No joke, toilet paper is indeed expensive

I wonder whether you have heard of a rather surreal film called Life is cheap, but toilet paper is expensive directed by Wayne Wang (王穎) and starring Cora Miao (繆騫人), Wang's wife. The film is surely not to everybody's taste, and I was shocked by Cora Miao - my screen goddess - mouthing a 7-word foul language!

Anyway, I just read a news report that toilet paper is indeed expensive, at least in Finland. The image of Finns fighting for toilet rolls in supermarkets might provide Wayne Wang with the inspiration for a sequel.


Is "intelligent design" just another name for "creationism"? (II) - An examination of the scientific basis of "intelligent design"

H. Allen Orr says (Devolution - Why intelligent design isn’t, The New Yorker, 23/5/05) that while intelligent design is not the same thing as "Biblical literalism", it is clearly at odds with Darwinism, which has no place for an "intelligent designer" in explaining how life evolves.

Orr cites two scientific developments that proponents of intelligent design say undermine Darwinism. He then proceeds to debunk them ...

His conclusion is that "biologists aren't alarmed by intelligent design's arrival in Dover and elsewhere because they have all sworn allegiance to atheistic materialism; they're alarmed because intelligent design is junk science. Meanwhile, more than eighty per cent of Americans say that God either created human beings in their present form or guided their development. As a succession of intelligent-design proponents appeared before the Kansas State Board of Education earlier this month, it was possible to wonder whether the movement's scientific coherence was beside the point. Intelligent design has come this far by faith."


Had a bit of drama today ...

Early today, we drove to the new house to do some cleaning. we "parked" the car in the garage and got out. When we got in the car to have a quick lunch later, it refused to start!

I was annoyed. There can't be a worse time for the car to break down, given that we shall be moving house soon and we need to drive to and fro over the next few days.

So I called the auto association for rescue. The guy came after an hour and started the engine after 10 seconds - I left the car in D gear when I turn off the engine this morning.

Well, I haven't "parked" a car in an enclosed box for almost 10 years and this morning I was a bit uncertain whether I stopped the car in the right spot - that explained my absent mindedness.


Our new house!!!

After settlement,we got the keys to our new house from the developer today!

We have taken a number of photos of it in late afternoon, the slideshow of which can be accessed from here.

It is still a blank canvas (some may even say a bland canvas). Hopefully, it will look nicer once the furniture is there.

Stay tuned.


Class Matters

In a series of articles which are the fruits of a year-long journalistic project, The New York Times examines "ways that class ...influences destiny in a society that likes to think of itself as a land of unbounded opportunity."

Rather than having disappeared, the newspaper concludes that "over the past three decades, [class] has come to play a greater, not lesser, role in important ways. At a time when education matters more than ever, success in school remains linked tightly to class. At a time when the country is increasingly integrated racially, the rich are isolating themselves more and more. At a time of extraordinary advances in medicine, class differences in health and lifespan are wide and appear to be widening. And new research on mobility, the movement of families up and down the economic ladder, shows there is far less of it than economists once thought and less than most people believe."


Lucky Arsenal took the FA Cup!

Before the match (against Manchester United):

During the match:

After the match, the celebration:

(photo credits: 1-2: Arsenal.com; 3-7: BBC Sport)


據介紹,【村上春樹的網路森林】網站「先在首頁的版型做了一些小改變,當然也在內容上新增了多篇收錄的文章,算是為這個網站的復出預做暖身,全新改版的村上網站,敬請期待 2005 的下半年!」


不過,說實在的,村上的新作《黑夜之後》真是平庸之作,令人失望,比《海邊的卡夫卡》尤有不如。或者,是時候重溫他的全盛時期作品 — 個人認為是《世界末日與冷酷異境》和《挪威的森林》。




搞作由來:搬家在即,今天清理露台,見一大蜘蛛在網中悠然自得,拍下來後不知有何用途。突然靈感湧至:這幾天經常提及朱墨雙色印刷的《瓜飯樓重校評批紅樓夢》,蜘蛛,知朱 ... 知朱 識墨 ... 知朱識墨(廣東)音近似知書識墨 ... 不如就用來無恥地吹噓自已的網站吧!多謝捧場。

Haruki Murakami: The Official Site

In English, hosted by Random House.

The first five chapters of "Kafka on the Shore" is available for online reading. It also has two Q&As, one with the author Murakami Haruki and the other with the translator Philip Gabriel, on "Kafka on the Shore"


Sudoku, the next great thing since the crossword puzzle?

I must admit I have never heard of a "hugely popular" game called Sudoku until today, when most Australian newspapers sing praise about it and will begin offering it to readers on a daily basis.

Basically, Sudoku is a puzzle which involves an 9x9 grid. This main grid is then divided into 9 3x3 sub-grids (or boxes). The rule of the puzzle, according to the official site, is to "fill in the grid so that every row, every column, and every 3x3 box contains the digits 1 through 9." Some of the numbers are given. The player then figures out the rest.

A typical puzzle looks like this:

Unlike crossword puzzle, solving the Sudoku puzzle only involves pure reasoning and requires no literary or mathematical skills.

The Sudoku program is created by a retired Hong Kong judge Wayne Gould.




網頁更新 (21/5/05)

回眸入世三周年 (石長青, 商務部研究院, 《中國外資》, 2005年第2期)

"WTO 後過渡期"中國的產業變革 (李晶晶, 商務部研究院, 《中國外資》, 2005年第2期)

WTO 後過渡期考驗中國智慧 (楊育謀, 商務部研究院, 《中國外資》, 2005年第2期)

全球自由貿易協定發展與中國策略 (徐強, 商務部研究院, 《國際經濟合作》, 2004年第12期)

-- China and the WTO --

-- Free Trade Agreements in Asia --







第二本是傅光明編的《插圖本新解紅樓夢》。它其實是中央電視台「新解紅樓夢」系列講座的輯錄成書版。周汝昌在書中有兩篇文章,其中的一篇「我說《紅樓夢》」更長達60多頁。在「《紅樓夢》的思想與研究流派」中,作者分別提及俞平伯及余英時對紅學研究的貢獻 — 他倆正是我買的第三及第四部紅學著作的作者。

團結出版社出版的《俞平伯點評紅樓夢》,收入了俞氏的三十篇紅學文章。俞氏紅學對我有特殊意義。第一,我是先接觸《紅樓夢研究》,才讀《紅樓夢》的。三十年前,我是個初中生,因要練習書法,於是常到書局買大陸價廉但印刷粗糙的詩詞選書。一次偶然發現一本由棠棣出版社出版,俞平伯著的《紅樓夢研究》,價廉、粗糙、雖對內容所知不多,但買得起 … 從此展開一段紅樓夢因緣。第二,俞平伯是最有條件將所謂新紅學發揚光大的。若非其後俞氏屢次遭遇政治的,而不是文學的大批判,聲沉影寂,紅學豈會枉走幾十年路,不進反退?



Broadband choices galore

Just learnt that cable broadband will be available to my new house. That means I can have a choice of cable (2 providers) or ADSL broadband (dozens of providers) for Internet access!

Moreover, one ADSL service provider is close to finish installing DSLAM to my local phone exchange, enabling a boost of download speed from (up to) 1.5Mbps to (up to) 8Mbps!

My year-long misery of being stuck in an information alleyway will soon be over. Hurray!


Teaching "The Dream of the Red Chamber"

Just read an interesting article - Red on Gold: Teaching Honglou meng in California - by Ronald Egan, on teaching this novel to UC Santa Barbara students who read no Chinese and have not studied about China before, as part of the University's General Education requirements.

Here are some of his observations:
- the students have a hard time with the many Chinese names
- it is hard for them to comprehend the elaborate web of obligations and prohibitions within which the Jias and their servants navigate their lives
- they are moved by the candor in presenting not just the material splendor and laughter in the Jia household but also the sadness, injustice, and anxieties therein
- the students appreciate how critical Cao Xueqin can be of his own world, whether it be the matter of male lust and adultery, bureaucratic corruption, the shirking of domestic responsibilities by senior members of the clan, insensitivity to the plight of servants, or abuse of personal power for illicit profit
- the youngs students are particularly gripped by the story of the sad fate of the young girls and the parallel account of the tragic end to the love between Baoyu and Daiyu

"On the final examination for the course, one of the questions asked the students to pick the one character in the novel they found the most interesting, to explain why, and to comment on the character's personality, strengths, and weaknesses. ... If a poll had been taken, I believe that Wang Xifeng would have been the students' favorite, with Jiamu and Baochai close seconds. The students were not very sympathetic to Daiyu. They found her moodiness hard to tolerate, and her fatalism hard to forgive. Baoyu remained for my students something of an enigma. Many students, especially the men, did not know what to think of his effeminate tendencies."

Had a similar poll been taken on Chinese readers of the novel, Wang Xifeng would probably also be a "favourite", since there is little doubt that she is an outstanding character created by Cao Xueqin. Similarly, they probably would not be very sympathetic to Daiyu - who would want a modern day Daiyu as girlfriend? The only difference, compared to the Californian students, would be that Baoyu's "effeminate tendencies" should present less a problem to Chinese readers, since they are more familiar with the concept of 公子 in Chinese literature.



Pre-settlement inspection done

Did pre-settlement inspection on a rainy day yesterday. The finishing and workmanship was generally of a high standard and the builder/developer was cooperative in fixing minor problems.

A Short History

Central Parklands - The Entire Development

Artist Impression and Floor Plans of Our House

Foundation Laid (July 2004)

First Storey (September 2004)

Upper Storeys Added (December 2004)

Not Much Progress During X'mas and NY (February 2005)

Pre-settlement Inspection (May 2005)




《紅樓夢》的美味情事: (上) / (下) (韓良露, 聯副, 11,12/5/05)




Is "intelligent design" just another name for "creationism" (I)

In a previous blog entry, I wrote about the idea of "intelligent design" as an alternative explanation of life to "evolutionism". "Intelligent design" is often regarded as a branch of "creationism".

Interested readers may want to read Daniel Engber's Creationism vs. Intelligent Design: Is there a difference? (Slate, 10/5/05), a background brief in response to news that "critics who argue that evolution should not be taught as scientific fact presented their case to the State Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas".


blogger.com and ftp

I reported blogger.com having problems with publishing via ftp some time ago. Now it seems to be working fine. So no need to find and then put in the IP address anymore. Just use the ftp hostname.


The then and now of classical music CD reviewing

David Hurwitz of ClassicsToday.com talks about how today's CD reviewing is different from two decades ago in Times Have Changed, So Have We.

While some say that the classical music recording industry is dying, others find it difficult to keep track with (and review) the hundreds of new releases each month!


"Free Trade Agreements in Asia" page updated

When I created this web page several years ago, free trade agreement or FTA (they are actually "preferential trade agreements") was still a relatively new thing to Asia. In particular, North-east Asia was then an FTA-free region. This changed, however, with the signing of the Japan-Singapore FTA in 2002.

Since then, it seems all Asian economies have been trying to negotiate bilateral free trade deals with their regional neighbours. My interest in maintaining this web page has greatly diminished as a result (the fact that I no longer work as an economist - in fact I no longer "work" any more - is also a reason). There are just too much to follow. And frankly speaking, not many of these free trade deals in Asia have much real significance.

But then, I still feel obliged to nurture this baby, even though it attracts very little traffic. I shall try my best (my best is probably not very good, so treat it as a page constantly under construction).

-- Free Trade Agreements in Asia --

Down to the Wire

Once a leader in Internet innovation, the United States has fallen far behind Japan and other Asian states in deploying broadband and the latest mobile-phone technology (Thomas Bleha, Foreign Affairs, 5-6/05)

According to Bleha, "in the first three years of the Bush administration, the United States dropped from 4th to 13th place in global rankings of broadband Internet usage. Today, most U.S. homes can access only "basic" broadband, among the slowest, most expensive, and least reliable in the developed world, and the United States has fallen even further behind in mobile-phone-based Internet access."




他的解答是迄今為止,我讀過的最為詳盡的分析。許進雄認為,「只要把竹子劈成長條稍為加工就可得到平坦而可書寫的表面(錢存訓, 文書: 104)。再在火上炙乾,就易著墨而不易朽蠹。在窄長的表面上書寫,由上而下作縱的書寫,遠較橫的左右的書寫方便得多。因為橫著書寫,竹片背面的彎曲會妨害手勢的運轉和穩定。一般人以右手書寫,也易於左手拿著直豎的竹片,寫完後以左手由右而左一一排列,故由上而下、由右而左的排列,就成中國特有的書寫習慣」。


羅樹寶的《書香三千年》(湖南文藝出版社)也有相近的解釋:「簡冊制度是我國最早的書籍制度,漢代以前,我國圖書普遍采用此形式。相當長的時間裡,中國的書籍都是直排文字,由上至下書寫,從右到左排列。這種行文格式就來源於簡冊。 ... 未寫好的簡放在左側,左手拿來,右手書寫,寫好的簡順序推向右側,因而形成了從右到左的編纂順序。即使先編好的簡策也從右邊開始書寫,相沿成習」。

從我的一貫立場看,文字排列順序應與單字結構順序符合,亦即應以左而右而非右而左為格式。至於古時為何產生從右向左的格式,並相沿成習,我沒有答案,但卻認為許進雄和羅樹寶之說,沒有絕對的說服力。簡單地說,他們的基本是「工序決定順序」的說法。雖然這種工序,在操作上較為順手,但閱讀者如覺得由右而左的排列難以接受,更改工序也不會帶來太多不便。較可信的,是在已有認可文字排列順序格式的情況下(如羅樹寶所言,西周的青銅器銘文也是以上而下,右而左排列),才形成了上述這種竹簡擺放及寫字工序 — 亦即「順序決定工序」,而不是「工序決定順序」。

-- 橫寫直寫 向右向左 左翻右翻 沒完沒了 --

橫排直排 左抄右抄


網頁上有兩位網友提供解答,其中一位被提問者選為「最佳解答」。只可惜此解答其實大部分抄自我的橫寫直寫 向右向左 左翻右翻 沒完沒了網頁。


-- 橫寫直寫 向右向左 左翻右翻 沒完沒了 --






Blinds, fridge, washer, dryer, vacuumer ...

We went to the new house today to get measurements and quotation for blinds. It's just over 8 days before the pre-settlement inspection, but to our eyes there were a lot to be done. The building supervisor insisted to be present during the whole time, because the developer was still responsible for any accidents which occurred there.

At that, we wen to place orders for a fridge, a washing machine, a dryer and a vacuum cleaner.

We have drawn up a list of IKEA furniture to be bought (my study will basically be an IKEA room), and shall buy them in a single lot sometime next week.

The only other critical thing we need to have before moving in is a mattress (we have already placed an order for a bedroom suite, but there is no guarantee that the pieces can be delivered before the end of this month).


18,000-plus Searchable Reviews from BBC Music Magazine

Gramophone has long allowed online visitors access to its huge archive of reviews. Now, BBC Music Magazine has also put all its reviews, dating back to its first issue in 1992, for online searching.

(更新兼更正) 旺角樂文結﹝束舊鋪,遷往新三樓鋪繼續營﹞業