Thursday, December 31, 2009

Going into 2010 the cold way (almost)

At this very moment, I could have been typing my final words in 2009 in a zero degree Celsius room, with a torch, a mobile phone and a 2-hour laptop battery being my only power source. Thankfully it wasn't like that.

On this very last day of 2009, I lost electricity at home. It's the stupid laptop power adaptor again; this is already a replacement but this time it even brought down the power of the whole flat. The circuit breakers inside the flat did not trip, but every socket and every light switch was dead.

I was fearing the worst and planning how to endure a long dark night in this holiday period without lighting and without heating - surely an unconventional way to go into a new year - when the guy from the letting agent came over and fixed that. Which I'm very grateful to and perhaps I should just slightly change my view about the agent.

An unusually nice journey

You don't often hear me say that, but my return journey this time could not have been better. Having picked a closer and smaller airport this time (which I should have done years ago - you see, the algorithm running in my head does produce something that converge to the optimal solution,
just very slowly), it turns out that one leg of the flight is less than 1/3 full, the passport control and baggage reclaim was exceedingly quick, and the train timetable somehow allowed me to catch unexpectedly early trains. The only worrying bit was that there were actually officers from customs standing there inspecting passengers' stuff, but I even managed to escape that. (Why can't they learn from Heathrow where there's nobody inspecting anything round the clock?)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


... 當晚唯一的遺憾,是行政長官曾蔭權於頒獎禮期間突然宣布有話要對記者說,害我「拿拿臨」仆過去採訪而錯過親眼看港隊站上頒獎台最高一級的機會。...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bring in video technology into football!

Is it just me, and nobody else really cares? So many blatantly wrong decisions have been made by referees over the years and that FIFA lot of people insist on not doing anything about it. It is beyond stubbornness, it feels more like something dirty is going on behind the scenes. And if not from within then what about the fans? On facebook, the largest group about this has, errr, less than 2000 people there, with most other groups less than a hundred. Even groups about 港女 etc. can get into tens of thousands much more easily and quickly.

Referees are humans and in such a high-tempo game, it is simply impossible to ask referees to make correct decisions instantly. Almost all other sports is using video technologies now, even snooker does!(*) An organisation that keeps on saying "fair play" is the same one that tries everything possible to stop referees from making correct decisions. Is it ironic enough? How much longer do we have to tolerate this?

FIFA stands for Football Injustice Forever Association. It is a total disgrace.

(*) To be precise, snooker only uses replays for replacing balls, not making decisions.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

James May's Toy Stories

"He is completely insane!"
"That, and a bit magnificent."

- Valerie and Brannigan, Doctor Who "Gridlock"

This is a completely mad TV programme. The show takes several no-longer-fashionable toys (well, most of them), and blow them up to build real-life-scale things. You may not realise their names, until you see them. The first episode is about making an Airfix model (something like this) of a Spitfire, except it is 1:1 scale, and they asked a group of kids to do it, at an old factory where real Spitfires were produced. Other mad ideas include making a garden out of plasticine and actually putting it in the Chelsea Flower Show, and building a over 4 km long track out of Scalextric and actually run slot cars on it.

Other than satisfying the nostalgia of us "old" people, the best thing about this show is that it at least tries to do the impossible of tempting children of this generation to do things that require long hours of concentration without looking at a computer/TV screen. These toys are no longer fashionable precisely because they take time. I also like its engaging factor, where it often involves hundreds or even thousands of people to build the thing and to participate. The Scalextric episode for example, (not aired yet but from the lots of youtube videos flying around) involve lots of people, since one person can only be looking at a very small section of the track at one time. Very much like a community event where every kid living around are out, running along the track. Seeing people getting excited about such events at least gives a (however small) hope of reversing or stopping the trend of the dumbing down of toys (and everything else).

Update: here, before it gets removed...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In memory of a youthful heart

I suppose I owe quite a lot to him. Many years ago, since we lived relatively close to them, our family often visited theirs. My childhood memory mainly consisted of playing toys in other people's homes; this one was no exception.

There were probably some lego sets around, although my main activity appeared to be reading lego catalogs. For some reason this cement mixer and this classic space set had left very deep impression in my mind.

During that time I had one of my early encounter (if not the earliest) of a computer; in fact it might be an Apple II but I'm not so sure now.

He used to work in the UK for some time. Every time he came back he brought us lots of UK stamps, in two categories: those used for regular everyday mail, in large quantities and with many duplicates, and those that were relatively rare and only have a few copies in each batch. Then we have the task of splitting these stamps into 4 sets "fairly" (one for each of the kids there). We could spend an entire afternoon doing this.

He once gave me a thick and heavy book (the biggest book I had at that time), something like a Reader's digest compilation on topics related to the Earth, and a 1970-ish atlas used by Geography classes back when he was in school (in which you can see the version of Hong Kong coastline before the more recent landfills, and a whole lot about the British Isles).

I also stole, from the books he left behind after he emigrated, a (I believe?) C. J. Tranter's A-level Pure Mathematics textbook; it's very "British" and certainly treats topics very differently from a modern-day text (for example it starts with the question of what happens if we integrate 1/x, shows that it must be "log-like" and from this defines the constant known as e before finally moving on to its numerous other properties). Among other things it gave me my first exposure to the convergence of series and the natural logarithm.

These were probably useless stuff to him anyway, but were good to me. I really appreciate this because I myself hate to give things away to people; if you ask me to give you my atlas back in secondary school, I won't be too happy about it (even worse if you have taken it without me knowing it).

During all these years he never seemed to get old; he always spoke in a slow, cheerful and somewhat child-like tone. This probably is a reflection of an youthful heart.

In the past year or so, somewhat being kept out of the loop, I have only been barely aware of what has been going on with him. During a certain period of time there appeared to be positive progress, but the inevitable eventually happened. At least I believe he didn't have much regrets. He can rest assured the books had made their impact on a kid.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


怪哉,於此二十又一世紀,中學國文科尚棄文言如糞土之時,若干有志之士,竟以文言編維基大典,所涉更非限孔孟老莊、唐詩宋詞,諸般數學,凡 Quaternionset theory 皆具文誌之,誠可貴也。

Saturday, July 11, 2009

more delays

As usual, this is the place for my rant about flight experiences. But this time I found out it may serve a new purpose: it might help some other people feel better by knowing other people (me) have even worse experience than them.

I won't bother you about what the trip is for, what exactly does the airport code DUS stand for etc, but instead just go straight about the travel itself.

Outward flight: LHR->DUS

The outward flight only had, relatively speaking, minor troubles. The flight was delayed by roughly 2 hours, but it is not the interesting part; the reason for the delay is more interesting. It was because "the toilets are not fully operational", resulting in a need to find a replacement plane.

When we arrived at DUS another trouble surfaced: all except a handful of the passengers lost their checked luggage. I didn't have any checked luggage, but other people travelling on the same trip did, and I got to see a hundred people hanging outside a small room filling forms etc. In fact, it looks like another flight also had the same problem...

Inward flight: DUS->LHR

I need a bullet list for this:
  • During the whole week the weather was fine, but just when we were about to get a train to the airport, there was heavy rain. As a result, the train to the airport was delayed by 15-20 minutes. This was still fine, but...
  • At the airport, we found out that the flight was delayed by "only" 50 minutes. This was still ok, except...
  • I needed to catch a train at St Pancras. I've put in 2 hours between the original landing time of the flight and scheduled train departure time, which should be more than sufficient, particularly with Heathrow Express. And normally the plane can fly a bit faster to catch up at least some of the delay. But
  • The plane circled at least 3 times above London before finally landed. And after landing, as the pilot put it, "to add to the misery", the air bridge to the terminal didn't work and we had to take a shuttle bus even though it was just 30 seconds walk away from it. And the shuttle bus needs (due to some ground traffic regulations on the airport ground) to make a big detour and travel round a loop.
  • Then, long queues as usual at UK Border. Actually this time it was slightly faster with some more counters open.
  • (If you need proof that worst-case analysis is useful:) then I missed a Heathrow Express train, and had to wait exactly 15 minutes when they have one every 15 minutes.
  • Then there were further delay on the Hammersmith-and-City tube line which means overall it is actually not faster than taking the Piccadilly line directly to St Pancras.
  • I was fearing the worst (I seem to recall the only other train departs at midnight and arrive at 3am or something like that), when actually there was one at 23:15 which I was able to catch. Usually such late trains stop at every station and takes about 1.5 hours, but this one was even worse due to construction work which required a hugh diversion costing some extra time.
  • So I finally arrive Leicester at 1:38am. This was "only" 98 minutes later than scheduled, and when you take all these incidents together, it isn't too bad.
The irony is that I went to a scheduling conference...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

當年今日 (2)


(1) 原來本校有這位校友... 不過很明顯她不知道甚麼是甲組乙組...

(2) 這真是大快人心,人家ATV 已夠左的了,不過反正沒人看,沒關係,你 CCTVB 又左,結果...

Thursday, June 04, 2009


今天是「中國網站維護日」 這個大日子,但本網站並不「被維護」,特別在此轉貼一段當年今日(1989年5月35日)的片段:


PS. 我想在此讚一下生果報的一系列六四報導,以跟著當年每日事態發展的方式報導,重現出當年局勢如何日漸惡化。

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


在柏楊「醜陋的中國人!」一書(2008年版)中,收錄了一篇(其他人寫的) 「偉大的中國人」,當中提到:


粵漢不滿阻塞交通 扮「握手交朋友」走近推落跳橋男子

China bridge jumper 'gets a push'

Friday, May 15, 2009



-- 《改革歷程》

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

World Championship Snooker 2009

This year I didn't go to Sheffield to watch the above event, because the tickets were already sold out (or more precisely, I'm not bothered to try the phone lines for the "resale" service. There are always plenty of empty seats in each match.) But the BBC streams everything on the web.

Marco Fu plays Joe Swail in the first round. I was quite worried, but somehow Fu got past this easily. Swail wasn't playing that badly, all he lacks is probably luck. Anyway, Fu's next round opponent was Shaun Murphy. Fu lost 3-13 with a session to spare. When he was trailing 1-7 overnight I wasn't too concerned - I saw him won six straight frames to come back from 9-15 to 15-15 a few years back. Never did I imagine that he could lost 2-6 in the next session this time.
He just played very, very badly. It is interesting that players can have complete different performance from day to day.

As for the other players, I'm glad to see Ronnie O'Sullivan crashed out, particularly when he was "potted out", not "bored out" as some may claim for his other losses before. The fact that he has "motivation" difficulties (which is probably genuine, we have students like this) is his own problem, and it doesn't automatically mean that the whole sport is dying.

I managed to see the very last part of Stephen Hendry's 147 live. I have to say, though, that the pockets are incredibly huge and takes almost anything in.

John Higgins eventually won the title. He really is an all-round player, not as exciting to watch as many young players but fully deserves the title.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Leicester City promoted

So Leicester City is promoted back to the Championship, and as champion of League One at the same time, with two games to spare; although at one point it looks like losing momentum and wastes all the huge lead that was made in the middle of the season. It is important to get out of this League One in the first season, or otherwise it may take ages to get out, just like Nottingham Forest and Leeds.

Now let's hope "the management" don't make any more silly moves and make sure the team at least survives with some comfort in the Championship next season...

Thursday, April 02, 2009


港足聯賽 爆踢假波疑雲

香港足球圈之「盛況」早已人所共知,多年來在一少撮人圍威喂的「緊密合作」下,把球市搞得「有聲有色」,每場賽事觀眾多達數十人。不知何故,近年竟能更創高峰,甲組球隊數目愈來愈多,有人更一人搞兩隊波。如果我是班主,一定提供一條龍服務。試想: 賭仔有波賭,開賭有錢搵,球員有波踢,唔駛踢也有錢收,可謂百利而無一害,對香港經濟將帶來巨大貢獻...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'm now officially in debt...

...for an amount of 8.22 pounds.

This is the amount due from the "final electricity bill" left over from the previous tenant. Obviously, I'm not the one to pay it. I sent it to the landlord (and the lettings agent) several times long ago, and not surprisingly they won't deal with it; I also told the electricity company, Southern Electric, about this, and also not surprisingly (as they constantly feature on BBC's Watchdog programme) they didn't handle it properly either. In fact, I have set up my own account with Southern Electric (at this same property address), they sent me my bills, and I paid. But they continued to repeatedly issue several threat letters to "The Occupier" (they don't even know their client's name!) about that outstanding bill.

Eventually, they passed it to a debt collection agency called Past Due Credit Solutions. They sent a letter to me as a "new customer" asking me to call them "regarding an important matter". So I called. Before I get to know anything more about the case, they instantly told me, after asking when I moved in, that they should not be sending this to me and apologised. And I wonder, it can't be so simple, right? What's their next trick? Do debt collectors in UK do what those in HK do? Hmm... (And by the way, that Scottish accent was simply unintelligible, especially over the phone.)

Actually, the 8.22 is just my guess because there is also an outstanding water bill (which the water company didn't seem to chase after I set up my own account with them), and who knows how many more debts...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Semester start at Chinese new year

Today is the Chinese new year. Of more relevance however is that this is also the start of the new semester. And I have three lectures to teach today, the first one at 9:00am.

The worst part of all this is, well, that I am the person to make the timetable...