Sunday, 30 November 2008

Language and values of an Amazon tribe

This article is about a very secluded tribe in Amazon, and a bit about how they live, communicate, and what their values are.  One of the very few missionaries went to the tribe hoping to convert it, but is instead converted by it.

I read this story from The Guardian.  It makes one wonder what makes one culture or value set superior to another:

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Book Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

This book is about extraordinary success, and more specifically, about the environment around the individuals that made them successful.  Gladwell argues that though individual hard work and talent is important, the opportunities presented by one's family, culture, and social conditions have not received enough attention as factors to those successes.  Thus the writing of this book.

Outliers is an easy read and full of interesting stories and data.  Sometimes it gets a bit repetitious, but overall the data presented were refreshing and helps to explain Gladwell's arguments.

I do not agree with all of the conclusions in the book, but here are the points that I agree and feel are very important:

1. Parents' impact on a child's life is very profound.  Kids from wealthier families tend to have parents that are actively involved in cultivating their interest, teach them to have a sense of entitlement, and comb them to be comfortable in social settings.  This skills will greatly help a child to succeed in the future.  So parents, don't underestimate your power to make an impact.

2. A culture that doesn't encourage a healthy dose of defiance to authority can cause harm for people in that culture.  If the consequences of any form of rebellion is too great, truths cannot surface and advancements will slow, or, in some cases, disasters will strike.

Overall, I give the book 3.5 out of 5, for its accessibility (easy to read) and its insightfulness.  However, I would like to see a more complete and in depth study on the topics covered in the book.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Video: Rimi Natsukawa (and others) singing "Shimauta"

"Shimauta" is Japanese for "Island Song".  It came from the Island of Okinawa, right beside the mainland Japan. I really like the song as Rimi sings it, and it's interesting to see it being sung/played in different ways.

Thought: this consumer behaviour is seen in other products as well.  Designers often find successful products being used or customized in ways they didn't intend.

Here it is with guitar accompaniment:

The version released on Rimi's CD.  It's more pop-ish:

Sung in a cappella.  I find it really cool:

I don't know who the singer of this is.  But this is in Spanish with a Latin flare:

Lastly, here's a version in Chinese.  The name of the song translates to "Sleepless":

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Video: Glenn Gould plays Bach Piano Concerto

One of my favourite piano concertos played by Glenn Gould:

Ecorio made the top teams in Android Apps competition

Ecorio, the Android application that my friend's team built, just won $275,000 from Google to further their development.  You can find the list of winners here.  Congratulations Ecorio!!

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Video (Chinese only): Chinese students practicing democracy

This hour long documentary shows the class president election campaign of a grade 3 class in China.

It is very interesting to see how Chinese kids get introduced to democracy and how their parents guide them to win the campaign.  In Taiwan, class presidents are elected in less than 20 minutes - someone nominates someone, and everyone raise their hands to vote.  It seems the election process is a lot more elaborate in China.

You can also see certain bad practices in adult elections manifesting themselves in this elementary student election.  Even in such a benign environment I wonder what really constitutes "clean practice", and is democracy really the best form of government.


Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Video: New pen-based tablet computing paradigm from MSFT

This video shows an application called InkSeine that introduces a new interaction paradigm based on pen computing.  (The previous interaction paradigm of menus and scroll bars were designed for the mouse.)

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Microsoft's Ray Ozzie talks about Live Mesh

In this transcript (with a link to the video of the interview), Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie talks about Live Mesh - a platform to seamlessly synchronize data and settings from an individual's many devices.

Semantic Web and Collective Intelligence by Nova Spivack

This blog post written by Nova contains a very high level view of the Semantic Web and what it means in the evolution of the web.

Expert system: anti-laundering software

This article shows that banks use expert systems to detect transaction patterns that might indicate money laundering activities.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

From The Guardian

Starbucks asking consumers how it should be run
Some corporations have changed how to get feedback from consumers and implementing it.  Consumer community is the new suggestion box.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Mobile Voice to text service: Jott

Jott is a free voice to text service so you can call, speak a reminder to yourself or an email/text to yourself/others by dialing a toll free number.  This might be especially useful for non-BlackBerry people who want BlackBerry type functions.

This Washington Post article summarized the service.  Have a look!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Mobility: Economist Special Report (April 12 issue)

....about how mobility enabled by technology has an impact on language, social space usage, work place, and social activities:

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

From Washington Post

Google gets EU clearance for DoubleClick acquisition:

Paramount starts offering clips of movies on Facebook and YouTube:


And if you got time:

Electronic Health Records:

Microsoft HealthVault v.s. Google Health

From The Globe and Mail

Wal-mart ends Linux test run:

Student Faces expulsion after running a Facebook study group:

Washington Post articles

More hi-def than Hi-Def.  Is this necessary?

BBC3 announces teen cooking show:

BusinessWeek Articles

Apple's iPhone goes corporate

Mini laptops:

From Washington Post

Spam on Mobile phones:

From The Guardian

Sony joins We7 to make music free:

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Focus for breakthrough

My nephew once challenged me to break an egg by putting it in my palm and squeezing it by tightening my fist.  I thought, sure, because of the shape of the egg, it might be harder to break this way than cracking it, but it shouldn't be that hard, right?  Well, I was shaking from overexertion and the egg was still intact, as if mocking my great effort.

I finally broke the egg by applying uneven forces to my fingers.  It was a fun lesson for me.

Most of us think of eggs as being fragile, and it is.  We don't need much force to break it.  Just crack it on a corner or an edge and it's done.  But, by applying even forces over the egg, it becomes rather resilient toward outside forces.

Sometimes our problems are like eggs.  If we cut through complexities, narrow down our point of attack, we can make a breakthrough using less effort.  However, for the same problem, if we lose focus, it might be way harder to solve.

Friday, 8 February 2008

The decline of reading

I came across this article from "The New Yorker" about the decline of reading, a brief history of reading, and what that seems likely to happen.  Interesting article:

How I work: prioritize

Many successful people claim that prioritizing is the most important technique that makes them so efficient at what they do.

It is a given that to be successful and competitive, it is impossible to do and learn everything we want.  To optimize our performance we can only choose to do the most of what's most important.  In fact, we do this all the time.  If there were an assignment worth 10% and a midterm worth 20%, both use 10 hours (which is all the time we have), most of us would choose to study the midterm and forego or put very little effort into the assignment.

That was an easier example, but our lives are full of tough endeavours that require our full attention and sacrifice performance in other areas.  Having a set of goals and prioritizing accordingly will make the choices of what to embrace and what to sacrifice easier, allowing you to focus and gain the most reward from an area that MATTERS to you.

Prioritizing is useless if our executions don't reflect those priorities.  We sometimes attend to something because it is urgent and forget those that are not.  We check our incoming emails, pickup phone calls, even when sometimes they are not the most important thing at the moment.  We neglect physical exercises or quality time with loved ones because they may not have immediate effect although they might be very important.

So: set goals, prioritize, focus, and execute.

How I work: An organizer system

Have you tried writing an essay while talking to someone else and ended up writing something wrong and incoherent and had to go back and rewrite some parts?  I have.

Our brain works best with one thing at a time.  When your mind is working on more than one thing, it is like that other person trying to speak and grab your attention, and it ends up decreasing your performance in the primary task.

Organizers were invented for this purpose - to clear things out of your mind, so you focus on one thing at a time, without fear of missing things.  I'd say as long as you have a system to achieve this, you're good.  You don't necessarily have to have an actual organizer.  However, to make this system work, you must make sure that you 1) use it, and 2) trust in it.

You should come up with an organizer system that you have faith in prompting you to do "the right thing" at the right time, and frees up your mind any other time.  For example, I put post-its on my desk, my laptop, or shoes to remind myself what I need to do when I get to these locations.  I use alarms to remind me of my appointments or scheduled tasks.

Whatever system you chose, you must trust in it.  Once you start using it, don't worry about it not working.  Just use the system, and forget about the task until your system prompts you at the right time/place.  This will ensure you spend your valuable brainpower for the task at hand.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

My "work rhythm" in the morning vs. at night

Have you paid attention lately to how your "work rhythm" changes throughout the day?

I find that in the earlier part of the day my brain is best at receiving and retaining information.  This is the time when I am just starting out the day with my brain like a blank sheet of paper.  Anything written on it is ultra clear and stays for longer.

So, the first thing I do to start the day is to really think about what goals and tasks I want to accomplish today, convince myself that it is realistic, compelling, yet realistic.  Doing this in the morning helps me steer through the day before distractions occur.

Then, I jump to my tasks.  I usually do things that require intense reading/memorizing in the morning, because I can remember it well.

As the day gets closer to the end, I start to shift my work mode from "input" to "output".  i.e. from reading/memorizing to writing/reflecting.  At later part of the day my brain is not sharp enough to receive input efficiently, but this is when all the information starts to click!  All the experience, emotions, and facts during the day start to form pictures, ideas, and patterns.  My writings at night are generally more coherent and richer with context.  If I write in the morning, many times I'd hit a writer's block.

So this is my brain rhythm: morning = absorbing and night = synthesizing.  What's your work rhythm?

Snowing hard in Toronto

Boy, this winter has just been waves and waves of snow storm.  The one that is hitting us right now is quite brutal.  I've already shoveled 3 times within 12 hours.  The following is how much snow pile up there is at the side of my driveway.  That is my brother who is about my height.  As you can see, the storm is still going strong:


Friday, 1 February 2008

Bill Gates talks about "creative capitalism"

I find this to be an interesting concept.  Our market economy is driven by incentives.  If we can create incentives to work for developing countries, perhaps we can see a wave of effort to help the needy.  What do you guys think?

Friday, 25 January 2008

Book review: 我是黎智英 (I am Lei Chi-Ying)

This is an autobiography about an entrepreneur who immigrated to Hong Kong at the age of 12 by himself and started with one HK dollar.  He is now worth 500 million USD.

I bought this book while I was in Taiwan, while craving for biographies.  The book was really interesting to me because he had no education nor money.  He literally started from the ground up working in the factory while still a child.  Here are some of the things I learned.

Mr. Lei believes that simplicity and focus is key to a successful business.  I believe that this notion can be applied to general decision making and how we go through life.  Furthermore, to focus on something means to love something else less.  This is the price we pay for focus.  What are our priorities and does our allocation of resources (time, money, etc...) really reflect that?  I'm working on this.

On the topic of creativity, Mr. Lei believes it is the combination of knowledge, experience, problem, and humility.  He believes that the problem serves as a trigger for our minds to form creative ideas from our past knowledge and experiences, acquired with open mindedness that comes from humility.  This implies that our creative minds are limited by what we have experienced.  As such, to be creative means to see more, and embrace more perspectives with an open mind.  Travel, read, and talk to others.  These will have long term effects.

These were the things I found most enlightening.  Although Mr. Lei can sometimes be vulgar, he has many valid points.  I recommend this book.  (feel free to borrow it from me)

Friday, 11 January 2008

"Hard Drive" (book) afterthought

This book is about the life of Bill Gates and how he built his Microsoft empire up to the year 1992.

This book detailed Gate's personality, how he came to build Microsoft, and drove it to the top and staying there.  Through this book I was able to see Mr. Gates through a different lens - as a person that has an incredible child-like drive to accomplish his goals while having fun.

The book raises interesting questions like "what is healthy competition", "what is wrong with monopoly", and "how can we create fierce competition while encouraging innovation".

The book was also very inspiring for me as it helped me to understand what "passion" is.  What is passion, really?  How do you know you've got passion for something?  How do you search for it?  How do others search for it?  Sure, Bill might be incredibly smart and somewhat lucky, but it is with his drive and passion that he got so successful.  It is incredible to see him changing the world bit by bit, starting from the ground up, toiling through hard decisions and exercising incredible discipline to execute those decisions.

What about us?  What are we doing to change the world?  What's our reason for not doing something we truly believe?  How much more could we do if we believe we can have an impact?

You can find the link to the book here.

Getting out while staying in

Ever have those moments that you just want to be alone?  You may have your room, but it's just great to be in a space that others can't disturb you.  But where to go?  Malls are crowded and too public.  Friends can't always accommodate you.  Don't worry, my indoor submarine is here to the rescue.

This indoor submarine has an interior size of a 1 bed room condo and is wirelessly connected so internet and cell phones are no problem.  When surfaced, it is only the size of a mall size garbage can.  You can go in there, and it submerges into the ground of your room, whichever floor you are on.  You can see the outside through the ceiling if you choose, but no one can get to you.

The submarine moves around as well, but only to places that has solid material.  So it can't move in liquid.  But, you can navigate it from a 19th floor condo to anywhere else.  Ever wonder what it's like to write under the stars of north pole?  A full night of sleep under the stars?  Looking at lake Ontario from its bottom?  With this, you can!

The ultimate grocery shopping experience

I wish that in the future, I can just walk into any store, browse, grab what I want, and simply walk out of the store.  There would be no line up at the checkout, and my account is deducted directly.  I won't have to carry receipts.  The records of what I bought would be all safely stored somewhere in my storage.  When I need to return something I only have to scan my eyes and the product.  No more lost receipts!

If I've thought of what I want, and is pressed for time, as I walk into the store, my glasses will show a 3D map/arrows of how to most optimally get thing to fulfill my list.  That means my meat doesn't get cold by me browsing for too long, and the I will only get the more heavy stuff later so I won't have to carry it through all my browsing, and I also won't have to walk too much to get all my food.

All the labels are shown clearly, with discount items glowing with colour.  When I have a question about the product, something would show up so I can dictate what I want and the question will be answered.  New items, discounted items are all explained to me as I walk through the store, and according to my habits of grocery shopping.  I can test out any product I want, and something will suggest what other products I might consider according to my eating habit.


Doraemon - a new section in my blog

After some thoughts, I've decided to start a new section in my blog called "Doraemon". It will have the corresponding label name. You can get to it by clicking on the corresponding label on the right.

The name came from a Japanese comic book I loved to read since I was a kid. Doraemon is the name of a robot from the 22nd century that came back through time to live and help with an elementary school boy named Nobita. Nobita is what some call a "loser". He gets bullied around, has crappy marks, lazy, and even a little perverted. Since his life is chaotic, Doraemon was sent from the future to help this poor guy out. He has all the fun and magical gadgets from the 22nd century to help Nobita out in times of need. You wouldn't believe some of the tools that he whips out. You can think of Doraemon as the eastern version of Star Trek.

So what is this section about? Well, I find that I go through many situations thinking "well, wouldn't it be nice if we had a tool to help me out?" What about a magic oven that cooks your favourite food and optimizes it by looking at what you have in your frige? What about a helmet that transfers knowledge from one person to another? This section will contain my dreams about the future technology, and I'd love to hear your thoughts as well!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Useful site: MIT/Stanford venture lab

The web site is here.  It has quite a number of interesting events you can read about on technology ranging from green technology to the next generation Internet.