2005-05-30

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.

2005-05-29

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."

2005-05-27

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.

2005-05-26

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.

2005-05-24

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."

2005-05-22

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)

【村上春樹的網路森林】新貌

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!」

值得推薦的,是賴明珠和劉黎兒的兩篇村上春樹專訪。



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》。

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2005-05-21

知朱識墨曾堯網



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"

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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.

心經乜經?

「心經簡林」昨天在香港揭幕。據新華社報導:「《心經》全名《般若波羅蜜多心經》﹐是大乘佛教裡的經典」。

大公報記者梁世華卻有高論,認為:「「心經」的全名「般若波羅蜜多心經」,是儒、釋、道三教的至尊寶典」。

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 --

2005-05-20

2005-05-16

幾本新購紅學著作

三月份回香港一趟,買了一批中文書回來(主要是大陸簡體版),其中四本與紅學有關。

我已有一段長時期疏遠紅學著作了。如今可能是靜極思動吧。

第一本,是馮其庸的《瓜飯樓重校評批紅樓夢》,全三冊,百廿回,直排繁體版,蒙肯紙雙色印刷。馮氏除重新校訂正文(前八十回主要以庚辰、後四十回主要以程甲為底本),收入各種脂批外,更寫了大量的眉批、雙行小批、回末總評及書前的長篇導讀。正文墨色,批文朱色,並附譚鳳嬛插圖。買此書,並非因為覺得它具有甚麼學術價值(讀了導讀,不過爾爾),而是因為它的確印刷精美,又是繁體版,可能可以吸引太座鼓起勇氣嘗試閱讀。

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?

最後一本,不是紅學專書,而是三聯為余英時出版的文集《文史傳統與文化重建》。書中收入余氏的三篇紅學文章,包括「近代紅學的發展與紅學革命」及「紅樓夢的兩個世界」。初讀時,對「典範危機」及「兩個世界」之說,真有大開眼界之感。如今重看,只覺考證派紅學這個典範的危機,其實可以長時間存在,新典範未必會即時出現。余氏寫「紅樓夢的兩個世界」,當然是希望為新典範交出示範作。但時間證明,雖然該文在紅學佔有一席地位,但如果說「廣義的文學批評」可成為紅學的新典範,則言過其實。因為這類紅學研究,二百多年來一直存在,只是隨出色著作的多寡而浮浮沉沉而已。

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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!

2005-05-15

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.

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2005-05-13

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.



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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)


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2005-05-12

《紅樓夢》的美味情事

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

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曹雪芹深知「你怎麼吃決定你是什麼人」的道理,《紅樓夢》的飲食男女,亦是世態、人情、生命的滋味。

整本《紅樓夢》百分之九十五的食物都在前八十回出現,而且絕不重複。但在後四十回中,食物獨特的滋味不見了,不再有牛奶調和的茯苓霜、杏仁燒茶、奶子糖、山藥粥、藕粉糕、菱粉糕、油炸螃蟹小餃兒、麵果子、茶麵子、姐意粥、胭脂鵝、牛乳蒸羊羔、燉肘子、清蒸鴨子等等食物風情的描述。做為一個美味痴人,只能恨《紅樓夢》未完啊!
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2005-05-11

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".

2005-05-10

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.

2005-05-09

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!

2005-05-08

"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."

2005-05-06

「順序決定工序」?還是「工序決定順序」?

許進雄在《中國古代社會》第一章中提出:「古代漢字書寫的習慣是自上而下,然後又自右而左。人一般用右手書寫,自右而左的形式是較不切合實際,所以滿文和蒙古文雖也是上下直行,行列則採用由左而右的形式。中國之所以有這種書寫習慣上的獨異性,完全是受古代書寫工具的影響」。他認為,「導致中國獨特的書寫方向應是書寫的材料。任何有乾燥平面的東西都可以書寫,土石、布帛、樹皮等都可以利用。但從幾方面看,影響中國書寫方向習慣的是竹簡,而且起碼從商代起已是如此」。

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」。

「用毛筆沾墨書寫時,墨汁幹燥緩慢。如果在可以書寫多行的表面上寫字,行列最理想是由左而右,手才不致塗污書跡。但是中國的習慣竟然是相反的由右而左。可以推測是由於主要用單行的竹簡書寫,寫時左手拿著竹片,右手持筆,寫完後以左手持放,因偶然而習慣由右至左一一排列,故而成為中國特有的書寫習慣。竹片編綴後可卷成一握,故以卷稱書的篇幅。後來雖於紙上印刷,猶有以墨線隔間,就是保持片片竹簡的古老傳統」。

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

偶然發現Yahoo!奇摩知識網站,其中一頁刊登讀者的一個問題:大家讀書讀了那麼久,有沒有發現,為什麼橫式中文是左翻,直式中文是右翻的阿?

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。

在這問題上,我也只是個提問者,然後自己慢慢探索,距離「解答」還有很遠很遠的路呢。

-- 橫寫直寫 向右向左 左翻右翻 沒完沒了 --

2005-05-05

漂泊人生乎?

搬家在即,每天都在忙於處理有關大小事項。細想起來,連新屋在內,9年內我們曾住過兩大洲,3城市,6地點。我們都不是喜歡四處遷徒的人,但是神推鬼使的,自96年以來我們好像都不停在將家檔入箱拆箱中:

96年8月前:家住澳洲坎培拉市。決定回港。
96年8月至97年底:回港後,租住近地鐵大型屋苑單位。
97年底至98年底:香港樓市泡沫爆破,租金下滑,轉租較大較遠單位。
98年底至04年中:樓市持續不振,入市購入一市區單住,共住了5年多。
04年中至05年中:退休返回澳洲,定居布里斯本,租住灣區「雅柏文」。
05年中以後:搬進自購房子,一住xx年。

2005-05-04

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).

2005-05-01

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

半月前,根據報章報導,寫了以下關於旺角樂文結業的日誌:

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前有洪葉全面結業,今又有旺角樂文因租金壓力而宣佈結束。四月份對台港書二樓書店來說可謂流年不利。

我可算是樂文的常客。但近年由於居住地點的關係,較多到銅鑼灣店,旺角店倒極少踏足。

雖然洪葉及樂文都在經營上遇到挫折,但好些其他台港書二樓書店生意看來尚算不俗。就以西洋菜街為例,三月份我在香港時到田園和榆林,顧客還是頗多的,其中田園更一如以住,要冒缺氧危險方可進入。

當然,現在正是簡體書店興起的年代,台港書店難免有點沒落之感。就以明報報導中提到的文星為例,何只「堅守陣地」,據知更會擴充至樓下八樓,在大陸書店旁開分店,不知新店是否巳經開張。
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據明報最新報導,樂文書店遷舖三樓經營