Monthly Archives: November 2006

Talking with my Brazilian roommate and get some knowledge about Brazil and South America

Talking with my Brazilian roommates and get some knowledge about Brazil and South America

First all, he is Brazilian. But he doesn’t play soccer/football. 🙂 He said even girls in Brazil plays soccer better than him. That is for sure. I’ve watched Brazilian girls play soccer on the beach. They are really good.

Below is the essence of our conversation.

He said he couldn’t understand why Brazil cannot become another America. His father told him that Brazil was quite strong at the beginning of colonization. (My roommate is only 20 years old. But you will see what he will say about America.). He said the biggest problem of Brazil is debt. It is the debt to IMF and the World Bank. According to him, what Brazil has paid on interest of loan is 3 times of what Brazil has borrowed on loan. The loan Brazil borrowed was used to build some luxury projects that didn’t help the poor people at all. The government borrowed money from IMF and the World Bank in the name of the project. Then the government officials pocketed part of the loan. They don’t care whether the projects are really helping Brazilian economy or not. One example of such projects is a high way running through Amazon forest. No one used that road. So that road is now covered with plants. He said most Brazilians hate America. America took out democratically elected governments and replaced with corrupt governments across South America.

I learned from him that Brazil is a democratic society, and everyone is required by law to vote. Then I wondered why they cannot elect someone who can really take care of economy. I guessed the answer immediately: Brazilian politics is very polarized. The candidates are either backed by American government and are very corrupt, or stand up to American government and are hostile to business and corporations. My roommate doesn’t like the current Brazilian president (he also doesn’t like the president of Venezuela). He thinks he taxes corporation too much. There are a lot of tax on foreign corporations opening branches in Brazil. And the import tariff is very high. So Brazilians cannot buy foreign cars. Computers are also very expensive there. There isn’t much industry in Brazil. Their exports are mostly agriculture produce, like soy bean. Now I can understand a little Brazil cannot have a strong economy although it is also a big country.

So this is another democracy goes wrong under the pressure of external force: American government. Another example is Taiwan, which I have talked in a post earlier. Taiwan’s democracy experiments are also under a lot of American pressure. American government constantly interferes with Taiwan’s affairs, such as forcing Taiwan to buy weapons from US. So Taiwan’s politics is also very polarized. Ideology takes control of social life, and a lot of economic decisions are made due to political reasons.

It looks instead of spreading democracy, American government is the biggest obstacle of democracy around the world. The failure of those democratic countries to develop their economies again makes Chinese government and the Chinese people think that democracy isn’t really useful for developing economy.

Again, I have to say I don’t have all the hard cold facts about the whole thing. I am just trying to understand the world. To me, if something is possible, it will happen. I cannot think of anything that will constrain American government from doing those things. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. When it comes to American foreign policy, who can oversee it. Don’t mention that most Americans don’t really know what their government is doing overseas. If you talk with people coming from other countries, you will get a sense how they really think about American government.

Because of American government’s greedy pursuit of so called national interests (which are in hands of a small group of people), other countries have to rely on their government to protect their national interests since other countries are much weaker, thus making national interests riding above the need of domestic democracy. So it becomes very much needed for people in other countries to support their governments in defending their national interests even though those governments are repressive ones. Simply put, American government is screwing up democracy all over the world. If American government can set up a good example and get rid of its hidden and open nationalism pursuit, it will be much easier for people in other countries to follow and pursue their freedom and democracy.

Again, I have to say that given that kind of superpower in the world, maybe no other country can handle that power better than US. Domestically, American people have been able to stand up and correct many wrongdoings of their government. For what American government does oversea to people of other countries, we need to wait and see.

BTW, learned something about Portuguese, Spanish and other European languages. 🙂

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Story of Man

Here is a blog from my brother. It is a true Chinese story. I translated it into English. I am not sure what kind of hardship Americans need to go through to be successful. As I read stories of Dell or other successors, I feel that their Chinese counterparts have to go through a lot more. Compared with their Chinese counterparts, the Americans big successors’ fights are too smooth. Maybe I am wrong on this. Let me know. One good thing about living in American is that I don’t have to go through things like in the following article. So I should happily work hard here, enduring any pain/trouble in the process. As I progress, maybe I will need to go through something like below in the article. We will see.


Yesterday I went to have a drink with our Big Brother (Note: Sorry, not sure how to translate this. It is definitely not the same as “Big Brother” used in the novel 1984. Big Brother is the phrase that Chinese gangsters use to call their head. It is used quite common in Chinese daily life to refer to someone who is the most authoritative of a group. I guess it is never used this way in English.). Big Brother said that he must drink with friends like us on the last day right before his 30. I don’t understand what he means, but whatever, I will go along. I guess it is because of Chinese saying that a man should establish himself at the age of 30. While we were drinking, he told me a very shocking story. It is a story that he couldn’t even share with his own wife.

Big Brother doesn’t have a strong body. He got meningitis when he was 9. But it surprises us that he now has a pretty good memory.

When everyone was getting excited from the drinks, Big Brother asked me, Is today a happy day?

I said yes.

He asked, Do you want to hear a story of man on such a day?

I said yes.

He moved over next to me and kept his voice low. I was anxious to hear it because Big Brother was never that serious. I thought it must be something big. Big Brother is in charge of some place in Beijing. So he has many chances to be invited to important dinners and has seen many things. One day, he was invited to a drinking party. He was an important guest there. Everyone there is a big name. One of them is a son of a leader in the central government. Big Brother told me that he is the only person there who didn’t come from a prestigious family. His parents are both workers.

Although Big Brother had attended such kind of gathering for many times, he often excused himself from drinking by saying he had to drive. He needs to behave himself since he holds public office and he needs to live up to his principles. But sometimes because of work or merely survival, there are some important parties that he cannot ignore, such as that one. But he had warned himself not to drink a drop that day.

When it was time for drinking, the son (let’s call him so for convenience) stood up and asked Big Brother to drink half of a bottle of vodka in front of him. Big Brother said that he doesn’t drink. Then that son couldn’t control his voice and hollered at Big Brother that he had to drink that day no matter whatever reason. No one at the gathering dared to say anything. Everyone was scared to death at what would happen. Big Brother immediately knew what that was all about. It was not about drinking. It was about about challenge. The son was challenging Big Brother, challenging his principles he had been holding for years. If he backed down, the son and his people will ride on his neck for ever. Big Brother told him that he only drinks tea. The son pointed his finger at Big Brother, saying “How dare you? You don’t give me face. OK, you drink this pot of tea.”

That pot of tea was about the same amount as the half bottle liquor. But the tea was still boiling. Everyone there was stunned by the tension at the table.

Big Brother has his personality. He said that he couldn’t give in under that circumstance. He had to stand up to the challenge. It was a battle between two men. He smiled and said calmly, “OK, I will have tea, you can have your liquor. It is my fault that I cannot drink liquor. Thanks for letting me drink tea”.

He drank the boiling tea calmly with every one’s eyes popped out at the scene. Then the son poured another pot of boiling tea and passed it to Big Brother. Big Brother looked at him and drank it. Then the third pot.

Hearing all these, I felt very sad. I knew then why he didn’t share the story with his wife while his wife was just at the same table with us. He told me the story just to let me know how hard his work is and where his principle of man come from. I was touched and asked him how he felt drinking that boiling tea. He said the pain was unbearable. It was tearing his whole stomach apart. But he hold himself. That pain was with him for half a year after that.

Half a year later, he met the son again in another party. This time, Big Brother told him that it was his own fault last time, and that he was too young that time. Then Big Brother asked the son to drink tea while Big Brother drink liquor this time. The son waved his hands speedy fast, saying no, with his eyes showing both fear and respect.

I asked Big Brother how his job was going on after that? He said no one dared to threaten him anymore or set up obstacles for the pure purpose of making him suffering.

From Big Brother’s story, I feel what it means to be a man. You have to stand up to the challenge and overcome all the hardship on your way. I get a taste of battles between men. The force of man doesn’t come from his physical strength, or his social status. Neither does it come from your family background, It comes from the original source of man. Big Brother’s action, cannot be counted as greatness or braveness. But in my eye, he was growing bigger. I respected him for his decision to endure his suffering alone and leave his wife carefree.

I raised my cup for him. It was deep red. Big Brother drank the red wine and in the red he smiled.

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Naked ass with tattoo on the subway

A guy wore pants painted with naked ass with tattoo (Kiss the Queen) on the subway this evening. Two ladies took a picture together with the naked ass.Sorry I didn’t get a picture for you guys. Now I feel I need to get a camera.

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Web2.0 as an expansion of open source?

Web2.0 as an expansion of open source (content open source)?

Can I look at web2.0 as an expansion of open source? It is like expanding open source model to other people and other parts of life. Open source is for programmers interested in something to generate code online. Web2.0 is for people interested in a certain subject to generate content online.

I should think how to integrate these two together to have a new model of software building. Python certainly can serve as a bridge. Actually that is what is already happening, as user feedback and content are used greatly to improve the software, the so called Beta release. I just need to formalize it.

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Programming an enterprise project is like running a company

I have a metaphor for enterprise project. I feel programming enterprise project is like running a company that provide a kind of service. Session beans are like workers in a company. Entity beans are like files or objects that workers need to work on. Requests coming from customers need to be mapped to the right project team to handle it. And the project manager need to allocate workers from a group of simliar functionalities to work on the task. Workers need to go to files or objects to work on them. This way it will be a lot easier to think about pooling, transaction, persistence and so on.

I feel it is better to think of session beans as workers in a company than the real life objects.

I just had this thought. I feel it is useful. But I haven’t thought deeply about it. Let me know what you think of this metaphor. Metaphor might not be an acurate word. I feel it is really what it is.

 

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More on Milton Friedman: about free market and freedom

Milton Friedman was a freedom fighter in the sense that he argued that an entrepreneur’s social responsibility is to achieve maximum profit. I’ve been a wholehearted believer in that and also the tradition of Adam Smith, whose Wealth of Nation, I think, is a great design for people to cooperate together. The human being’s history is about how we organize together. It is really hard for people to cooperate with each other. We’ve been through a lot. Adam Smith offered a very great design.

But recently something provoked me to think more. Recently, I’ve read too many wrong doing of businessmen in both China and US. Here in US, cable companies tried to destroy net neutrality in order to “maximize their profit”. Also many Internet companies ‘ wrongdoing in China including Google. Some are purely evil. You cannot imagine it if you hear it. Those cable companies’ claim is also shameless. (I don’t think those cable companies should have a share in the web economy. They already got what they got as traditional infrastructure companies. The value created by web community is totally creative values belonging to web communities, not cable companies.)

Sorry for drifting to another big topic. Anyway, these prompted me to think what free market is. Business is only to maximize profits under some certain circumstances. But who set up those circumstances? Who make the policy? What value will those policies be based on? Economy alone doesn’t seem to answer these questions. The answer still has to come from people’s hearts. What they really want? So this is an issue of humanity, of culture. People’s hearts have to be reflected in those circumstances.

If so, the issue now is that whether business should have a social responsibility? Or should social consciousness be reflected in the business model?

If Friedman sticks to his gun, I guess he should argue that in a free market, other smaller cable companies will stand up and promote net neutrality, So people will all go to those cable companies who treat content equally. But it seems that that market is pretty much solidified. (Is it?) I don’t know how these can play out. Anyone knows?

Most people in China believe that if economy goes well, anything else will go well automatically. So China does a lot of economic reform, but hesitate on other reforms. I guess that is ok for manufacturing industry. But for creative industry, that is suffocating. Also if even a person cannot be treated equally, how can we have a free market? Big corporations will just kill small companies easily with their almighty power.

Just some more random thought here: maybe it is the law’s responsibility to specify what the basic freedom is and protect them. Leave it to business to do whatever it wants to as long as it doesn’t violate the law. Again, how will this play out in the net neutrality case?

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Filed under Liberal Arts

Only losers complain about too many choices

If you are strong, you always welcome more choices.

Many people complain about the choices provided by new tech, such as wasting time checking emails every day. I don’t give it a damn. I came from the third world. When I saw kids kneeing before me begging money in train stations of China, I wish they had a choice. When I went to college and had to live for 4 or 5 years with some strangers arranged by the school, I wish I had a choice (although I enjoyed very much my days with my roommates). When I had to take classes that totally don’t make sense to me, I wish I had a choice. My father got distributed by the government to where he was supposed to work after his college graduation. I wish he had a choice. My mother, an outstanding high school student (she went to the key school in the area, a much better high school than the one my father went to), couldn’t go to college because of culture revolution, I wish she had a choice. My aunt, whose eyes need a very small surgery (and a very cheap one), had to wait for her eyes going almost blind because she couldn’t afford the surgery. I wish she had a choice. My cousin, who wanted to go to college very much herself, had to work to make money for her brother to go to college. I wish she had a choice.

Only losers complain about too many choices.

Just happened to get this article from Joel On Software: Choices=Headaches (http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/11/21.html). He got his points. But my take on interface design? Use the most commonly used feature as the default and allow it configurable so users can configure it to display differently if they really need. If there is no choice, that should mean that you can only shut down you computer. That is it. No other options. So what Joel want is really not less choices. He wants more choices: a choice to make no choice by default, but still able to reach for choices when needed.

The long time online vs. offline debate is the same thing. I don’t care online or offline. I use whatever is best for me. There are things that are better done offline. There are also things that are better done online. A simple example is that so many people are so unprepared when coming to a meeting. Why not do something online before the meeting so they can be more prepared? For a lot of meeting that people don’t actually need to get together face to face, we can just save the time and use that time saved for meetings what we have to be face to face. The same applies to elearning. Sometimes, offline is still needed. Anyway, you have the choice.

Whenever I heard of people talking about too many choices, I feel they don’t know how they get here. They don’t know what the life is when there is really no choice. I guess we should send those people to some third world countries, so the world can be more balanced. If you are not strong and don’t appreciate the choices you have, then you really don’t have a choice. In that case, you are better off to be sent to some third world country to learn to be strong.

In my personal life, I try to get as many choices as I can, then happily decide which one to pick.

Below added on Nov. 29th:

To me, it is always better to have a choice to not have choices than not having a choice to have choices.

Collectively, given more choices, human being will be more likely to live out of its true values. I guess this is what life is about. Given more choices to develop in various ways, life is more likely to display its true values and become more beautiful. In human world, given more choices, things that really reflect true values will win out. I guess the saying that variety is the spice/source of life is based on the same reason.

In this sense, software, Internet and Web, by breaking many physical barriers, offer more choices, and thus gives human being the chance to become more fully developed and more beautiful.

This is also the reason of my fundamental belief in openness, more choices, freely accessible resources when it comes to human environment for individual development. I believe that an individual, in pursuit of his own happiness, should be allowed free open access to all  kinds of resources. Every individual has the responsibility to open himself up to all info and opportunities.

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Filed under Cross Culture Communication, general, Grassroots