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Democracy doesn’t come by edict. October 16, 2007

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“Democracy doesn’t come by edict, but by institutions and mechanisms that ensure politicians must compete for the trust of voters.” 
— Dr. Roger B. Myerson, 2007 Nobel laureate in economics 

Day 18 post PRK, slowly it does seem get better. January 30, 2007

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For the last several days, my right eye’s vision had significant improve. For the most part of today, I can use my right eye to use computer without zooming.

As of the left eye, the ghosting images still bother me. There seems be at least two ghosting images, one to the left and quite apart from the primary image, another to the top and mostly overlapping with the primary image. The one to the left bothers me most, because it makes reading a line of smaller text impossible. Besides that, I wonder if the ghosting images confuse my eye muscle. My left eye seems having a hard time deciding which image to focus on.

I have been praying hoping the ghosting images are caused by the roughness of epithelium, not by some refractive error induced by the sugery. To my suprise, an hour ago, after I closed my eyes for a while, the ghosting image on the left got a lot fainter. And my binocular vision seems a little better now. The ghosting image on the top is still there, but less annoying. I hope this improvement stay and keep going.

Good luck to myself.

Day 10 after PRK, patient, patient … January 22, 2007

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It has been 10 days since my PRK surgery on Jan. 12th. I guess I am one more person who is misled by , who believes he or she can really return to “normal” activities in days. Compared to my -7.5 nearsightness, my vision is improved. Without glasses, I can use computer if I squint my eyes, I can drive if I don’t need to read signs. But it is definitely not where I have expected my vision to be.

In the last a couple of days, I have read dozens of articles online to try to find out if my current situation is normal. Luckily, there have been many people who had false hope on fast recovery as I do now. It seems achieving reasonabley good vision at as late as 1 to 2 months is normal.

So the only thing I can do now is to wait. I hope the situation will be much improved by my next check up, which is scheduled on Feb. 19th.

Good luck to myself, and all the PRK patients out there. Tomorrow will be clearer.

A math fiction, short, interesting and refreshing. November 4, 2006

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“… I came increasingly to view the great practitioners of the Queen of Sciences as moths drawn towards an inhuman kind of light, brilliant but scorching and harsh. Some couldn’t stand it for long, like Pascal and Newton, who abandoned mathematics for theology. Others had chosen haphazard, improvised ways out – Evariste Galois’ mindless daring that led to his untimely death comes immediately to mind. Finally, some extraordinary minds had given way and broken down. Georg Cantor, the father of the Theory of Sets, led the latter part of his life in a lunatic asylum. Ramanujan, Hardy, Turing, Gödel and so many more were too enamored of the brilliant light; they got too close, scorched their wings, fell and died. …”

“Uncle Pretros & Goldbach’s Conjecture”, the story about a fictional mathematician’s obsession to the 264-year old Goldbach’s Conjecture, and his life-long pursuit of the absolute truth, the mathematical truth.

Although the main characters are fictional, the story interwinds with true mathematical history, which makes it a charming and informative reading.

Taking a sick day is good, as long as I’m not too sick. October 23, 2006

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Got a really bad cold over the weekend. So I figured that I should give myself a break. Now sitting in backyard, sipping a cup of coffee, while basking in the sun, oh, life is good.Tomorrow I will go back to the office, spending the daylight in a windowless room. Sigh…

A coup in Thailand? Almost amusing? September 19, 2006

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The coup in Bangkok seems almost amusing to me. I can’t imaging a coup in the country where buddhism prevails and people have such mild temper.

In BBC report, it is described as “But overall the mood was amazingly calm, considering that a coup had just taken place to oust the country’s charismatic leader …” To me, the most amusing part is seeing a picture of two Danish tourists smiling to the camera and saying “To see this is a once in lifetime opportunity.“, as if they are in a local festival parade, not a coup.

American policy making. September 15, 2006

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Recently, those proposition 87 ads had caught my eyes. I am not particularly sensitive to political or economic matters. But in the eyes of a foreigner, the progression of the campaigns is quite interesting.

I first noticed this proposition when on night I came across a TV ad, a yes-to-87 ad, saying how big oil companies pay billions of drilling fees to Texas, but not to California. And it also stated how 87 will benefit the search for alternative energe. It reminds me that when I was in China, I have never seen a TV ad, an ad on any media for that matter, that promotes a goverment policy.

Of course this is not the end of the story. Those no-to-87 folks don’t just sit around. Soon, they brought out an ad showing a mid-age woman, kind of regular house wife image, pumping gas at a gas station. And she says “So now they want to increase oil taxes, really a four billion dollar state tax increase on oil, ouch”.

I have to say, compared to the narrative yes-to-87 ad, this on is much better. I guest the housewife image is more persuasive to regular people. I almost concluded that 87 is bad before I did my own reading and research.

The yes-to-87 camp must felt the threat, because today they released a new ad, in which, they are calling everyone’s attention to the fine print on the no-to-87 ad. The fine print shows that the no-to-87 ad is sponsored by Chevron.

The whole thing makes me laugh. It looks like two kids telling on each other in front of the teacher. What’s more, it makes me wonder if we have this kind of transparency on policy making in China. I am not sure that the american way is the correct way, but it seems reasonable. And at least I know what is going on. Althougth what I know is limited and might not be the truth.

A collection of online Greek learning resources. September 13, 2006

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http://aspiringpolyglot.wordpress.com/2006/07/14/language-spotlight-modern-greek/

An interesting reading list. September 13, 2006

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To “celebrate your freedom to read”. Google today put up a webpage titled “Celebrate Your Freedom to Read – Explore Banned Books“.

Unsurprisingly, I haven’t read none of the books on the list. But I guess I will start reading them. I post the google webpage here, incase they are gone invalid in the furture.

Challenged this year:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee
“A first novel of such rare excellence that it will no doubt make a great many readers slow down to relish more fully its simple distinction.” – Chicago Tribune

Books about To Kill a Mockingbird
Lolita
Vladmir Nabokov
“[An] authentic work of art which compels our immediate response and serious reflection — a revealing and indispensable comedy of horrors.” – San Francisco Chronicle

Books about Lolita
Challenged throughout the years:
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“It is humor, irony, ribaldry, pathos and loveliness…A curious book, a mystical, glamorous story of today.” – The New York Times
Books about The Great Gatsby
1984
George Orwell
“[T]he most contemporary novel of the year and who knows of how many past and to come.” – The New York Times
Books about 1984
Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger
“[A]n unusually brilliant novel…the unconscious humor, the repetitions, the slang and profanity, the emphasis, all are just right.” – The New York Times
Books about Catcher in the Rye
The Lord of the Flies
William Golding
“This brilliant work is a frightening parody on man’s return … to that state of darkness from which it took him thousands of years to emerge….Superbly written.” – The New York Times

Books about The Lord of the Flies
The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
“Steinbeck has written a novel from the depths of his heart with a sincerity seldom equaled.” – The New York Times
Books about The Grapes of Wrath
Beloved
Toni Morrison
“A masterwork… Wonderful… I can’t imagine American literature without it.” – Los Angeles Times

Books about Beloved
The Color Purple
Alice Walker
“[A] work to stand beside literature of any time and place.” – The San Francisco Chronicle
Books about The Color Purple
Ulysses
James Joyce
“[O]ne of the most significant and beautiful books of our time.” – The Nation
Books about Ulysses
Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck
“[A] thriller, a gripping tale running to novelette length that you will not set down until it is finished. It is more than that; but it is that… .Steinbeck has touched the quick in his little story.” – The New York Times
Books about Of Mice and Men
Catch-22
Joseph Heller
“A monumental artifact of contemporary American literature, almost as assured of longevity as the statues on Easter Island.” – The New York Times
Books about Catch-22
Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
“Mr. Huxley is eloquent in his declaration of an artist’s faith in man, and it is his eloquence, bitter in attack, noble in defense, that, when one has closed the book, one remembers.” – Saturday Review
Books about Brave New World
The Sun Also Rises
Ernest Hemingway
“No amount of analysis can convey the quality of The Sun Also Rises. It is a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame.” – The New York Times
Books about The Sun Also Rises
As I Lay Dying
William Faulkner
“For range of effect, philosophical weight, originality of style, variety of characterization, humor, and tragic intensity, [Faulkner’s works] are without equal in our time and country.” – Robert Penn Warren
Books about As I Lay Dying
Song of Solomon
Toni Morrison
“It places Toni Morrison in the front rank of contemporary American writers. She has written a novel that will endure.” – The Washington Post
Books about Song of Solomon
Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad
“Heart of Darkness has had an influence that goes beyond the specifically literary… one of the great, if troubling, visionary works of western civilization.” – Joyce Carol Oates
Books about Heart of Darkness
Their Eyes were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston
“Their Eyes belongs in the same categorywith that of William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingwayof enduring American literature.” – Saturday Review
Books about Their Eyes were Watching God
A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess
“I do not know of any other writer who has done as much with language as Mr. Burgess has done here.” – William S. Burroughs
Books about A Clockwork Orange
A Farewell to Arms
Ernest Hemingway
“[S]eldom has a literary style so precisely jumped with the time… a moving and beautiful book.” – The New York Times
Books about A Farewell to Arms
Gone with the Wind
Margaret Mitchell
“This is beyond a doubt one of the most remarkable first novels produced by an American writer. It is also one of the best.” – The New York Times
Books about Gone with the Wind
Go Tell it on the Mountain
James Baldwin
“Baldwin… has really unusual substantive powers but conventional ingenuity in form…[a] beautiful, furious first novel.” – The New York Times
Books about Go Tell it on the Mountain
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Ken Kesey
“A work of genuine literary merit. What Mr. Kesey has done in his unusual novel is to transform the plight of a ward of inmates in a mental institution into a glittering parable of good and evil.” – The New York Times
Books about One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Slaughterhouse Five
Kurt Vonnegut
“Highly imaginative, nearly psychedelic…It is very tough and very funny; it is sad and delightful; it is very Vonnegut; and it works.” – The New York Times
Books about Slaughterhouse Five
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway
“This is the best book Ernest Hemingway has written, the fullest, the deepest, the truest. It will, I think, be one of the major novels in American literature.” – The New York Times
Books about For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Call of the Wild
James Baldwin
“Baldwin… has really unusual substantive powers but conventional ingenuity in form…[a] beautiful, furious first novel.” – The New York Times
Books about The Call of the Wild
All the King’s Men
Robert Penn Warren
“Mr. Warren has employed vivid characterization and strong language combined with subtle overtones to write a vital, compelling narrative.” – Booklist
Books about All the King’s Men
The Jungle
Upton Sinclair
“When people ask me what has happened in my long lifetime I do not refer them to the newspaper files and to the authorities, but to [Sinclair’s] novels.” – George Bernard Shaw
Books about The Jungle
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
DH Lawrence
“Nobody concerned with the novel in our century can afford not to read it.” – Lawrence Durrell
Books about Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison
“It is a resolutely honest, tormented, profoundly American book.” – The New York Times
Books about Invisible Man
In Cold Blood
Truman Capote
“The best documentary account of an American crime ever written… The book chills the blood and exercises the intelligence… harrowing.” – The New York Review of Books
Books about In Cold Blood
Satanic Verses
Salman Rushdie
“Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Voltaire’s Candide, Sterne’s Tristram Shandy… Salman Rushdie, it seems to me, is very much a latter-day member of their company.” – The New York Times
Books about Satanic Verses
Sons and Lovers
DH Lawrence
“There is probably no phrase much more hackneyed than that of ‘human document,’ yet it is the only one which at all describes this very unusual book.” – The New York Times
Books about Sons and Lovers
Naked Lunch
William S. Burroughs
“A masterpiece. A cry from hell, a brutal, terrifying, and savagely funny book that swings between uncontrolled hallucination and fierce, exact satire.” – Newsweek
Books about Naked Lunch
A Separate Peace
John Knowles
“[An] engrossing tale of love, hate, war, and peace…Intense, mesmerizing, and complelling.” – School Library Journal
Books about A Separate Peace
Cat’s Cradle
Kurt Vonnegut
“A free-wheeling vehicle…An unforgettable ride!” – The New York Times
Books about Cat’s Cradle
Women in Love
DH Lawrence
“No other writer of [Lawrence’s] imaginative standing has in our time written books that are so open to life.” – Alfred Kazin
Books about Women in Love
The Naked and the Dead
Norman Mailer
“The best novel to come out of the… war, perhaps the best book to come out of any war.” – San Francisco Chronicle
Books about The Naked and the Dead
An American Tragedy
Theodore Dreiser
“Mr. Dreiser is not imitative and belongs to no school. He is at heart a mysticist and a fatalist, though using the realistic method. He is, on the evidence of this novel alone, a power.” – The New York Times
Books about An American Tragedy
Rabbit, Run
John Updike
“Brilliant and poignant….By his compassion, clarity of insight and crystal-bright prose, [Updike] makes Rabbit’s sorrow his and our own.” – The Washington Post
Books about Rabbit, Run
Tropic of Cancer
Henry Miller
“One of the most remarkable, most truly original authors of this or any age.” – Saturday Review
Books about Tropic of Cancer
Native Son
Richard Wright
“Certainly, Native Son declares Richard Wright’s importance… as an American author as distinctive as any of those now writing.” – The New York Times
Books about Native Son

Big day in cosmology. August 22, 2006

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Again, Einstein continues to have the last laugh. On Aug. 14 2006, NASA annouced that they observed a collision of two large clusters using Chandra X-ray Observatory which provides direct supporting evidence of the existence of dark matter.

“Astronomers have come to the humbling conclusion that most of the matter in the universe, approximately 80 percent, is in the form of dark matter. Humbling because they do not know what it is. The two known types of dark matter, massive neutrinos and black holes, are thought to be a minor portion of the overall dark matter budget.”

“These results are so surprising that some astronomers who accept and even contribute to this work have called the universe “preposterous” or “extravagant.” In the opposite camp is a small, but passionate, group of astronomers who think there are serious flaws in the currently accepted cosmology.” Therefore, they suggested changes to the theory of gravity, i.e. Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), which make it stronger than predicated by Newton and Einstein on intergalactic scales.

Personally, I would like to see the dark matter theory to win, because of my belief that the foundamental theory that governs our universe should be concise and elegent, instead of piece wise function like. But we never know, just like general relativity replaced Newton’s theory, and quantum mechanics complementing general relativity.

One way to decide between these two competing theories, dark matter vs. MOND, is to find a system where normal matter is seperated from dark matter. If dark matter does exist, we should be able to see the gravitational field distorted solely by the dark matter. The observed collision provided just such an opportunity. In a collision between two clusters, normal matter exerts a drag force, similar to air resistence, thus slows down itself. In contrast dark matter should not slow down because it doesn’t interact directly with itself or the normal matter except through gravity.

For a detailed explaination, see Cosmic Variance.