty hawk found himself defeathered to a chickenhawk.

Frustrated General Luo then mobilized his cyberarmy to make comments at the popular microblog site, with the same phrase praising his knowledge and insight. Unfortunately, one soldier forgot to change his alias and used General Luo's official ID to write about Luo's qualification in a third person tone. It was immediately caught by the net mob, and it's obvious the entire Chinese Internet community was laughing at the general.

As all good stories go, it would not peak at Act One. General Zhu's cyberarmy then used the official ID of an unrelated military agency to declare General Zhu's account had been compromised. Well, guess what, the declaration was traced back to now devastated General Luo.

PLA Army Major General Luo Yuan, PLA Air Force Colonel Dai Xu and PLA Army Major General Zhu Chenghu are known as the Three Hawks in the Chinese military force. General Luo suggested bombing Tokyo over the dispute over Diaoyu Islands. Col. Dai is an advocate of unlimited warfare. General Zhu vowed a nuclear duel with the US, with a calculated tolerable cost of cities east of Xi'an (which include Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, or 80% of Chinese population).

In the context when the US media and government are publicly campaigning the mighty cyber warfare capacity of the PLA, it's a black humor to see the real Internet proficiency of PLA hawks.

The presumed PLA cyber warfare headquarter, Unit 61398, was uncovered by a western computer security firm because soldiers purportedly logged in Facebook and Twitter accounts from their own server without any mask. If any soldiers were set for court martial or careless endeavor, they should argue loudly that their top generals had been doing the same.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Just to Make Sure

Radios with tuning knobs soldered to a fix position may sound last century North Korean. However, it has been confirmed that Nokia's brand new flagship Lumia 920/920T Windows Phones offered to mainland China market are 'hard-coded' to an app store run by the Chinese government.

When owners of these Windows phones attempted to connect to the Microsoft app store, it would be re-directed to the state run app store hosted inside mainland China. Even if the owner set 'region' to other places, or travel outside mainland China, the phone would still refuse to connect to the official Microsoft store but rather redirect to the Chinese government store.

The government-run store in China is heavily customized. For example, you will not find Skype or Facebook apps.

This could prove to be a big blunder to Nokia's Chinese market. As Apple has dominated the 'fashion' population, and Android commands the 'feature' buyers, only a small number of 'geeky' users are left for Nokia's renewed high-end marketing approach. Unfortunately, this group is most sensitive to hint of information control.

A few months ago, Microsoft announced that it would retire the aged MSN Messenger worldwide except in mainland China. The aged instant messaging service was replace by Skype.

So they knew....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Best Students in the World

ETS released a snapshot on GRE testing scores by country. The GRE test is required by US universities for application to doctoral programs in science and engineering, or roughly the STEM.

GRE Mean by Country 2011-2012
Country Test-Takers Populatiry Verbal Quantitative Writing
US 318,240 100 152.9 149.5 3.9
India 33,504 3 144.7 154.1 3.1
China 29,255 2 145.9 162.9 3.1
Iran 6,843 9 141.3 157.5 2.9
Canada 4,924 14 156.0 153.6 4.3
Saudi Arabia 2,972 10 137.4 142.8 2.2
South Korea 2,933 6 147.5 158.2 3.2
Nigeria 2,855 2 146.4 147.4 3.2
Turkey 2,764 4 144.1 158.7 3.0
Mexico 2,325 2 148.2 149.3 3.2
Pakistan 2,212 1 147.0 153.1 3.4
Taiwan 2,057 9 144.2 159.2 2.9

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Washed Up CIO

Tracy Mitrano, the Director of IT policy and Institute for Computer Policy and Law at Cornell University applauded Oxford University's decision to turn off Google Docs.

Not long ago, the IT Department turned off Facebook Access for Maryland's state delegates' offices.

The problem for Mitrano alike CIOs are 1) lack of technical insights; 2) lack of understanding of role of IT departments.

Mitranos do not understand they can't turn off the Internet. From the born of computers, they are not perfect. Programmers and users live with known weaknesses and shortcomings of computer systems.

The mission of IT department is to support and facilitate the workflow of production groups. In the case of Mitrano, her job is created to help students and faculty at Cornell University to access, exchange and disseminate ideas. Instead, she acted like a small town cop, who is obsessed with the power to stop a car at her own discretion.

Having known what was purported as the risks of using service such as Google Docs, a CIO should not rush to the easy solution. Mitrano was shocked to read about the listed 'issues' with Google Docs, an informed reader would be amazed to vision her reaction if she were told of Windows operating system's thousands of known and documents bugs. As a matter of fact, Windows is an exemplary well maintained system thanks to Microsoft's army of developers. Any major software products including key server products are running with thousands of known bugs and often known security vulnerabilities. Google has the resource to patch any obvious ones. A qualified CIO should work with Google to help the users she is supposed to serve, instead of enjoy the sensation of blocking their access to key software.

Instead of shutting down Google Docs, a qualified CIO should ask questions and find out the usage patterns of her users. She should educate and warn users of potential risks. She should identify the technical intricacies and work out an in-house temporary patch before the vendor's next service release.

It's a pity that such a position is filled with people who has no technical background, no service experience, but only big mouth agenda and (even worse) genuine fear of technology because of lack of technical depth. It's a disservice to the academic community and the University.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Stay Undercover in the US, Await the Call from Motherland

Former table tennis player and world champion Mr. Zhuang Zedong passed away on Feb 10, 2013 in Beijing. Zhuang was a key figure in the ping-pong diplomacy which began the official ties between China and US. It was an amazing incident that was often dubbed as 'a small ball who pushed around the globe.'

As many of those who rode the tide of the Great Cultural Revolution, Zhuang was sacked after Deng Xiaoping took charge of China in 1978. It might be a hint to understand his public demonstration of loyalty to Mao in following years. Actually, Zhuang was deemed an idol by many who shared the same political ideology.

In days on his sickbed, Zhuang kept a high spirit, receiving many visits from extended family members, friends, social and cultural celebrities.

Zhuang's last words was a remark written on the back of a photo of kids of a close friend of him. It reads: await for the call from motherland while living undercover in the US.

Zhuang was also known for his mastership in calligraphy. Seventy-three year-old Zhuang had been a living legend, and a lasting winner transcending career, time, age and political trends. But for him, the call did not come in time. With any luck, it should never do.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The President's Picks

The Senate is conducting confirmation hearing on the Treasury Secretary Jacob Joseph "Jack" Lew. Lew's new post is the top federal official who is in charge of anything to do with financial and monetary matters. A veteran politician, Lew had a Citigroup title to brag about his Wall Street Experience. Between 2006 and 2008, Lew was the 'chief operating officer' of Citigroup's Alternative Investment Unit. A unit that now has been known to fraud billions of dollars out of its customers (it has lost 14 out of 14 arbitration cases across the country), after the financial meltdown overseen by this Lew.

Lew's past was brought up in a previous confirmation hearing in 2010, when Lew defended himself as a 'manager' with no insight into the financial sector. Also is question was his heavily personal investment in the Ugland House, where Obama himself referred to as 'either the biggest building in the world or the biggest tax scam in the world.' This time, he is claiming the same time period as his experience in the same field.

Yet, Lew was hand picked by the President to lead the financial and monetary sector of the world's largest economy. Obama stated that he was not concerned about Mr. Lew's past financial transactions.

Lew is expected to be confirmed, a telling of the moral level of the President and the Senate, and a reflection of the marol expectancy of both in track record.

Lew's predecessor, the US Secretary of the Treasury 2008-2012, Mr. Timothy Geithner was revealed to own a back-tax of $35,000 in Social Security taxes, way back from 2001-2004. Geithner wrote a check to the IRS days before his 2008 Senate hearing and sailed through it. In defense of his pick, President Obama stated that no one else processed the skills Geithner had. The Senate concurred. The same could be said to a range of subjects: no good man survives the Wall Street/Illinois/Chicago/US Political System.

If the public does not think that's a big problem, then we are in a huge problem.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Universities Busy Defending Lawsuits over Grades

On the path of spiral dive of quality of higher education in the U.S., the justice system just can't stand on the sideline.

  • Megan Thode took Lehigh university to the court for $1.3 million over a dispute on a C+ grade she received from her fieldwork class.

    Megan is the daughter of a Lehigh professor Stephen Thode, and attended the school tuition free. According to local newspaper The Morning Call, the case was expected to settle.

    The irony is, the student attended York College, paid by Lehigh as part of her father's benefits, and went through a Master program at Lehigh tuition free, after the incident. The University helped her land a job after she graduated. And, as it appears, Ms. Megan will get a sizable chunk of the $1.3 million.

  • Less than two weeks ago on Jan 31, 2013, a court in Detroit awarded a Wayne State University student Tina Varlesi near a million dollars over a bad grade she received from a internship at the Salvation Army.

    Tina alleged her bad review was the result of discrimination of unmarried pregnancy from her supervisor at The Salvation Army.

    The irony is, as it appears, Ms. Tina's bad grade had nothing to do with anyone at Wayne State University.

.., all at the beginning of destruction of value of working hard.