Thursday, October 11, 2012


When are people going to realize that HTC is not a Taiwanese company, Samsung is not a Korean company, and Sony is not a Japanese company. They each has capital, stock holders, employees, materials, factories, and customers worldwide. HTC and Taiwan mutually do not belong to each other, nor do they represent each other.

Consumer electronics have been reduced to mere instruments to vent nationalist sentiments. Mob justice like that is the Boxer Rebellion in the 21 century.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The United States, the Soviet Union, Genghis Khan, and algorithm

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (1863-1944)
A Russian photographer and a pioneer of color photography. His technique was to shoot black-and-white photos of the same object three times, each with a red, green, and blue filter. Between 1909 and 1915, he documented the people, the landscape, and the culture throughout the empire. His dream was to educate the schoolchildren of Russia, when color projector became available one day, of the vast and diverse history, culture, and modernization of the empire.
Mohammed Alim Khan (1880-1944)
The last emir of the Emirate of Bukhara. The emirate had became a Russian protectorate before he was born. The emir is claimed to be a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. He succeeded his father in 1911.
He arrived at Bukhara in 1911 and took a set of photos of the emir Alim Khan.Photographer Prokudin-Gorsky took pictures of him in 1911.
Revolution happened in 1917Revolution happened in 1917
Prokudin-Gorsky was appointed to a new professorship under the new regime, but he left the country in 1918. He settled down in Paris in 1922.The Red Army could not take Bukhara in 1918. They did in 1920. Alim Khan fled to Afghanistan eventually.
Died in 1944Died in 1944
The Library of Congress of the United States purchased his work from his heirs in 1948. In the early 21st century, assembling his photos has become exercises in computer science algorithm in many universities.Alim Khan's daughter Shukria Raad Alimi worked as a broadcaster in Afghanistan. She left Afghanistan with her family three months after the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979, and landed the United States eventually. She joined Voice of America in 1982.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Olympics, Politics, and the true nature of Pan-Blue and Pan-Green

The Olympics is a sports event? Of course not. The Olympics must be politicized. It would be foolish for politicians to not fully capitalize an event that happens only once every 4 years. In 1936, Nazi Germany used the Game to showcase their National Socialism. In response, the Soviet Union, Spain, and some individual Jewish Americans boycotted the Game. In the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, the student movement flew a black-dove-shaped kite in protest of the Tlatelolco massacre, two African Americans raised their fists in black gloves during the medal ceremony for the civil right movement, and Czechoslovakian athlete Věra Čáslavská turned her head down while the Soviet Anthem was played, in protest of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to suppress the Prague Spring. In the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the United States led her allies to boycott the Game in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union led her allies to retaliate in 1984. The most peculiar of all is the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Almost all African countries boycotted the Game because the IOC refused to ban New Zealand, whose rugby team had been touring South Africa, a country that had the apartheid policy.

In 2012, there are at least 4 incidents about flags
The civil war is still on-going. A report in May hinted that the Syrian athletes may bear the neutral Olympics five-ring flag. But it turned out that they still used the existing flag.
The ship has sailed, but forces of the old faction still try to stop the athletes from bearing the new flag by kidnapping the president of the Olympics Committee of their country.
I believe it's an honest mistake
Same old same old

For the very last item, the debate is getting really old. In the article "Political Symmetry", I have pointed out that on the subject of the Flag of Republic of China, Pan-Green likes to criticize Pan-Blue for "loving to use them for the most part, but would compromise in an international setting or when encountering the Communist", and inversely Pan-Blue would criticize Pan-Green for "normally not using them, except in an international setting or when encountering the Communist". Because of this symmetry, both sides get to say what they say in an infinite loop. Such infinite loop is not without precedence, to say the least.

What I'm trying to say is not "Because this is so cliché, so stop talking about it". It would sound like I'm trying to avoid a certain topic. I'd like to offer an alternative perspective, something that the Facebook populace has not said. I'd like to reveal the true faces of Pan-Green and Pan-Blue.

Chen Shui-bian visited New York in 2003
Everyone knows that the Pan-Green never liked symbols or icons related to the "Republic of China" or the Flag that is "Blue Sky, White Sun, and a Wholly Red Earth". On the contrary, they prefer symbols and icons that is green in principle, or with the outline of Taiwan. Such claim can be seen from the picture to the right where "overseas Taiwanese" welcomed Chen Shui-bian in New York. The only problem is that factions of Pan-Green have not agreed on a single flag that is commonly recognizable and satisfy the desirable traits. So the second best option is the Blue-White-and-Red Flag of Republic of China, which is a commonly recognizable icon for Taiwan. They would stop using the Flag when it cannot be used as a weapon against Pan-Blue, because they don't like the Flag fundamentally, much like the HK-ers using the Flag in 7-1 Rallies as a mere instrument against the Beijing government (see picture). Pan-Green and Pan-Blue supporters alike must acknowledge this fact about Pan-Green.

On the other hand, the KMT has a recurring pattern of making compromises in its hundred-year history.
  • To overthrow the Qing Dynasty, they made an alliance with Triad, which later became an criminal organization.
  • To maintain a republic system in the early republic days, they gave the presidency to Yuan Shikai.
  • To fight the Beiyang warlords, they joined forces with the Chinese communists and the Soviet Union, making the so-called First United Front.
  • To united the north and the south, they made a pact with Zhang Xueliang. After the Unification of 1928, Zhang had significant autonomy in the northeast and the north.
  • To fight the Japanese during the Second World War, they joined forces with the communists again, forming the so-called Second United Front.
  • In the later years of the Second World War, they traded Mongolian independence with the Soviet Union, in exchange for Xinjiang not getting independence.
  • In 1981, they negotiated with the International Olympics Committee so that athletes could participate in the Olympics and other international games, with the name "Chinese Taipei".

It goes without saying that any compromise consists of cost and benefit. In the said compromises, whether the benefit outweighs the cost is up for debate. But the debates would be out of the scope of this article. Regardless, Pan-Green and Pan-Blue folks must realize the compromising nature of the Pan-Blue. Pan-Green folks must not only see the cost, and Pan-Blue folks must not only see the benefit.

It sucks to be Pan-Blue because compromising policies are hard for political marketing.

Monday, June 04, 2012

News ticker in Taiwan

New channels in Taiwan always come with new tickers. They come in vertical format and horizontal; they tell you weather, lotto numbers, stock prices, exchange rates, minor news, reminders like "Watch the grand finale on channel XY", and how many points has Chien-Ming Wang Jeremy Lin got.

Alright, jokes aside, amongst these seemingly standardized things, you can still find differences across the world, and the subtle variations are shreds of evidence that reveal the different state of minds. The Chinese Wikipedia actually has an article about news screen!
Mock Taiwanese news screenMock Japanese news screen
Mock Mainland-Chinese news screenMock HK news screen
Mock American news screen

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Political Symmetry

Pan-Green Coalition Pan-Blue Coalition
Toward the Communist Party of China and Chiang Kai-shek Would criticize Pan-Blue "sympathize CKS, but they are too soft on the Communist whom CKS opposed the most" Would criticize Pan-Green "criticize CKS, but their dogmatic opposition of the Communist is no different from CKS's"
Toward the Flag and the National Anthem of the ROC Would criticize Pan-Blue "normally love to use them, but would compromise in an international setting or when encountering the Communist" Would criticize Pan-Green "normally don't use them, except in an international setting or when encountering the Communist"
Unification vs Indepedence Not willing to unify, dare not to declare independence Not willing to declare independence, dare not to unify
Attitude toward external entities Some are Japanophile, but they don't say that publicly. On the contrary, the hostility toward Mainland China is quite public. Some are Mainland-Sinophile, but they don't say that publicly. On the contrary, the hostility toward Japan is quite public.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Root cause analysis of the differences between Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese Chinese

Anyone who speaks Chinese understands there exist differences between the Chinese used in Mainland China and in Taiwan. Examples include
  • Mainland uses simplified characters; Taiwan uses traditional characters
  • Mainland uses Hanyu Pinyin, a Chinese Romanization scheme, as the standard for teaching Chinese and denoting pronunciation in dictionaries; Taiwan uses Bopomofo (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ)
  • For metric length units, Mainland uses "米, 釐米, 毫米"; Taiwan uses "公尺, 公分, 公釐"
  • Mainland uses Gregorian calendar; Taiwan uses the Minguo calendar (although Gregorian is becoming ever more common)
  • For Western movie names, Mainland often translates literally; Taiwan often adds its own interpretation, e.g. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is known as "加勒比海盜:黑珍珠號的詛咒" in Mainland; and "神鬼奇航:鬼盜船魔咒" in Taiwan, I, Robot is known as "我,機械人"; and "機械公敵" in Taiwan
  • For technology terms, Mainland also translates verbatim; while Taiwan usually uses words that are more literary, e.g. "computer" is translated as "計算機" in Mainland; and "電腦" in Taiwan (although many Mainlander are used to "電腦" too), "mobile phone" is translated as "移動電話" in Mainland; and "行動電話" in Taiwan
  • The quotation mark is different too. Mainland uses “”; Taiwan uses「」 (Most people probably don't notice this)

Upon reading the first bullet point, old-guard Kuomintang would immediately raise the banner of "The communist is the destroyer of traditional Chinese culture" and use the same rhetoric to explain the rest of the bullet points. But do you really think that Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and their fellows thought "we are the bad guys, so we must destroy traditional Chinese culture. To destroy traditional Chinese culture, we must do this, this, and that". Of course not. To find the root causes of these differences, one must start from the different ideologies of the two sides.

During the martial law period, the Republic of China reiterated itself as "the Chinese people", "the legitimate representation of the Chinese culture", and "the guardian of traditional values". Such ideology culminated during the Chinese Cultural Renaissance, started in 1966 in response to Cultural Revolution in the People's Republic. Because of this, Taiwan continued to use traditional characters and Bopomofo, created in the early years of the Republic. Taiwan uses "公尺, 公寸, 公分, 公釐" for metric length units because "尺, 寸, 分, 釐" were length units used in ancient China. The Minguo calendar is system similar to calendar era used in imperial age. And literary words are usually used to translate foreign terms.

On the other side, the People's Republic of China emphasized itself as the "New China", where new systems must be established, and remnants from the imperial age must be removed. In addition, Marxism downplays the distinction between races, and ultimately seeks to establish a world without racial boundaries and political borders. Under these principles, Mainland uses simplified Chinese and Hanyu Pinyin because they are "new". Mainland uses Gregorian calendar so that they have the same standard as (most of) the rest of the world, therefore removing the distinction between countries, and also moving away from a construct inherited from the imperial age. Using “” as the quotation marks is the same thing. As for metric length units in Mainland, the word "meter" was first translated phonetically as "米", then prefixed with words that represent 1/10, 1/100, 1/1000, namely "分, 釐, 毫", to construct "米, 釐米, 毫米". Such construction follows the same pattern as the origin of the metric system because "centi" means 1/100 and "milli" means 1/1000. By doing so, they adhere to the principle that the world is one big family and racial distinction should be deemphasized in Marxism.

If we only look at the intents of the two ideologies, both seem positive. So some people might say it is natural to have regional variants of the same language. No variant is better than others. However, there are still a lot of people looking at this subject with "good v.s. bad" in mind. So I feel that I must present my take on this. If we really have to evaluate the differences on a scale of "good or bad", how should we do it?

To criticize something, one must fully understand it first. One must not accept or reject something wholesale because of ideology. Every item must be evaluated separately, with science and logic. I personally think that Bopomofo is more suitable as a tool for teaching Chinese as the first language, while Hanyu Pinyin is more suitable for transliterating Chinese words with Roman letters (e.g. names on passport, or to export concepts of Chinese origin, such as Bagua). The detail reasoning of that probably warrants another full length article (Chinese only). I also think that Mainland's translation of the word "Islam", "伊斯蘭教", is better than the Taiwanese version, "回教" (the religion of Hui) because the Hui people are just a small part of the Muslims. The Gregorian calendar is better than the Minguo calendar. Imagine every country and regime has its own calendar system, isn't that very inconvenient and quite pointless. There's a reason someone invented the metric system. As for movie titles, I personally can't stand the Taiwanese practice of adding their own interpretation. How is "I, Robot" related to "公敵" (enemy of the state) in any way? Translations that are too literal or too colloquial are probably unsuitable for a cultural products in the Chinese world either. Slight modification is acceptable. For example, "Speed" (1994) is translated as "生死時速" (lit. per hour speed of life and death) in Mainland. At least the notion of "speed" is preserved. There is no way to rationalize the Taiwanese counterpart: "捍衛戰警" (lit. defending police). Last but not least, for computer and mobile phone, I think the Taiwanese version, "電腦" and "行動電話" are better because "計算機" can be confused with arithmetic-only calculator. Although "移動" and "行動" both mean "mobile", "移動" sounds more like a verb, while "行動" sounds more like an adjective. So "行動" is better.

Therefore, one must first fully understand the root cause, examine each item individually, and not have ideological prejudice.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Food Safety

There was this one time when I was grocery shopping and I saw many ingredients on a package. I wasn’t sure which ones are good and which ones are bad. So I decided to collect a few, do a quick look up, and share the results with everyone.

Just because something is approved by the government doesn’t mean it’s completely harmless. The fact that “it may cause xyz” doesn’t necessarily means it’s a big deal. The effects on human listed below are mostly copied from Wikipedia, without further verification. So take this with a grain of salt. The more common ones are listed in bold.
ChineseEnglishE numberEffects on humanFound in
抑霉唑Enilconazole, a.k.a. imazalil, chloramizoleCauses cancer according to California's Proposition 65Exterior of oranges
噻苯達唑, 噻苯咪唑, 噻苯唑Tiabendazole, a.k.a. thiabendazole, TBZE233High dosage may cause liver and intestine disorder, also cures lead poisoning or mercury poisoning Exterior of oranges
Probably 苯基酚鈉Sodium-o-phenylphenate Causes cancer according to California's Proposition 65 Exterior of oranges
麩胺酸單鈉, a.k.a. 味精, 谷氨酸鈉, 穀氨酸單鈉Monosodium glutamate, a.k.a. MSGE621Disputed, approved in the EU.Lee Kum Kee chili bean sauce, instant noodles, many other products
肌苷酸二鈉Disodium inosinate, a.k.a. disodium 5'-inosinateE631No harm found so far, approved in the EU.Lee Kum Kee chili bean sauce, chips, instant noodles, snacks
鳥苷酸二鈉Disodium guanylate, a.k.a. disodium 5'-guanylateE627Bad for children under 12 weeks, those with asthma or gout, approved in the EU.Lee Kum Kee chili bean sauce, instant noodles, snacks, packaged soup
菸鹼酸, a.k.a. 菸酸, 維生素B3, 維生素PPNiacin, a.k.a. vitamin B3, vitamin PPBad if in excess or shortageWonton and dumpling wraps
硫胺, a.k.a. 維生素B1Thiamine, a.k.a. vitamin B1Bad if in excess or shortageWonton and dumpling wraps
核黃素, a.k.a. 維生素B2Riboflavin, a.k.a. vitamin B2E101Deficiency leads to cracks at the corners of the mouth (angular cheilitis). Excessive dosage taken orally is probably not toxic. Approved by the EU and the US.Wonton and dumpling wraps, instant noodles
葉酸, a.k.a. 維生素B9Folic acid, a.k.a. vitamin B9Good for pregnant womenWonton and dumpling wraps
丙酸鈉Sodium propionate, a.k.a. sodium propanoateE281Unknown, approved in the EU.Wonton and dumpling wraps, bakery products
苯甲酸鈉Sodium benzoateE211When combined with vitamin C, it forms benzene, a known carcinogen, but approved by the EU.Wonton and dumpling wraps, soft drinks
檸檬酸Citric acidE330Unknown, approved in the EU.Wonton and dumpling wraps, Hsin Tung Yang soy bean paste
半胱胺酸CysteineE920Has antitoxic property, approved in the EU.Wonton and dumpling wraps
二氧化矽Silicon dioxideE551May cause silicosis, bronchitis or cancer if inhaled. May cause dementia if drunk with water, approved in the EU.Indomie Mi goreng
瓜爾豆膠, a.k.a. 瓜爾膠Guar gumE412Wikipedia has unreferenced list of effects, approved in the EU.Indomie Mi goreng, Nissin Demae Itcho (出前一丁) XO sauce seafood flavor
生育酚(可表現維生素E活性)Tocopherol, a.k.a. TCP (has vitamin E activity)E306-309Beneficial for the most part, approved in the EU.Indomie Mi goreng, Demae Itcho XO sauce seafood flavor
三聚磷酸鈉Sodium triphosphate, a.k.a. STP, sodium tripolyphosphate, TPPE451Healthy with moderate amount, approved in the EU.Demae Itcho XO sauce seafood flavor
磷酸鈉鹽(包括磷酸一氫鈉, 磷酸二氫鈉, 磷酸鈉)Sodium phosphates(包括monosodium phosphate, disodium phosphate, trisodium phosphate)E339Probably not good for kidneys, approved in the EU.Demae Itcho XO sauce seafood flavor, Pocky
六偏磷酸鈉Sodium hexametaphosphate, a.k.a. SHMPUnknownDemae Itcho XO sauce seafood flavor
海藻酸Alginic acid, a.k.a. algin, alginateE400Unknown, approved in the EU.Demae Itcho XO sauce seafood flavor
抗壞血酸棕櫚酸酯(油溶性維生素CAscorbyl palmitate (fat-soluble vitamin C)E304Approved in the EU, the US, Australia, and New ZealandDemae Itcho XO sauce seafood flavor
山梨酸鉀Potassium sorbateE202No harm found so far, but has irritant property. Approved in the EU.Sriracha sauce
亞硫酸氫鈉Sodium bisulfiteE222Approved in the EUSriracha sauce
黃原膠Xanthan gumE415Excessive amount may cause diarrhea. May trigger allergic response to those allergic to corn, gluten, soy, or milk, approved in the EU.Sriracha sauce
乳酸Lactic acidE270, E472bApproved in the EU, the US, Australia, and New ZealandHsin Tung Yang soy bean paste
麥芽糊精MaltodextrinUnknownInstant noodles and package noodles
紅40(人工色素)Red 40, a.k.a.. Allura Red ACE129May lead to hyperactivity in children. Approved in the EU and US, banned in Switzerland.M&M, snacks with saturated colors (both sweet and savory), red colored flu syrup
黃色5號(人工色素), a.k.a.. 檸檬黃Yellow 5, a.k.a. TartrazineE102 May lead to hyperactivity and reduced intelligence in children. Banned in Norway, was banned in Austria and Germany, until overturned by EU. Approved in the US. Many organizations call for bans of Yellow 5. M&M, snacks with saturated colors (both sweet and savory)
黃色6號(人工色素)Yellow 6, a.k.a. Sunset Yellow FCFE110 May lead to hyperactivity in children. Banned in Norway and Finland. Approved in the EU but reduced safe dosage in 2011. Approved in the US. M&M, snacks with saturated colors (both sweet and savory)
藍色1號(人工色素)Blue 1, a.k.a. Brilliant Blue FCFE133Was banned in many European counties. National Institutes of Health in the US claims it does not lead to hyperactivity in children.M&M, snacks with saturated colors
藍色2號(人工色素)Blue 2, a.k.a. Indigo carmineE132Harmful if inhaledM&M, M&M, snacks with saturated colors

Tocopherol (has vitamin E activity) and ascorbyl palmitate (fat-soluble vitamin C) are sometimes labeled as “preservative”. But it’s not as scary as the name “preservative”. Compounds with names that look like something in a chemistry textbook aren’t necessarily bad. Some are good, but some are bad too. “All natural” isn’t always good either, such as drinking liquid lard directly.

Oranges are coated with enilconazole, tiabendazole, and sodium-o-phenylphenate

Lee Kum Kee chili bean sauce contains MSG, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate

Wonton and dumpling wraps contain sodium benzoate

Indomie Mi goreng contain silicon dioxide, MSG, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate

Nissin Demae Itcho (出前一丁) XO sauce seafood flavor contains sodium phosphates and MSG

Tainan Yi Mien (dried noodles) has outer package and inner package contradicting each other. And some of the translation is wrong

Some Japanese noodle seasoning contains disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate

Sriracha sauce xanthan gum

Hsin Tung Yang soy bean paste

Some Korean packaged noodles. I am too lazy too look up the outrageously many number of ingredients.

Pocky contains sodium phosphates

M&M contains red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 1, and blue 2

NyQuil syrup contains red 40