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San Francisco, USA

 

Solve Puzzle While You Are Sleeping

Monday my colleague reports a severe problem in our test system. I checked in some incomplete work and it breaks the test system. Strange that no QA has reported the problem even though the problem has originated one week ago. Nevertheless I fixed it right away. Then I moved on to other task without giving it much through.

But something does not seem right. Why was the problem not surfaced on the QA system? I was rather confused. Then it dawn on me what has happened. There was a series of confusions regarding the software branches and the timing of release. My fix was checked into a wrong branch. The QA is testing a version that's different from the version that's going to be deployed. My fix yesterday is actually going to break more things. And it will be deployed without properly tested!

The thought of this immediately wakes me up at night. I got out of bed to fix the problem around 6am.

Did I mention I was literally awaken? All the reasoning in the second paragraph appear to happen during my dream. I have straighten out a confusing sequence of events that explains the problem. The thought of serious consequence when deployed to production has waken me up. The first thing I do is to fix the problem right away. The second thing I do is to reflect on the strangeness of this. What was my brain doing when I was sleeping? Does a brain work in autopilot mode that resolved a problem I couldn't resolve during the day? Or perhaps I just couldn't relax and brought my day time problem into my sleep?

2011.11.29 [, ] - comments

 

I Love Holiday Weekend

The roads are clear. Parking is easy to find. I walk into restaurants without waiting in line. Crowds thin out as everybody left town. Those of us who stay enjoy a much quieter town.

People return home to spend time with their family. While some folks who have left San Francisco maybe returning to their family here, on the balance there must be more people who go away then returning. As the city feels so quiet during the holidays.

Since people migrates to large city region for economic opportunities. Perhaps one indicator of the city's vibrancy and the degree it attracts migrant workers is to see if it turns into a ghost town during long holidays.

2011.11.27 [] - comments

 

Life Affirming - Million Dollar Baby

... Spoiler Alert ...
Continue reading after you've seen the movie.

Million Dollar Baby starts off like a female version of Rocky. Maggie is an aspiring boxer, endowed with little besides a stubborn determination. She pester the unwilling coach Frankie to train her. Finally she has overcome his reluctance and eventually fight her way up to challenge the championship. Then the movie takes a sharp turn when an accident in the boxing ring has badly injured her. Rather than accepting life in her now paralyzed body, she requested to be relieved from the lesser existence.

To me the story of Maggie is a life affirming story.

For most of history, the nature decides who lives and who dies. If an injury does not kill you, the starvation will. Modern technology changed this and in many cases allow us to sustain life for as long as one is willing. Our culture tell us to delay death at all cost. Even the most diminished patient can now be sustained. So much that what is considered life should perhaps be called "not-dead". When life is reduced to mere not-dead, this is actually a desecration of life.

Maggie recognizes that there is vitality in a worthy life. She has the vitality once. But it is unfortunately now lost. By rejecting "not-dead" in her self-assured way, she honors the life she has lived. Paradoxically, this makes it a really life affirming story.

2011.11.26 [, ] - comments

 

Inglorious Basterds

Shoshanna

Inglorious Basterds is one of Quentin Tarantino's most successful film to date. Many of his distinct elements are in his film. Dark comedies, absurd situations when everything that can go wrong goes horribly wrong. There are clever dialogs, gun fight, violence and cruelty. Even the scene with three people point gun at each other, a tribute to Ringo Lam's City of Fire and a scene that appeared in his first film Reservoir Dogs, is used in the tavern scene. But there is one difference that makes Inglorious Basterds better than his previous films, it transcends.

... Spoiler Alert ...
Continue reading after you've seen the movie.

"You can end the war tonight", that was the question posed in the movie. In Inglorious Basterds, the history of World War II has been fictionalized. The familiar story is instead rewritten into something entirely different. Why? In that scene in the interrogation room a few people has the power to decide the course of history. Isn't it wonderful if there can be a button to push? A single act that will relieve us from suffering, liberate us from our worst nightmare, and turn things around for the better? I am quite taken by the idea. By constructing an alternative reality, Tarantino bring a fresh possibility into our mind. For this I find this film transcend us to a new level.

Marcel

Of course the movie is superb throughout. There are memorable scenes one after another. Col. Hans Landa is one of the most fearsome character who's smile send chill down to your spine. There is the tense tavern scene and its unimaginable aftermath. There is Shoshanna in her red gown, standing in front of large circular window in the projection room. There is the botched Italian impersonation. And then there is the accidental hero Marcel, or rather the accidental martyr. History has called upon him and he accomplished his duty in one of the coolest cinematic scene by ejecting his cigarette butt.

There is a scene I only catch in the second viewing. In the projection room when Zoller turned up in an inconvenient moment, Shoshanna shoot him. She then turn away from his inanimate body to take a glance to the auditorium. There he was, Zoller's face is on the silver screen. His pensive expression speaks to Shoshanna after he was shot. The projection room drama is a great tragedy I will remember.

2011.11.24 [] - comments

 

2011-11 Reading List

This is one year after I acquired the Kindle reader. It spurs a great push for me to read lots of ebook as well as paper books. I have a great run in the last 3 months. Many of these books below are from library loan. Still I manage to complete them under the 3 week loan limit, including Daniel Yergin's 800 page treatise "The Quest".

Reality Is Broken:
Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

By Jane McGonigal (2011)

Great insight in computer game and how it motivates us. See my October review.


The Great Reset Cover

The Great Reset:
How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity

By Richard Florida (2010)

Reflect upon the global financial crisis in the late 2000s, economist Richard Florida contend that it is one of the "reset" period in history when old economic order are disrupted and out of it a new economic order will ultimately flourish. He continue to champion the idea of creative class and regional economy. He argues we should move beyond the old American Dream of home ownership and suburban life into the creative economy of the 21st century.


4 Hour 4-Hour Body
By Tim Ferriss (2010)

Tim Ferriss' book promises rapid weight loss with little exercise and no diet. This sounds like snake oil salesman to me. I would not pay attention to him if I have not went to his talk in the respected SALT Seminar in San Francisco. After that I borrowed this brick side book on fitness and all kind of superhuman achievement and skim through it. It still sounds like snake oil salesmen to me. I am not interested in weight loss. I just try to find a few nugget to improve physical fitness. The few things about endurance are either too technical or not at all as easy as he make it to be. No free lunch as I always know.


What Should I Do with My Life?
By Po Bronson (2005)

I quit reading this book about one quarter of way, like walking out of the cinema in a really bad movie. The book's idea is Po Bronson interviews many seemingly ordinary people. In each of them Bronson find a life story to tell and important life decision to make. This concept has never worked. He is really molding other people's story into his narrative, portrait them as lost soul in need of his counseling. Big disappointment.


les camarade de classe cover

同班同學
By 柴門ふみ (1995)

An magnificent manga of matured theme. Two young lovers graduated from college, decided to break up, and each individual have to navigated their way in the new corporate world. Even as new love enter their life, the past romance is etched in their memory and never has faded. I first read this almost 20 years ago while I was in college. I finished the two volume manga in one stretch and was left misty eyed.


Mid-Century by the Bay Cover

Mid-Century by the Bay
by Heather David (2010)

It is a celebration of the San Francisco Bay Area architecture in the 1950s and 1960s. Heather David's picture book introduce us to the modernist, suburban architecture style she called mid-century. She bring us back to a time when the world war II has ended and country was in the midst of an economic boom, an era of optimism and suburban expansion.

Those buildings that remain standing after half century have become dilapidated. This book remind us of their glory days and call for their preservation. For me I enjoy looking back at these architecture just one or two generation ago. But as a product of suburban and car worship era, I am not enamored with it either.


The Quest Cover

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World
By Daniel Yergin (2011)

Congratulations to Daniel Yergin for publishing his seminal work on energy, a subject of central importance to modern society. Se my full review on Amazon.

2011.11.20 [] - comments

 

A Program That Output Itself

Long time ago my schoolmate pose a challenge, write a program those output is itself. I take on the challenge think I'm fairly good in programming and mathematics. But I can never get it right and this problem haunted me for many years.

def rep(template):
    print template + 'rep(' + '"'*3 + template + '"'*3 + ")"

rep("""def rep(template):
    print template + 'rep(' + '"'*3 + template + '"'*3 + ")"

""")

Now that I'm reading Gödel, Escher, Bach I finally beginning to learn the technique. I am really happy to finally successfully written the program that output itself in Python above!

2011.11.17 [] - comments

 

La maison en petits cubes 『つみきのいえ』

This week is my movie week. I want to talk about films that really affect me.

La Maison en Petits Cubes

La maison en petits cubesつみきのいえ』 is a hauntingly beautiful and deeply emotional short animation by the Japanese animator Kunio Katō. It takes place in an imagination world where rising water are submerging homes. The old man hang in by building a new story over the roof. The story takes us on a surprising and emotional journey, accompany by no dialog but a melancholy score.

2011.11.12 [] - comments

 

行行重行行

行行正在學行,讓我吟古詩一首《行行重行行》以作鼓勵:)

行行重行行,與君生別離。
相去萬餘里,各在天一涯。
道路阻且長,會面安可知。
胡馬依北風,越鳥巢南枝。
相去日已遠,衣帶日已緩。
浮雲蔽白日,游子不顧返。
思君令人老,歲月忽已晚。
棄捐勿復道,努力加餐飯。

2011.11.10 [] - comments

 

Two Piece of Intriguing Science News

From crowdsourcing to crime-sourcing: The rise of distributed criminality - Just as legitimate business and public benefit from Internet based collaboration, criminals are increasingly using Internet to distribute operation to players all over the world. A credit card stealing operation can become a collaboration in a crime network of different specialities, like phishing, botnet rental (cloud computing?) and money laundering (financial services). Just as technologies revolutionizing our life, it is also empowering criminals. [more...]

2011.11.03 [] - comments

 

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