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This is a completely fantasy Chinese movie that is half CG. That might sound a lot like Monster Hunt but I actually enjoyed this a significantly more. The reason is because League of Gods doesn’t treat itself as anything other than a vehicle for superhuman Kung Fu/Chinese movie fights.

The premise is that there is an evil & bad King who uses an oracle’s eyes to see how he will rule the world, except he sees his own ruin. A renegade faction/city also sees this and sends a young apprentice to seek out the Sword of Light that can defeat the Black Dragon King. The protagonist has some special powers, but he finds a couple of additional warrior buddies to help him complete his quest.

All sorts of battles break out, but its mostly magical and martial arts against straw men and paper swords. Once that is over with, the heroes even have to fight an enchanted troll that is similar to the one in Lord of the Rings. After all of that fighting, the heroes get the sword and some guy who looks like Jet Li (but isn’t, as he plays someone else) turns into the Golden Dragon in order to battle the Black Dragon King.

But do they defeat the Black Dragon King? Nope! Because that’s the end of the movie. I guess League of Gods is a series of movies – and its really frustrating when they only put one episode on the inflight entertainment system. Overall, this is a fun romp so it is a 3 out of 5 rating from me.


  • The chilling stories behind Japan’s ‘evaporating people’
    I didn’t know about this, but now that I know, it’s not too surprising. There are certain people in Japan who, after suffering to much shame, ‘evaporate’. What that means is that they just disappear and go somewhere else (instead of committing suicide), leaving their family and friends to wonder where they are.

    Whatever shame motivates a Japanese citizen to vanish, it’s no less painful than the boomerang effect on their families — who, in turn, are so shamed by having a missing relative that they usually won’t report it to the police.

    Those families who do search turn to a private group called Support of Families of Missing People, which keeps all clients and details private. Its address is hard to find, and its headquarters consist of one small room with one desk and walls sooty with cigarette smoke.

    The organization is staffed with detectives — often with evaporations or suicides in their own family histories — who take on these cases pro bono. They average 300 cases a year, and their work is difficult: Unlike the United States, there is no national database for missing people in Japan. There are no documents or identifiers — such as our Social Security numbers — that can be used to track a person once they begin traveling within the country. It is against the law for police to access ATM transactions or financial records.

  • The Great A.I. Awakening
    The efficacy of Google Translate improved greatly since last November, and the reason behind it is that Google started using AI to power the translations. This article talks about why and how they did that, but most importantly, how the use of AI in this feed can affect AI in general

    In the 1980s, a robotics researcher at Carnegie Mellon pointed out that it was easy to get computers to do adult things but nearly impossible to get them to do things a 1-year-old could do, like hold a ball or identify a cat. By the 1990s, despite punishing advancements in computer chess, we still weren’t remotely close to artificial general intelligence.

    There has always been another vision for A.I. — a dissenting view — in which the computers would learn from the ground up (from data) rather than from the top down (from rules). This notion dates to the early 1940s, when it occurred to researchers that the best model for flexible automated intelligence was the brain itself. A brain, after all, is just a bunch of widgets, called neurons, that either pass along an electrical charge to their neighbors or don’t. What’s important are less the individual neurons themselves than the manifold connections among them. This structure, in its simplicity, has afforded the brain a wealth of adaptive advantages. The brain can operate in circumstances in which information is poor or missing; it can withstand significant damage without total loss of control; it can store a huge amount of knowledge in a very efficient way; it can isolate distinct patterns but retain the messiness necessary to handle ambiguity.

  • Meet the husbands who fly first class – while their wives travel in economy
    An almost incredulous article where various men and women justify why spouses travel in different classes of the plane.

    “We left home as a couple, checked in our luggage together and went hand-in-hand to departures. When we boarded the plane, we parted, saying: ‘I’ll see you when we get there.’ We had a lovely fortnight together in Barbados. John was especially attentive — perhaps he was a little guilty.”

    Since then, Michelle has preferred to travel as far away from her husband as possible. And John couldn’t be happier: “Do I feel guilty? Not at all! I get treated very well in business class. And if, one day, we can afford it then I’d love for the whole family to join me there.”

  • Silicon Valley’s Culture, Not Its Companies, Dominates in China
    This makes a lot of sense. Who wants to work a rigid and long schedule when you can just work flex hours?

    Last year, Facebook fired an enterprising Chinese employee who played to the unmet demand and charged one group of tourists $20 each to tour the campus and eat in the company’s cafeteria. Now, the only thing notable for tourists to see is its thumbs-up sign.

  • “Architecture saved my life”: Pablo Escobar’s son is a good architect now
    I like stories like these where there is a juxtaposition between lifestyles within two generations. In this case, the architect seems to be making a career for himself, although I don’t know how much of this is actually a puff piece.

    I believe that in a way my father was also an architect, he was very clever. He was just an architect for his own convenience. There was a Sunday my father took me to airplane fields and in the middle of the jungle, we were standing on the airfield and he asked me, “where is the airfield?” I couldn’t see it, and he said, “You are standing in it.” I couldn’t see it because I was looking at a house in the middle of the runway and there was no way the plane could land because it would crash against the house. He took a walkie-talkie and told one of his friends to move the house. It was on wheels. When the airplanes from the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency) were searching with satellites looking for hideouts, they couldn’t find anything because there was a house in the middle of what was a possible airfield. The planes can use it—just move the house.


Korean Air has a small movie selection so I didn’t have a lot of things I was looking forward to watching. I read through basically all the movie descriptions and Book of Love was the 2nd best choice – that’s how bad the selection was!

Anyways, this movie is a Chinese film that tells 2 separate stories, and one meta-story. One story focuses on a addicted gambler/hostess in Macau who is in a perpetual borrow money/payback cycle and the other focuses on a real estate agent in LA trying to sell houses to overseas investors and astronaut moms. Of the two, the latter was much more interesting to me because who ever makes a movie about that?? The meta-story is that they are both single and come across a book called 84 Charing Cross which is about 2 people starting a relationship by writing letters. They start doing so and find that that is the solution to their own love problems.

I felt the meta-story was kind of weak. Until the end of the movie, it was used as a plot device to comment on each character’s love life, which occurred at the same time as their individual stories. There were too many primary stories that the watcher had to focus on and the meta-story lost since it wasn’t visualized. When the movie had time to focus on the meta-story, then it had some impact.

I felt the movie was messy because of this, but had a bunch of novel situations so I would give this a 3 out of 5 stars (but still would rather watch a summer action blockbuster instead of this one!)


I watched this movie because it is in the “God of Gamblers” franchise which I had enjoyed when I was a kid. Some quick researching seems to indicate that this is the 7th movie in the franchise (even though it has a 3 in the name). Since I wasn’t an avid follower of the series, I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t know or understand a lot of the backstory.

I was surprised that this movie is completely wack. It is no surprise that the gamblers have some sort of supernatural powers (i.e., they are super heroes and villains) but I was expecting something more in the vein of the swordplay in olden day Chinese films.

As an aside, on my flight to Korea, I also (re-)watched Hero. I wasn’t sure whether I had watched it completely or not even while I was watching it – some of it was familiar but I had to check after I got back and noticed that I blogged about it previously. The sword play there is unnatural and unreal but it feels like a choreographed dance between the opponents. Similarly, I expect the gamblers to channel some sort power to change cards on the table or whatnot.

Instead, the protagonists have completely crazy powers that make this movie more satirical than anything else. It’s not even a parody of action films like Austin Powers, it’s just completely made up. Maybe the plot is grounded in some sort of story if you watch the previous ones but watching this objectively is somewhat pointless.

I guess one redeeming feature is that the plot keeps moving (because who knows what crazy thing is going to happen next) so it’s not boring. However, it’s subpar even when compared to the plots of summer blockbusters. I’ll give this movie a 2 out of 5.


  • This is what life would actually be like without processed food
    If you’re pedantic about not having any processed food, then this is what you’re going to get:

    The second and considerably more problematic consequence is that even the earliest form of food processing has probably contributed to obesity. When you process food, whether by cooking it or simply cutting it into smaller pieces, you tend to get more energy out of it relative to the energy expended processing and digesting it. So we now get more calories from the same amount of food than we used to, even though it’s no more satiating. Surely, Lieberman said, that helps explain why we’re eating so many more calories than we used to.

  • Handcuffed to Uber
    Here is a side you typically don’t hear about – early employees of Uber can’t leave the company because they can’t pay the tax on their options!

    In a completely hypothetical example, let’s say an early, top Uber engineer was given .5 percent of the company. Now let’s say this person was awarded options in 2011, when Uber raised $11 million in Series A funding at a reported $60 million valuation. His ownership stake at the time would have been $300,000. Yet today, that same stake (undiluted) would now be worth $300 million at Uber’s reported current post-money valuation of $60 billion. That’s a paper gain of $299,700,000.

  • A Bird’s-Eye View of Nature’s Hidden Order
    Fascinating introduction to the idea of hyperuniformity and how it appears in Nature. This is something you inherently know about, but haven’t ever formalized.

    Torquato and a colleague launched the study of hyperuniformity 13 years ago, describing it theoretically and identifying a simple yet surprising example: “You take marbles, you put them in a container, you shake them up until they jam,” Torquato said in his Princeton office this spring. “That system is hyperuniform.”

    The marbles fall into an arrangement, technically called the “maximally random jammed packing,” in which they fill 64 percent of space. (The rest is empty air.) This is less than in the densest possible arrangement of spheres — the lattice packing used to stack oranges in a crate, which fills 74 percent of space. But lattice packings aren’t always possible to achieve. You can’t easily shake a boxful of marbles into a crystalline arrangement.

  • After three weeks in China, it’s clear Beijing is Silicon Valley’s only true competitor
    I’m curious about how tech is run in China given the everything-goes business mindset and standard sweatshop conditions. Those sound like bad points for the industry, but I think that it actually means that they can compete better than western companies.

    In China, there is a company work culture at startups that’s called 9/9/6. It means that regular work hours for most employees are from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. If you thought Silicon Valley has intense work hours, think again.

    For founders and top executives, it’s often 9/11/6.5. That’s probably not very efficient and useful (who’s good as a leader when they’re always tired and don’t know their kids?) but totally common.

  • What Are the Odds We Are Living in a Computer Simulation?
    This is a very fascinating article about the idea that we really are in “The Matrix”. It’s fascinating because I’ve thought the idea to be really interesting ever since watching Men In Black when they zoomed out at the end and it turns out that our galaxy was just a marble in a box of some bigger being.

    Bostrom, in his original paper, envisioned a different possibility: if the computational cost of all these nested simulations is too high, he wrote, our simulators might simply click “quit.” The invention of simulation might be the end of the world.


I ran out of movies I wanted to watch, but not out of time on my flight, so Lost in Hong Kong was the movie I decided to fill in some time. It’s actually a terrible movie in which I’m not sure whether it’s trying too hard to be funny or it’s a very poor satire. Regardless of which, it is not funny. Given that there are a lot of ridiculous scenarios and potty humor, it’s terrible when the writing don’t warrant a laugh.

While it was horrible, it wasn’t horrible enough for me to just outright turn it off – although I thought about doing it on occasion. There was a tease of possible redemption because one theme in the movie was a character taking a video of what is occurring. I thought those videos might get re-cut into a neat character redemption movie.

I was going to rate this movie a one out of five stars, but I think I’m going to upgrade it to 1.5 stars. The catharsis by the protagonist near the end of the movie saves it, but it doesn’t save it enough to make it two out of five stars (that would be a dis-service to other quite watchable two star movies).


  • Inside China’s Memefacturing Factories, Where The Hottest New Gadgets Are Made
    We’ve been seeing a lot of hoverboards being ridden around so this article is timely. Not surprisingly, the hoverboards are made in China at factories that excel in agile development – they can quickly switch to producing the Next Cool Thing.

    Nearby, a bustling street hums with small restaurants and shops catering to Gaoke’s employees; above them rise identical two-story gray cement apartment blocks, balconies draped with laundry. Across from the the factory’s security gate, a small store stocks discontinued Gaoke products — televisions, rice cookers, English-language instruction cassette tapes — still in their original shrink-wrapping, to be sold at a discount to the factory’s workers. According to the shopkeeper, they’re a captive market and an easy way for Gaoke to get rid of dead stock.

  • For China’s upper middle class, driving for Uber is a cure for loneliness
    An interesting look at Uber in China that focuses on the drivers yes, and their motivation for driving; which turns out to be an excuse to socialize with their passengers. Not sure if this is just a few anecdotes or a real cultural thing – I don’t think people do this in North America.

    For example, he uses Uber to find tennis partners. Signing on Uber’s driver app right after he plays at a court, he is likely to pick up another player, he explained. In this way, he met a man from Portugal who works in the financial industry in Shanghai. They chatted during the ride, friended each other on WeChat, and met up for tennis. “His [tennis] skill is as good as mine,” Fu said, “but his English is even more terrible than mine.”

    He also intentionally picks up Uber passengers after he goes to a state-backed aerospace academy in Beijing to sell electronic components. He wants to know from the passengers coming from the academy “what products they are making,” he said. “I might get some opportunities.”

  • The Digital Dirt
    Whenever I read an article about a company, person or industry; the most interesting thing are the juicy/gossipy stories. That’s what makes this piece about the story behind TMZ so great, it’s basically stories about getting gossip stories. I might not read TMZ, but it’s interesting to read about stories they do, reject, and break.

    Twenty-four hours after the Bieber video came in, the newsroom learned that Levin had decided not to run the story. He did not destroy his copy of the video, however, and Bieber’s camp was aware that Levin could reverse his position and post it. Celebrity secrets are treated like commodities at TMZ, not unlike the way they were treated by J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I. “The power of secret information was a gun that Hoover always kept loaded,” Tim Weiner* writes, in “Enemies,” a 2012 book about the bureau. A former writer for TMZ told me that, for Levin, there was more to gain by sitting on the clip, and earning Bieber’s good will, than by running it and ruining his career. (Older gossip publications followed this strategy as well. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the “dark genius” of William d’Alton Mann, the publisher of Town Topics, was his realization that “stories that came into his possession were perhaps worth more untold than told.” In the nineteen-fifties, Confidential gained access to the head of Columbia Studios by leveraging tapes of Rock Hudson that referred to his homosexuality.)

    In the months before TMZ obtained the video, its coverage of Bieber had often been antagonistic; it ran a post suggesting that he had hit a twelve-year-old boy during a game of laser tag. After Braun and Levin had their phone conversation, numerous flattering Bieber-related exclusives appeared on the site: a photograph of Bieber backstage during a commercial shoot; pictures of him getting a haircut; a video of him and his girlfriend Selena Gomez performing karaoke; a story about how he bought “every single flower” at a florist’s and sent the flowers to Gomez’s house; video from a trip that Bieber took to Liverpool; and others, including a report of him watching “Titanic” one night, with Gomez, inside an otherwise vacant Staples Center.

  • The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens
    This is a bit of a rambling article about teens on Tumblr, why they use it, and how successful they’ve become. That is, until it all comes tumbling down (see what I did there??)

    “‘My best friend recommended it’ was one of my more major contributions,” Lilley said. He read from the post: “‘I lost 24 pounds in four weeks with minor exercise and no change in diet. Here’s how I did it: with this organic supplement’—that doesn’t sound good.” But “ ‘Here’s how I did it: with this organic supplement my best friend recommended’—just seemed to me more real-sounding and … just makes it seem like in the back of someone’s mind they could think, well, my best friend could have recommended this to me.”

    Exposely’s diet pill scheme got going in April 2014, and it worked—it worked like crazy. Trending.ly got almost 7 million views that month, and with the diet pill ads, they sometimes achieved a conversion rate near 10 percent. Once, across all their blogs, Exposely made $24,000 in a single day.

  • Is the Competitive Bridge World Rife with Cheaters?
    This is a fascinating article about how a whistleblower basically showed that a lot of top bridge teams are actually cheating their way to the top. It baffles me that the sport wouldn’t move to an (electronic) system where you can’t signal between players.

    Fred Gitelman, of Bridge Base Online, unveiled a proposed anti-cheating device, an iPad-like tablet on which players manipulate virtual cards—an innovation that the game’s top players have so far resisted, since card feel is a critical part of their experience at the table. The adoption of such a device, however, seems inevitable in a game where the ease of cheating, and the financial inducements to do so, have dogged the professional game since its inception.


On my outgoing AC flight to SFO, the headphone jack on my seat was broken (I think someone snapped their plug off in the jack) so I was kind of stuck in terms of what entertainment to keep me occupied (the power outlet was also broken but forunately I brought my e-reader and iPod). Since I couldn’t get any sound, I ended up watching a Chinese movie with subtitles.

Monster Hunt is a strange movie, but it was a huge hit in China. It’s a comedic period piece set in the Kung Fu days but the interesting thing is that it is a real-time mix of CG and actors (all the monsters are CG). The story is that humans defeated monsters long ago and now the monsters have to wear human skins so they don’t get caught. Of course, there is a coup in the monster world and the old dynasty’s scion is about to be born or killed. So a band of unlikely partners have to protect him while the villains try and kill him.

The movie has the usual over-the-top Kung Fu fighting, lame Chinese romance/comedy and a unlikely mom storyline. It’s definitely not going to win any awards but the CG didn’t hamper the movie and it is kind of fun to watch. I’d give it three out of five stars.


  • Kay, Zales, and Marketing Diamonds to the Middle-Class Man
    The headline promises a bit more information than the article delivers, but this is an otherwise unknown look at how Signet (owns Zales, Peoples, other jewellers) runs its business.

    While Light told investors Signet was optimizing its e-comm experience, the company sees its sites as primarily as destinations for education and first impressions. Physical stores “will always be the most important element” of its strategy because, as Signet sees it, brick-and-mortar far outweighs digital in jewelry sales, even among young consumers.

    “What we find is the millennials who might buy from us online, they actually ship to a store to go see it, actively touch it,” says Zales CEO George Murray. “They’re not just buying everything online through mobile, no human contact, social media activity that’s going on. It is a very, very physical world.”

  • Amor Prohibido
    20 years after the death of Selena, a look at how her legacy is being preserved in her home town.

    When Fiesta de la Flor, the two-day Selena-themed festival held on April 17 and 18, was announced back in January, the Corpus Christi Convention and Visitors Bureau made it very, very clear that it had the approval of the family. The constant reminder, repeated by city officials in press releases and interviews, seemed like a nervous tic, like someone walking through a tough neighborhood invoking the name of the local mafia don. In the end, Mr. Quintanilla did nothing to prevent my access to the event. At the Fiesta itself I overheard a friendly official working a security line for Chris Perez, who was sitting for photos, assure a fan from New Jersey that the event was Quintanilla-blessed. The Jersey girl hadn’t even broached the subject.

  • Learning to Speak Lingerie
    This is an interesting article that links together Chinese people, Egypt and lingerie – three things that don’t belong together. Basically there are a couple of people who are making money by selling lingerie in conservative Egypt cities. That’s the teaser, but it later delves into societal reasons as to why Chinese people are making money and why Egyptians are not, which is arguably a more compelling read.

    While Lin and Chen were building their small lingerie empire, they noticed that there was a lot of garbage sitting in open piles around Asyut. They were not the first people to make this observation. But they were the first to respond by importing a polyethylene-terephthalate bottle-flake washing production line, which is manufactured in Jiangsu province, and which allows an entrepreneur to grind up plastic bottles, wash and dry the regrind at high temperatures, and sell it as recycled material.

    “I saw that it was just lying around, so I decided that I could recycle it and make money,” Lin told me. He and his wife had no experience in the industry, but in 2007 they established the first plastic-bottle recycling facility in Upper Egypt. Their plant is in a small industrial zone in the desert west of Asyut, where it currently employs thirty people and grinds up about four tons of plastic every day. Lin and Chen sell the processed material to Chinese people in Cairo, who use it to manufacture thread. This thread is then sold to entrepreneurs in the Egyptian garment industry, including a number of Chinese. It’s possible that a bottle tossed onto the side of the road in Asyut will pass through three stages of Chinese processing before returning to town in the form of lingerie, also to be sold by Chinese.

  • Dinner and Deception
    I enjoy reading about waiters and their work (one of my favourite blogs used to be The Big, Weird Business of Prom
    The business of prom dresses is apparently really big, even bigger than some retail chains! This is not a great article for indepth knowledge, but it shares a few nuggets.

    Families with a total household income above $50,000 will spend an average of $799 on prom, and that number increases as income decreases. Families with a total household income below $50,000 spend $1,109, and families with a total household income below $25,000 will spend $1,393. The poorer you are, the more likely you are to pony up for a fancy gown. The cost varies by region as well. Northeastern families spend the most ($1,169), while Midwestern families spend the least ($733). In most circumstances, a significant fraction of a teenage girl’s prom budget is likely dedicated to her dress.


  • The Cycle
    Jose Bautista explains what it’s like to grow up in the Dominican Republic and become a baseball star. Sure, the money is great – but they are still behind in life. And if you’re not lucky, you go back to your life in your 20s with a 6th grade education.

    At age 12 or 13, you’ll be recruited to play at one of the many baseball academies across the country. “Academy” makes it sound like a school. Most of them are more like baseball farms. Your family signs a piece of paper for consent and you’re pulled out of school to go train at sparse facilities in the middle of nowhere. They’re not regulated. They’re private institutions run by guys called “buscones” — part trainers, part agents. You sleep in these big empty rooms filled with bunk beds. You do two things: You play baseball and you sleep. There are no books, no computers, maybe one old TV. Before you’re a teenager, your education is over.

  • Blockbuster Anatomy: Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos on the Tulowitzki and Price Deals
    Light story about the Jays’ deadline deals. Their record now is even better than when the article was written!

    Anthopoulos, though, said that questions over his job status didn’t influence his decision to be so aggressive at the deadline.

    “I’m always focused on both short term and long term,” he said, citing the $3.9 million spent to sign 16-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and his refusal to give up dynamic (and injured) starter Marcus Stroman for more immediate help. “You do the job as if you own the team, and as if you’re going to be here forever, because that’s your responsibility.”

  • Elite Snipers 101
    Jonathan Quick talks about what it is like to face world-class talents aiming to score a goal on him, and how he’s able to prevent it.

    Most guys have a little tell. You look at where the puck is in relation to their feet, or the way they’re bending their knees to get ready to shoot, and you just know what’s going to happen before it happens. But the problem with Datsyuk is that he fools you with his intentions. He will be way out on the wall with his hands, feet, and eyes positioned for a cross-ice pass — and it’s the right decision. It’s what 99 percent of players will do in that situation. So you instantly start cheating your eyes over to where he’s going to pass. Next thing you know — what the hell? — the puck is behind you in the net. He shot it. Who shoots from there? Datsyuk shoots from there.

  • The Death of Cantonese?
    It starts with schools teaching in Mandarin (~70% of schools in HK already do this), and writing in Simplified Chinese. Although I’m actually more curious what

    The potential for the erosion of Cantonese is not without precedent. Shanghainese was once the dialect for the entire Yangtze region and, despite the fact it still has around 14 million speakers, the Central Government has actively been discouraging its use in schools since 1992. A 2012 survey by Shanghai’s Academy of Social Sciences found four in 10 school students in the city couldn’t speak Shanghainese at all.

  • The Mob’s IT department
    A story about how 2 IT professionals ended up ensnared in a gang’s operations to smuggle drugs into Europe. They’re still in front of a judge, but this article paints them as unwilling participants.

    He and Van De Moere discussed going to the police. They later explained they dismissed the idea out of fear. These were clearly men who didn’t resolve disagreements with the usual conference call or attorney’s letter. Calling the authorities would anger them more. They decided the prudent course was to let the whole bizarre incident go and hope Maertens never heard from them again.


But Always is a tragic love story in Mandarin that is set in Beijing and New York City. It’s about a pair of people who have been close to each other for many short periods over a span of 30 years; from when they were in primary school til the present day. Their fates are intertwined even if they are together or apart on purpose or by chance.

I picked out this movie to watch on a flight back from SFO but ran out of time to finish it. Luckily, it is a popular selection under world cinema so I was able to finish it over my flight to Amsterdam.

While the feeling of the movie is strong (good or bad depending where the story is), the plot feels contrived – as if there are a couple of set pieces that the director wanted to film, but he wasn’t sure how to get the characters into place. Because of that, I’m going to give this film a 2 out of 5 stars.


  • The Talking Cure
    There’s a gap between preschoolers of wealthier and poorer families and one city’s attempt to bridge this gap is by running a program to encourage parents from less affluent families to talk to their kids more.

    In 2005, a research foundation named LENA (for Language Environment Analysis) had developed a small digital device that could record for sixteen hours and recognize adult words, child vocalizations, and conversational turns. Such distinctions were important, because researchers had determined that merely overheard speech—a mother holding a child on her lap but talking on the phone, for instance—contributed less to language development. The LENA recorder could also distinguish between actual people speaking in a child’s earshot and sounds from TVs and other electronic devices; children under the age of two appear to learn language only from other humans. The device was about the size of an iPod, and it fit into the pocket of a specially designed vest or pair of overalls. (Children soon forgot about the devices, though they occasionally ended up in the toilet or in the dog’s bed.)

  • The Truth About Your Smile
    A couple of tips that your dentist may have not told you (or maybe you weren’t listening). Some seem a bit far fetched, but a couple seem to be consistent with what I hear. So maybe they are all true?

    Gum, mouthwash, and mints can’t address odor that ultimately comes from the stomach, but cloves (yes, the little sticks that you often put inside of potpourri and Jack-O-Lanterns) have been proven to kill odor-causing bacteria in the mouth—they don’t just mask it like gum or mouthwash or mints do. My family have all known about this and practiced it for years (my parents and I all carry around little tins filled with cloves instead of mints, and I think its because we love garlic-y hummus but we hate bad breath). I suck on one before important meetings and hot dates.

  • The Rich Man’s Dropout Club
    In 2010, Peter Thiel gave 24 people who haven’t graduated college $100,000 to skip it. Here’s how some of them turned out – TLDR: No major success stories yet. Although I think this argues for gap year(s) where young adults can pursue some non-academic experience.

    One fellow, John Marbach, left the program after his first year. One of the younger participants, he felt out of step with the others. “The Thiel Foundation said, ‘Oh, we’d be happy to introduce you to VCs and CEOs and coaches,’” he recalls. “But there was no, like, ‘Oh, we could introduce you to some normal friends.’” He returned to Wake Forest and will graduate this year.

  • The Rat Tribe of Beijing
    A couple of stories about people in Beijing who live underground in converted bunkers – the rooms are still tiny, but at least the rent is a bit cheaper. Oh yeah, it’s illegal of course.
  • This Michigan Farmer Made $4 Million Smuggling Rare Pez Containers into the U.S.
    No doubt there is some hyperbole here to make the story read better, but this is a rags to riches story fueled by OCD about collecting.

    Steve first noticed Pez while hawking cereal-box toys at the Kane County toy fair outside Chicago. The psychedelic colors and addictive collectibility of the dispensers immediately hooked him. “I learned that Canada got different stock straight from Pez factories in Europe,” he says. Weeks later he began making pilgrimages north to buy boxes of rare Merry Melody Maker dispensers (with built-in whistles) and Disney designs, for mere pennies. In Michigan, Joshua organized the stock and sold it to American collectors via mail order at up to $50 apiece. The Glews could finally afford clothes and food. Steve’s Dumpster-diving days were over.


I’ve been curious about what’s been causing my Nexus 5’s battery to bulge. I’m pretty sure the immediate cause is because of overheating around the battery. Overheating from the CPU (due to running video conferencing for too long) caused my laptop’s battery to bulge and I think there’s some sort of chemical reaction in LION batteries around prolonged excessive heat. But what could have caused the overheating?

I do play some games on my cellphone, but I don’t think enough or for long enough periods to cause the overheating (certainly my battery would at least run out if I was playing for that long). The other hypothesis I have is that my phone could be running hot from trying to acquire location, but again that would have caused my battery to run out a lot faster than it would normally do under normal behaviour (and I would have noticed). My last theory is that using my QI chargers caused the problem. I think I recall my phone being hot while being wirelessly charged, and perhaps the prolonged exposure (charging overnight) caused the battery issue.

In any case, this is one time where I don’t like/agree with Google’s design principle of having non-removable batteries (I also would prefer microSD cards instead of cloud storage).


After a long break from reading comics, I read a couple this week – but it’s not what you think. I’m not reading comics by Marvel, DC, one of those smaller indie publishers (Top Cow et al – do they still exist/are independent)? Nor is it manga or anything of that sort.

I read a couple of comics books by Guy Delisle who is a Quebecer (trained locally at Sheridan) but now lives in France. His work and life has taken him to a couple of places in Asia and he wrote/illustrated his impression and adventures there.

What tipped me to his books was one about his trip to Pyongyang, North Korea. I enjoying reading about that country and his version of events is a nice, light read. There’s nothing about prison camps, just what daily life is like as a foreigner in that country.

I then read his book about Shenzen (and thus China) and Burma. The adventures in China are not surprising as I’m familiar with the culture, but Burma was new to me. Apparently he has a couple of other books that I might look up a little later!


  • Chinatown’s Kitchen Network
    I though this was an interesting article about how the various Chinese restaurants in SmallTownUSA get cooks (because owners don’t want to slave in a kitchen forever). I don’t think a similar thing happens in Toronto, although I can’t really tell because I never see the cooks. However, the wait staff at a couple of Chinese restaurants that I frequent are consistent.

    Rain lives with five co-workers in a red brick town house that his boss owns, part of a woodsy development near the restaurant. The house is tidy; there are three floors covered with white carpeting, and each worker has been supplied with an identical cot, a desk, a chair, and a lamp. “Some bosses don’t take care of the houses,” Rain said. “If they’re renting the house, especially, they don’t care. The rooms will actually smell.” Every restaurant worker has a story of sleeping in a dank basement or being packed in a room with five other people. Many complain of living in a house that has no washing machine, and being forced to spend their day off scrubbing their grease-spattered T-shirts in a sink.

    Rain’s boss, in contrast, is fastidious. The house has a granite-countered kitchen, but he forbids the employees living there to use it; instead, a hot plate and a card table have been set up in the garage. Outside, the building is indistinguishable from the other town houses, aside from a tin can full of cigarette butts on the doorstep. The shades are kept drawn.

  • Why do people earn what they earn?
    A look at a couple of professions/industries and trends as to why some people in one job earn more than another.

    But the server-as-secret-weapon tells only part of the story. After sifting through lots of academic papers and speaking to economists, I came to think of the depressed pay for cooks relative to waiters as a sort of “dream penalty” at play.

    Spend a day asking middle schoolers what they want to be when they grow up and I guarantee you’ll never hear “waiter,” “actuary,” or “portfolio manager.” Instead, their dream jobs tend to reflect activities they participate in: the performing arts, writing, teaching, cooking, and sports. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that there are so many underpaid actors, reporters, teachers, cooks, and minor league baseball players out there.

  • Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming
    A discussion about whether (or more correctly, how soon) we will see humans who have IQs of 1000! No discussion about how they will fit into society though, which I think is another problem.

    Each genetic variant slightly increases or decreases cognitive ability. Because it is determined by many small additive effects, cognitive ability is normally distributed, following the familiar bell-shaped curve, with more people in the middle than in the tails. A person with more than the average number of positive (IQ-increasing) variants will be above average in ability. The number of positive alleles above the population average required to raise the trait value by a standard deviation—that is, 15 points—is proportional to the square root of the number of variants, or about 100. In a nutshell, 100 or so additional positive variants could raise IQ by 15 points.

    Given that there are many thousands of potential positive variants, the implication is clear: If a human being could be engineered to have the positive version of each causal variant, they might exhibit cognitive ability which is roughly 100 standard deviations above average.

  • Detroit State of Mind
    What is it actually like to buy one of those really cheap houses in Detroit and work it back into a liveable state.

    Then we found the tall, red brick home standing just off a grand, tree-lined avenue, a house with (53!) new windows, a newish roof, and all the inner workings spared by the roving bands of scrappers that plague the city. We jumped. It had been on the market for a year and a half at $22,000. We got it for $17,000—three flats’ worth clocking in at some 4,000 square feet, with two fireplaces and a garage to boot. The bar and jukebox and pool table in the basement hinted at a past as a speakeasy, and the icebox delivery door in the back landing charmed me, as did the original built-in cabinets. Hardwood floors waited under the carpet, and a park grill set in concrete in the back yard under a pine tree promised cook-outs under the stars. Updating the plumbing and electric would just take a couple weeks, the contractor said.

  • What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?
    One idea in the scientific community is that you age because you think & believe you are old. There have been some experiments done, but is it true or not?

    She recruited a number of healthy test subjects and gave them the mission to make themselves unwell. The subjects watched videos of people coughing and sneezing. There were tissues around and those in the experimental group were encouraged to act as if they had a cold. No deception was involved: The subjects weren’t misled, for example, into thinking they were being put into a germ chamber or anything like that. This was explicitly a test to see if they could voluntarily change their immune systems in measurable ways.

    In the study, which is ongoing, 40 percent of the experimental group reported cold symptoms following the experiment, while 10 percent of those in control group did. Buoyed, Langer ordered further analysis, looking for more concrete proof that they actually caught colds by testing their saliva for the IgA antibody, a sign of elevated immune-system response. In February, the results came in. All of the experimental subjects who had reported cold symptoms showed high levels of the IgA antibody.


  • How to Get Into an Ivy League College—Guaranteed
    I have no problems with the business model that this guy uses, although I agree it’s an arms race. I think most people get caught up on the fact that it’s “guaranteed”. It’s not really guaranteed. The agreement is that if it doesn’t happen, you’ll get (some or all) of your money back.

    Ma says his biggest loss over the years was a $250,000 refund he sent back to the parents in China of a kid rejected by seven Ivies in 2011. “I way overshot,” he says. (Still, that girl ended up attending Cornell, which wasn’t among the eight colleges the family agreed to guarantee. “The mother wasn’t happy with Cornell, can you believe it?” Ma says.)

  • Escape from Microsoft Word
    Some funny examples of why Microsoft Word is difficult to understand (if you ever had to use it for long documents, you might agree)

    A friend at Microsoft, speaking not for attribution, solved the mystery. Word, it seems, obeys the following rule: when a “style” is applied to text that is more than 50 percent “direct-formatted” (like the italics I applied to the magazine titles), then the “style” removes the direct formatting. So The New York Review of Books (with the three-letter month May) lost its italics. When less than 50 percent of the text is “direct-formatted,” as in the example with The New Yorker (with the nine-letter month September), the direct-formatting is retained.

  • How the Shinkansen bullet train made Tokyo into the monster it is today
    The largest effect of the bullet train seems to be that it made most of Japan one giant metropolis with the name of Tokyo.

    In the early 1990s, a new Shinkansen was built to connect Tokyo to Nagano, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. The train ran along a similar route as the Shinetsu Honsen, one of the most romanticised railroads in Japan, beloved of train buffs the world over for its amazing scenery – but also considered redundant by operators JR East because, as with almost all rural train lines in Japan, it lost money. There were only two profitable stations on the line – Nagano and the resort community of Karuizawa – and both would be served by the new Shinkansen. A large portion of the Shinetsu Honsen closed down; local residents who relied on it had to use cars or buses.

  • Why We Keep Playing the Lottery
    Some ideas as to why people keep playing the lottery even though it’s almost impossible to win

    Selling the lottery dream is possible because, paradoxically, the probabilities of winning are so infinitesimal they become irrelevant. Our brains didn’t evolve to calculate complex odds. In our evolutionary past, the ability to distinguish between a region with a 1 percent or 10 percent chance of being attacked by a predator wouldn’t have offered much of an advantage. An intuitive and coarse method of categorization, such as “doesn’t happen,” “happen sometimes,” “happens most of time,” “always happens,” would have sufficed, explains Jane L. Risen, an associate professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, who studies decision-making. Despite our advances in reason and mathematics, she says, we still often rely on crude calculations to make decisions, especially quick decisions like buying a lottery ticket.

  • Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa
    Similar to how the lottery preys on poor people; new business models are springing up to keep poor people in debt

    By the next day, the Abbotts had a remade living room, two companion pieces, both of the same blended material, 17 percent leather. The love seat and sofa retailed, together, for about $1,500. Abbott would pay for hers over two years, though she still had paying the option to pay monthly or weekly. The total price if paid weekly: $4,158.


  • Billie Bob’s (Mis) Fortune
    Yet another story about a normal person who won the lottery, only to find his life going sour

    Gerstner says Bonner told her that he had finally hooked up Billy Bob with Stone Street. Bonner told her that Billie Bob would receive $2.25 million in cash in exchange for ten years’ worth of his share of the lottery winnings, worth more than $6 million gross. Gerstner says she immediately knew it was a very bad deal for Billie Bob. She was also concerned about the legality.

  • The Downsides Of Being a Dad
    An article that argues that maybe it doesn’t matter if you spend a lot of time with your kids

    I spoke with roughly a dozen experts and posed an identical scenario to each one. Say you have three fathers: one coaches his kid’s Little League team; one shows up to the games and cheers the kid on from the sidelines; and the other drops his kid off at practice. Is there any data to suggest that a kid’s long-term success is determined or even influenced by which type of father he has?

    And the answer, from each of the experts, was the same: nope, none, zero.

  • What Happens When You Enter the Witness Protection Program?
    I was expecting this article to have all sorts of Hollywood stories about criminals being whisked away, and having to live a new life; but no, the focus is mainly about the program itself rather than interesting plot twists

    The Witness Protection Program does face new challenges since its mob heyday and the period described in WITSEC (Shur retired in the 1990s). The first that most consider is the impact of the Internet. Even if it still seems ordinary for an adult in a small town not to use social networks, risk is amplified by the increasing number of digital traces our lives create. In addition, companies and organizations now have much higher expectations for finding a paper trail (or digital record) for any individual, making it harder to create a credible new identity.

  • Why Chinese patients are turning against their doctors.
    Usually when you read about problems in China, it’s about pollution or free speech. Here’s an interesting look at their medical system.

    I heard countless tales of overwork among Chinese doctors. A leading radiologist in Shanghai told me he’d heard that the record number of patients seen in a day is three hundred and fourteen. “That was at the Shanghai Children’s Hospital,” he said. “One doctor, 8 A.M. to 6 P.M., ten hours, two minutes per patient.” According to a study conducted in Shaanxi province, the average visit to a doctor’s office lasts seven minutes, and physicians spend only one and a half minutes of that time talking to the patient. As a result, patients tend to be pushy, crowding in doorways and entering without knocking. Joe Passanante, a doctor from Chicago who did a stint at Beijing United Family Hospital, told me that he was once performing CPR on a woman when the parents of a girl with a fever walked into the room. “Here I am pushing on a dead person’s chest, trying to revive her, and they’re asking me to see their daughter,” he recalled.

  • Why do we have blood types?
    Interesting article about the evolutionary reasons why we have blood types – and the pitfalls in our civilization before we realized the concept of blood types

    Landsteiner found that the clumping occurred only if he mixed certain people’s blood together. By working through all the combinations, he sorted his subjects into three groups. He gave them the entirely arbitrary names of A, B and C. (Later on C was renamed O, and a few years later other researchers discovered the AB group. By the middle of the 20th century the American researcher Philip Levine had discovered another way to categorise blood, based on whether it had the Rh blood factor. A plus or minus sign at the end of Landsteiner’s letters indicates whether a person has the factor or not.)


  • Are the robots about to rise? Google’s new director of engineering thinks so…
    Ray Kurzweil is a new Director of Engineering at Google whose mission is to “bring natural language understanding to Google”. But he thinks that robots will pass the Turing test by 2023 so is that all he is doing there?

    Peter Norvig, Google’s research director, said recently that the company employs “less than 50% but certainly more than 5%” of the world’s leading experts on machine learning. And that was before it bought DeepMind which, it should be noted, agreed to the deal with the proviso that Google set up an ethics board to look at the question of what machine learning will actually mean when it’s in the hands of what has become the most powerful company on the planet. Of what machine learning might look like when the machines have learned to make their own decisions. Or gained, what we humans call, “consciousness”.

  • My Life and Times in Chinese TV
    What it it like working as a Western-educated intern at a state-run TV station in China? Surprisingly dull

    In the SMG car that she told to drop me off at the subway, before returning to the office to file her tapes, Zhang Xian explained that what we had just shot would not appear on ICS for a few weeks—until long after Burn the Floor had left the country. The point was not to inform viewers about a specific cultural event that they could attend, but to record that such an event had happened, and let the ICS audience participate in two to two and a half minutes of its afterglow.

  • Street Fighter: The Movie — What went wrong
    This article looks at why the first Street Fighter movie was so horrible. But it reads like a fluff piece. The director did no wrong, but it was a combination of stakeholders, schedule, poorly behaving actors, and luck that did it in. I’m not so sure about that. Also the writing was pretty bad and given that the director was also the writer, I’m not sure he should get a pass at it.
  • The Flight of the Birdman: Flappy Bird Creator Dong Nguyen Speaks Out
    A quick look at the person who made Flappy Bird.

    As news hit of how much money Nguyen was making, his face appeared in the Vietnamese papers and on TV, which was how his mom and dad first learned their son had made the game. The local paparazzi soon besieged his parents’ house, and he couldn’t go out unnoticed. While this might seem a small price to pay for such fame and fortune, for Nguyen the attention felt suffocating. “It is something I never want,” he tweeted. “Please give me peace.”

  • How clones, fear, sanitisation and free-to-play soured Apple’s iOS gaming revolution
    The mobile game industry sucks, basically because of clones and freemium games. Here’s some more indepth analysis into that

    Lovell puts this kind of risk aversion down to “creative fear”. “A lot of my clients are starting with an endless runner simply because they want to learn the free-to-play business in a known genre,” he says. “Think of it like a journeyman wood maker who had to do some basic pieces in order to understand his craft.”


Even before I went on vacation this year, my (second) cheap Chinese tablet was broken. It somehow got itself into an endless boot loop where it would hang at one of two logos during boot (the fullscreen image or the animated Android word logo). To be honest, I wasn’t actually using that tablet much except to play my alt Happy Street account so it wasn’t actually a big loss that I couldn’t get it to work – it just irritates me that it somehow broke.

I’ve been trying to fix it on and off for awhile now; again, not too seriously because I don’t actually need to use it. But when I did try it, I wasn’t getting much success. I knew that I had exactly the Eken T10A tablet, and although it is relatively popular, there weren’t a lot of posts on how to solve my problem. I finally solved my problem this past week, and factory reset the tablet. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Download the AllWinner A10 drivers (link from this post)
  2. Download Livesuit (link from this post)
  3. Download firmware for the Eken T10A – I used this one, which I think is for the T10 but it seemed to load fine. But I didn’t do a full test of the device to see whether it provided all the necessary drivers.
  4. Use a Win7 or earlier computer so you can load the unsigned drivers for the device
  5. Follow these instructions to flash the firmware using Livesuit (especially the one where you have to press the power button once ever second until the dialog box pops up)

After this headache, I’m kind of through with cheap Chinese devices. I couldn’t even find a recovery image for this Eken T10A! Nexus-level devices are now pretty cheap and there are many more hackers using those (and thus better support) so I’m just going to get those when I have techlust.


I buy lots of stuff from China – nothing important, just various electronics and plastic-based merchandise that is extremely cheap to produce over there. Typically for small things, my go-to source is to look for it on DealExtreme.

I’ve had good success with DX, so I have confidence when buying from there. I’ve bought from other China-based sites before, but because so many pop up and disappear, I’m not sure whether they’re trustworthy or not. With DX, even though sometimes the prices are a few dollars higher, I’m relatively certain that I will get the item in about 3 weeks (I’ve experienced a couple of DOAs or missing packages, but usually they refund my money or send it out again).

In fact, I buy from DX so often that I started getting curious. How much money have I spent propping up the manufacturing industry of China? Luckily for me, I have PayPal records of all my purchases so I spent an evening entering the data into a spreadsheet.

Since August 2007, I’ve made 62 different orders at DealExtreme. I typically try and batch my orders so that they’re less than $20 in value (to avoid custom fees). Even then, 60+ orders is a lot – and comes up to just over $1000 USD spent at DealExtreme! $1000 seems like a lot of USB cables and various electronic knick-knacks, but I’ve bought some more expensive items, such as a lot of LED light bulbs, EZ-Flash, and some musical instruments. In total, I’ve bought 197 items from DX.

Crossing that $1000 threshold surprised me, but I don’t think I’m going to stop buying from China. Besides, that’s just a year worth of Starbucks, and I get much more happiness out of random stuff from China.


I ended up buying this knockoff of the Grand Carrera Calibre 36 even though I didn’t really want to. Well initially I wanted to buy it, but then I bought a whole bunch of real and fake watches in a flurry, so now have a surplus of watches and insufficient time to wear them.

The reason why I bought this watch was because I had a $10 coupon due to my other counterfeit Carrera being broken on arrival. I complained to the site and they offered me a $10 coupon to “fix the watch”, but of course I had to buy something to get the money. So I ended up getting this watch for around $30 instead.

It looks like its real, and is pretty massive. I sprang for the version that shows the date for an extra few bucks and it seems to work. But I just haven’t had the opportunity to wear it to really know whether it’s a good knockoff or not. Sigh, such problems.


While I was looking at military watches and NATO straps, I ended up buying a cheap Chinese automatic for only $12 shipped! I can’t believe it actually keeps time (well I haven’t worn it enough to really know). Here’s what I looks like:

I actually like how it looks! Now I just need to get a good NATO strap to go with it, and find time to wear this watch…

The only bad part about this watch, given the price, is that there is an awful Winner logo on it. That’s another Chinese watch company, but I don’t feel it fits with the watch so would rather it not be there.


Last year, when I bought this Eyki watch, I started researching the Chinese watch company. They made some decently designed watches, and one that caught my eye was their Hamilton Ventura “tribute”. The Ventura is an iconic watch because it’s shaped as a triangle – even if you’re not a watch fan, you might recognize it because it is the watch that the MIB wear!

It’s not a counterfeit but rather a tribute because while Eyki gathered inspiration from the Ventura, it bears its own name and design. However, it is clearly modeled after the Ventura so I’m not sure how they can get away with it (maybe they are protected because they are in China). Anyways, I wanted one so I bought one on Ebay for about $60.

After I received it in the mail, I was a bit perturbed by a few things:

  • The case height is really high, especially compared to the surface area of the watch
  • The band sucks (no surprise since it came from China) and I ended up buying a couple of bands (one metal, one a better leather) but it still didn’t look or fit right on my wrist. I think the fit of the bands were thrown off because the watch is so small

I ended up putting a NATO strap on it and it’s wearable. I still think it’s cool, but the execution is lacking. Of course, I wouldn’t spend a couple of hundred on a real Ventura so I’m not losing out.


I was browsing around on a Chinese knockoff site when I came across a sale on this watch – it was going for $30-something from $80. I didn’t know the brand but liked how it was clean and crisp with a high contrast dial. I didn’t need that many complications, just the time and date are fine!

Later after ordering it, I found that that it was a replica of a Bell & Ross, specifically this one. On some random website, it goes for more than 3000 pounds, but who knows if that is true.

It arrived after a month and looks to me like a pretty good replica. There are lots of text and finishings that seem accurate, but who knows for sure because I’m not going to get the real version! Good thing it didn’t come broken like my last watch because I’m not supposed to unscrew the back.

One knock against this watch is that it is too big for my wrist. It’s not as big as some of the large watches that I’ve seen (i.e., not the size of a pop can) but it’s still a big square on my wrist which doesn’t sit flush. The glass is also not glass – it’s just plastic. Well you can’t expect too much from a $30 automatic, at least it wasn’t $80!


Earlier this year, I bought a counterfeit Tag Heuer from China for about $40 (instead of ~$3000). I liked the design of the watch, and it’s too bad that it’s a counterfeit otherwise I’d be happy to wear it all the time. On the other hand, one of the reasons that I bought it was that it is a relatively accurate copy of the Carrera Calibre 16 – you can see that the band isn’t a generic Chinese one.

Of course after I decided to buy it, I had to wait a month for it to arrive. Finally it did, and when I opened the package, I noticed that one of the smaller hands had fallen off! I sent an email back for an exchange, but wasn’t expecting a quick reply (it was right during the Chinese New Year break). Instead I tried my hand at fixing it myself. I was able to open it and found that the hand had snapped off!

In the end, I was able to fix it with some super glue. At least without close inspection you don’t know anything is wrong.

Overall, the operation of the watch is not bad. It’s not too thick and is an automatic which I fancy. If it wasn’t a counterfeit I would wear it everyday (until I get a cooler one)