November 21, 2010

A few quotes from Milan Kundera, *The Unbearable Lightness of Being*

Kundera, Milan, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Faber and Faber, 1999.

If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all. P.8

Anyone who thinks that the Communist regimes of Central Europe are exclusively the work of criminals is overlooking a basic truth: the criminal regimes were made not by criminals but by enthusiasts convinced they had discovered the only road to paradise. They defended that road so valiantly that they were forced to execute many people. Later it became clear that there was no paradise, that the enthusiasts were therefore murderers. P.171

And again he thought the thought we already know: Human life occurs only once, and the reason we cannot determine which of our decisions are good, and which bad is that in a given situation we can make only one decision; we are not granted a second, third or fourth life in which to compare various decisions. P.219

The longing for paradise is man’s longing not to be man. P.293

November 19, 2010

Coffee Stains on your paper

You can't be completely sure how much (more) LaTeX can do (to your documents). My favorite package of the year. Pointed by Cheap Talk.

November 18, 2010


I have a good friend who is a Christian and usually talks about the doomsday as described in the Bible, when according to her everyone who have died will come back to life to face God's judgment (Those who really have read the Bible, please forgive me for any mistakes here).

I do tend to believe that there is an end to our time, just like there is a start (possibly out of nothing). That end may be explainable by a singularity in the development of human civilization. If our development can be measured by a monotonically increasing function with time being the independent variable and the level of develop the dependent, then if there is a vertical asymptotic limit line lying somewhere in the future (which can possibly be Year 2012), we will one day realize, in the final seconds of our time scale, that we have utilized all forms of resources in this universe and become "all-knowing", and since time is nothing but a form of energy, we will be able to take control of time as well. Time, as a dimension that constrains us in this positive direction (so that we cannot go back to the past) will lose its power and meaning, and literally we will have reached the end of time.

Alternatively, if human development follows some sort of exponential function, which is not asymptotic, if there is an upper bound to the level of development, then we will at some day "suddenly" reach a point that ends this universe we came to understand. Compared to the former scenario, this is less romantic, without the myriad of miracles that we will witness in the final seconds. How come there is this upper bound instead of any other is also difficult to reason out, rendering this conjecture not all that probable.

I picture in the doomsday, some individuals of human beings will transform into an existence close to God, and the remaining of our species may be wiped out from the Earth. A sad story. But it is nothing more than a million possibilities that our limited intelligence can come up with.

November 14, 2010

Da Vinci - The Gay Genius

The Hong Kong Science Museum has been recently exhibiting the Marvelous Inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci in its G/F Exhibition Hall. I yesterday paid a visit and recommend everyone nearby interested in science and art to have a look. They made physical models of many of Da Vinci's inventions that were far beyond the time that Da Vinci lived in, many of which have made major contributions toward modern mechanical engineering. Da Vinci's major paintings are also on display, including a digitally restored version of "Mona Lisa" hung side-by-side with the original painting for the visitors to compare.

I regard Da Vinci as one of the few "super geniuses" in world history, alongside Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla and Su Shi, and probably a few more. Not only were they the experts of experts in quite a handful of areas, but many of their inventions were truly beyond their era, and maybe even ours.

The Exhibition Hall
The Warship
The prototype helicopter
Perpetual motion
The bicycle

November 13, 2010

An alternative approach to the pressure to appreciate the Yuan

Okay now the whole advanced world seems to be unanimous in attacking the manipulation of the exchange rate of the Renminbi, how much longer can the Beijing government withstand this pressure? It seems that eventually China will have no choice but to free the trade of Yuan and see it appreciate. But does it have to be so?

Exactly two years ago China began to release it’s 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package; that is roughly 603.86 billion U.S. dollars, or more than a tenth of China’s GDP in 2008 ($4.33 Trillion US dollars at current prices). Yes, China is one of the most successful in overcoming the late financial crises, but that is achieved at a cost. Housing price skyrocketed, with house-price-to-income ratio as high as 164, and we are witnessing the 17th straight increase in property price; CPI has risen to a 25-month high in October; food alone rose 10% from a year earlier.

Besides giving up manipulation over its currency, China may be litmus-testing an alternative approach: lowering the real value of the Yuan by gradual but continued inflation. Four years ago when I first came to Hong Kong, consumer prices was still about twice those in Beijing; but last summer when I went back to Beijing, prices were already comparable to those in Hong Kong in many categories, if not most. While the CNY-USD exchange rate has been quite stable in the past two years (until recently), the true purchasing power seems to be depreciating throughout the years (this I based on personal experience but not official data). It is now quite reasonable to expect banknotes with 500- and 1,000-yuan denominations to be out in the market in the near future.

With such continued effort, the Beijing administration may well depreciate the value of the Yuan to a level consistent with or much closer to the pegged exchange rate before unleashing the Yuan exchange market, while earning a huge amount of seigniorage revenue from thin air.

Sources: (2010, November 10). China Winds Down Stimulus Efforts. Retrieved November 11, 2010, from Beijing Review:

Global Property Guide. (n.d.). House Price to Income Ratio - China Compared to Continent. Retrieved November 11, 2010, from Global Property Guide:

Google. (n.d.). Gross Domestic Product. Retrieved November 11, 2010, from Google:

Pierson, D. (2010, November 10). China's inflation rate hits 25-month high. Retrieved November 11, 2010, from Los Angeles Times:

RRT Staff Writer. (2010, November 10). China Property Price Growth Cools In October. Retrieved November 11, 2010, from RTT News:

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