August 2009


I’ve never been to a gym.

So I’ll die 5 years earlier than you. Send me some flowers at the funeral, will ya?

But I’d sign up for a swimming treadmill gym in a snap.

A good one costs about $25,000.

With $100 monthly fee, 12 hours a day, 4 slots per hour, it takes less than half a year to recuperate the device price.

There are of course a lot of other costs (rent, electricity, water, repair, staff, etc). But if you can get a volume discount on the device and flexible plans to get more people to join at lesser fee, it may look like an ATM after a year or so.

If you have a few million dollars in your mattress, leave a comment.

(Way out of date, but what the heck.)

A very funny blog from a friend, but too much cliche and too far from truth (as if I know it).

I-bankers are not the cause of the current crisis, nor are they getting the most part of the “undeserved” bonuses, or have they ever been. At least if you define “i-banker” in the traditional and strict sense.

I-bankers mostly do IPOs and other security issurance, and deals (merger and aquisition). They do get outrageous commision, but that’s only one sea in the vast financial oceans.

Senior execs, traders, and quants are the driving force of the industry, and they get the lion share of compensation.

Now even people from Rwanda know that the current global economy crisis roots from mortgage-backed securities. But that’s just one manifest of the massive and inherent problems of derivatives modeling and trading.

The now defunct i-banks used to have most of their business in traditional i-banking and as broker/dealer, which is to help clients (institutional and individual investors) trade. Then they discovered the amazing power of computers and mathematicians, and started to use their own money (proprietary trading) and clients’ money (asset management) to trade securities, based on ever complicating models.

Goldman Sachs (and earlier killers like Salomon) made a killing. Everybody followed suit. They have to keep finding new things to trade, as arbitrage disappears and profit margin thins in established markets as they become well-known and level playing fields, and dinosaur banks move in.

Then climates changes and extinction comes.

From Hungry Ghosts By Jasper Becker, False Science False Promises:

China also experienced major setbacks when she tried to mass produce and use machinery based on impractical designs. … Another was a special Soviet plough designed for deep ploughing. The Chinese version, the double-share plough, cost ten times as much as a traditional plough but proved unsuitable for the terraces and paddy fields of southern China: 700,000 had to be withdrawn from use and melted down again.

My parents were amazing namers. That’s so me: I cost a lot, and I’m unsuitable for my environment.

Recall me.

不记得从哪个博客上看到介绍,去年托人带来,刚刚有机会看。何先生翻译的罗素《西方哲学史》我大概这辈子看不完了。在清华时竟然不知道他,太惭愧了。

最好看的当然是联大那一段(比如解聘刘文典、吴晗鼠窜),可是之前讲小学中学时也有许多历史珍闻,比如:

北洋政府和国民党政府有很大的不同。国民党注重意识形态,一党专政,个人独裁,以俄为师。孙中山说“民生主义就是共产主义”,蒋介石反共,但是独裁依旧。20世纪二三十年代,英美大萧条,专制独裁是世界性潮流,所以可以理解孙中山。北洋军阀不懂意识形态,所以五四运动才得以发动。北伐以后童子军军歌有一句“我们是三民主义的少年兵”。

正对少先队队歌第一句,我晕!

看完后在网上有找了找,得知翻译西哲史的缘起

50年代,罗素在西方宣传和平运动,就是反美国霸权。所以我们很喜欢,邀请他来中国,他也答应了。可他九十多岁了,身体不行没来成,把自己的《西方哲学史》送了一本给毛泽东。毛把书交给下面的人,要他们翻译出来。那时的出版社出什么类的书,规定很严格的,所有的外文翻译都是商务的事。书交到商务印书馆,商务因为跟我合作过,又交给我,任务就是这样一层层派下去的。我译了前面一部分,后面的也懒得搞了。这事儿到了文革,毛泽东思想工宣队,按说当然是维护毛泽东思想的,说罗素是资产阶级,我翻译他的书就是“为中国资本主义复辟招魂”。

豆瓣的一条评论更有些细节:“何先生的中学、大学同学骆静兰女士,时任商务印书馆的副总编辑···来问老同学有没有兴趣翻译罗素的这本书。因为这是工作之外的“私活”,最后何先生只接了上册的一半,另一半商务委托了南开大学的李约瑟教授(此李约瑟非彼李约瑟,这位李教授已故,其公子任职国家图书馆)。”终于了结了我多年来关于Joseph Needham为什么会去翻西哲史的疑惑。

头文中另有两句印象深刻,一说解放后历史“研究”是“给你一个论点,一个结论,你从史实中找点能证明的例子。这不是研究,而是宣传工作。”还有最后一句“我们这一代人是报废的,比我年轻的那一代人基本上也是报废了的。报废了。”

回来说联大。那是怎样的地方啊!八年中达到了人类历史上空前绝后的学识密度。三位校长蒋梦麟、梅贻琦、张伯苓都没有多少学术成就,可是执掌三所大学共达51年(15、17、29),该是世界大学史上的奇闻。五个学院如此:

  • 文:院长冯友兰,历史系钱穆、陈寅恪,哲学系,中文系朱自清、闻一多、沈从文,外文系吴宓、卞之琳、钱钟书
  • 理:数学系陈省身、华罗庚、许宝騄,物理系叶企孙、吴有训、饶毓泰、吴大猷、周培源,化学系曾昭抡
  • 法商:院长陈序经、周炳琳,芮沐
  • 师范

学生就不列了吧。

何先生的同屋是汪曾祺,家里正好有他的文选,看看很舒服,老老实实讲故事、谈天说地,自有一股不俗的人情。后来看阿城文集,对汪推崇备至,说是极少没有文艺腔的作家。

This must be one of the most delicious books ever. As usual I was reading it on my evening commute, and boy did it make me hungry. The book isn’t particularly well written, but those things would look just as delicious in a People’s Daily editorial.

There are a few obvious omissions of famous gourmet materials, as the author mentions, e.g. olive oil and foie gras. His criteria for inclusion is more about exclusiveness: there’s only one place in the world that can possibly produce it.

This post is simply a note. The story of each one can easily fill a book.

Aceta Balsamic Tradizionale di Modena

  • Material: Trebbiano, lambrusco grape
  • Environment: Wood barrels in attic
  • Production time: >= 12 years. > 25: Extra Vecchio
  • Production volume: 20,000 100ml bottles
  • Brand: Acetaia Malpighi, Acetaia del Cristol
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Roast vegetable, Parmesan cheese, strawberry
  • Comparable: Aceta Balsamic Tradizionale di Reggio-Emilia
Balsamic

(brochure)

Huître Bélon de Bretagne

  • Material: Ostrea Edulis
  • Environment: Brittany seashore, then Bélon river head
  • Production time: 18 months in the sea, 2 months in river
  • Production volume: 1000 tons
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Chablis white wine
oyster
(image)

Poulet de Bresse

  • Material: 2kg (sans feathers and intestines)
  • Environment: Grassland, 5000m2/500 chicken, fed with corn and milk
  • Production time: 5 weeks in house, 9 weeks on grass, 2 weeks in epinette
  • Production volume: 1 million
  • Brand: Chapon de Bresse (osten) > 3kg; Poularde de Bresse (fat hen)
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: roast
chicken

Fleur de sel de Guérande

  • Material: sea water
  • Environment: 1000 acre, 7820 oeillet
  • Production time: 2 large tides/month; 5 days to oeillet
  • Production volume: 10,000 tons of salt; 200-400 tons of fleur
  • Brand: Le Guérandais
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: as condiment
  • Comparable: Ile de Noirmoutier, Ile de Ré, Ria Formosa, Camargue
salt

Jamón Ibérico de Jabugo

  • Material: Iberia pig (pata negra, “black-foot”) 150-180kg, leg 10kg
  • Environment: Dehesa (acorn wood), 1 hectare/pig
  • Production time: 18 months live, Salt 1day/kg, Dry 3 months/kg, Cellar 6-18 months
  • Brand: Grade: Bellota > recebo > cebo/campo/pienso. Region: Huelva, Guijuelo, Extremadura, Pedroches
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Fino/manzanilla sherry, La Rioja red wine
  • Comparable: Prosciutto de Parma, Prosciutto de San Daniele, Jamón Serrano de Trevélez
JamonIberico

(
image)

Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • Material: 16l milk makes 1kg
  • Environment:
  • Production time: 1-1.5 years: fresco, 1.4-2: vecchio (best), 2-3: stravecchio
  • Production volume: 300,000 cubes
  • Brand:
  • Cooking and gourmet companion:
  • Comparable: Grana Padano, Lodiagiano, Trentino
parmesan

Roquefort

  • Material: Lacaune sheep, 5kg milk makes 1kg, Penicillium roqueforti
  • Environment: Causse, Fleurine
  • Production time: 4-9 months
  • Production volume:
  • Brand: Société des Caves, Papillon (black is best), Cabriel Coulet
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Sauternes, Pecan, grape
  • Comparable: Bleu d’Auvergne, Blue des Causses, Gorgonzola, Cabrales
Roquefort

Tartufo bianco di Alba;
Truffe noire du Perigord

  • Material: truffle
  • Environment: Loose gravel ground, acorn wood
  • Production time: 1 year
  • Production volume: white 2000kg, black 30,000 kg
  • Brand:
  • Cooking and gourmet companion: Demi-deuil, Risotto
  • Comparable: Champignon Terfez, Tuber aestivum
white truffle

black truffle

Boy am I glad I’m in!

Wall

Top 50 Quality of Life Cities (from here):

Rank 2009

Rank 2008

City

Country

Index 2009

Index 2008

1

2

VIENNA

AUSTRIA

108.6

107.9

2

1

ZURICH

SWITZERLAND

108

108

3

2

GENEVA

SWITZERLAND

107.9

107.9

4

4

VANCOUVER

CANADA

107.4

107.6

4

5

AUCKLAND

NEW ZEALAND

107.4

107.3

6

6

DUSSELDORF

GERMANY

107.2

107.2

7

7

MUNICH

GERMANY

107

107

8

7

FRANKFURT

GERMANY

106.8

107

9

9

BERN

SWITZERLAND

106.5

106.5

10

10

SYDNEY

AUSTRALIA

106.3

106.3

11

11

COPENHAGEN

DENMARK

106.2

106.2

12

12

WELLINGTON

NEW ZEALAND

105.9

105.8

13

13

AMSTERDAM

NETHERLANDS

105.7

105.7

14

14

BRUSSELS

BELGIUM

105.4

105.4

15

15

TORONTO

CANADA

105.3

105.3

16

19

OTTAWA

CANADA

105

104.7

16

16

BERLIN

GERMANY

105

105

18

17

MELBOURNE

AUSTRALIA

104.8

104.8

19

17

LUXEMBOURG

LUXEMBOURG

104.6

104.8

20

20

STOCKHOLM

SWEDEN

104.5

104.5

21

21

PERTH

AUSTRALIA

104.3

104.3

22

22

MONTREAL

CANADA

104.2

104.2

23

23

NURNBERG

GERMANY

104.1

104.1

24

24

OSLO

NORWAY

103.7

103.7

25

25

DUBLIN

IRELAND

103.6

103.5

26

32

SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE

103.5

102.9

26

25

CALGARY

CANADA

103.5

103.5

28

27

HAMBURG

GERMANY

103.4

103.4

29

28

HONOLULU, HI

UNITED STATES

103.1

103.1

30

29

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

UNITED STATES

103

103

30

29

HELSINKI

FINLAND

103

103

30

29

ADELAIDE

AUSTRALIA

103

103

33

32

PARIS

FRANCE

102.9

102.9

34

34

BRISBANE

AUSTRALIA

102.4

102.4

35

35

TOKYO

JAPAN

102.2

102.2

35

37

BOSTON, MA

UNITED STATES

102.2

101.8

37

36

LYON

FRANCE

101.9

101.9

38

38

YOKOHAMA

JAPAN

101.6

101.6

38

38

LONDON

UNITED KINGDOM

101.6

101.6

40

40

KOBE

JAPAN

100.9

100.9

41

41

MILAN

ITALY

100.8

100.8

42

48

PORTLAND, OR

UNITED STATES

100.6

100.2

42

42

BARCELONA

SPAIN

100.6

100.6

44

44

WASHINGTON, DC

UNITED STATES

100.3

100.3

44

44

OSAKA

JAPAN

100.3

100.3

44

44

LISBON

PORTUGAL

100.3

100.3

44

44

CHICAGO, IL

UNITED STATES

100.3

100.3

48

43

MADRID

SPAIN

100.2

100.5

49

49

NEW YORK CITY, NY

UNITED STATES

100

100

50

50

SEATTLE, WA

UNITED STATES

99.8

99.8

Can you spot the only one outside the Wall?

My aunt has been teaching technologies in Beijing Film Academy for many years. She was an early (for China) proponent of digital film making, and a few years ago she asked me to get her Cinefex so she doesn’t have to fight other people for getting it from the library. I don’t know other specialized magazines, but every issue of the quarterly Cinefex is like an art book. I enjoyed flipping the pages to see the amazing FX/CGI shots, and learned the basic storyline about some latest movies.

One of the few things I really learned is that an FX shot sometimes doesn’t look like FX at all, and those are probably the hardest ones to make. A funny anti-sample is that Peter Jackson said among all the things he did for Lord of the Ring, including adjusting color tint for almost every shot, he did NOT do anything to Frodo Baggins’ blue eyes.

Still, I was surprised to see a cover of an old-aged Benjamin Button. What’s special about a makeup?

Turns out it’s a very significant milestone in FX. We’re probably still many years from a really convincing 100% CG head (Final Fantasy was a decent try), but BB shows that we can already do CG head tracked to human almost perfectly.

The movie itself was a bit lame, as the concept is way too bizarre, and it’s pretty absurd and pretentious when the artificially young and handsome Brad Pitt tried to act and speak with 60 years of life experiences. So when I first watched it without knowing the FX behind it, I was really bored. I didn’t see any FX, and that’s the best FX there possibly can be.