Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam Hussein

... is dead.

Angela Merkel indirectly criticizes the execution: We respect the judgment, but it is well-known that the federal government is against capital punishment. I wish the Iraqi people a path in peace without violence.

A Mr Ronald Balter on NYT's comment section: Saddam was convicted of executing people who tried to violently overthrow his government. I believe the penalty under American Law for violently trying to overthrow the government is also death. So Saddam was basically executed for doing what the American government would do in a similar circumstance, because he denied the revolutionaries Due Process.

David Elliot of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty called the execution pictures "ghoulish" and said in a phone interview that they are "more determined than ever to abolish the death penalty. It's not a question of whether it will happen, it's a question of when."

Amnesty International called the trail a fundamentally flawed process: Political interference undermined the independence and impartiality of the court, causing the first presiding judge to resign and blocking the appointment of another, and the court failed to take adequate measures to ensure the protection of witnesses and defence lawyers.

Sunday, December 24, 2006




  1. 工廠中,在動物出生後被困在細小的空間無法轉身。為求保証產量,餵食不明來歷的死屍和特別飼料使其快速生長或不停生蛋、產奶。被運到屠場的路上可能沒有食物食水。
  2. 動物在人類的住家中每天自由生活。食物是"human grade"的肉類和菜。就地屠宰。



狗吃首判監 4人重囚30日 活活浸死狗兒 官斥終極虐待
Twins嫌判監1個月過輕 怒罵吃狗肉者挑戰法律


Thursday, December 21, 2006


前幾星期將亞妹捉了去做手術,上星期總算可以拆線不用扮What's Michael了。不過拆線後她原本已很充沛的精力好像更充沛了,整天不停跑來跑去…



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

English Courses

Photo was taken last month in somewhere in Tai Koo Shing.

Why can't someone spell when they are teaching, or trying to teach, English?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006


悲,去旅行的前一天晚上竟為了一條無聊Game Theory問題而失眠。



Friday, October 27, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What is your Point of View?

There is a small café in Mongkok, which I mentioned before, whose owner seems to prefer NewsWeek as a regular source of global news. While waiting for a friend, I was flipping through the current issue at the café, and there I found an inspiring article right next to the letters to the editors. The article title was bright red in colour and typeset in a certain Serif font, like this:

My Point of View

The article was presumably written by a Taiwanese woman about her grandson Jason. The American kid had been studying in London. He did not want to work as a doctor like his father did, and have come to Taiwan to "see the world". At first the young man was not welcomed in the neighbourhood because he dressed like a degenerate. However, when later a fire broke out, he was the first to run into the scene and saved a girl with his first-aid skills.

Why, you may ask, is such an article appearing beside the "letters" section? It was not until the last paragraph when I noticed an equally bright red box in the bottom. The box had a triangular indentation on one side, like the one you can see below:

The article is in fact one of an advertisement series placed by HSBC, "the world's local bank".

This advertisement is interesting in a number of ways.

Position, layout

"Advertising" was printed legibly on the top right corner: The placement clearly indicated its nature but it was styled in such a way that the reader simply would not look at the grey letters. The article was written just like any other article appearing in a news magazine. It was only in the last paragraph, when fire insurance was mentioned, that one realizes it was about the evil cornerstone of modern empires, the finance industry.


While no references were made directly to the bank, the "globally local" concept was blended carefully throughout the article. The relationship between traditional Chinese families and American born Chinese educated in Britain is a perfect example of reconciliation of different cultures.

Insurance agents like to sell by fear. They like to tell you how easy it is to get Cancer; how tragic it can be if you are critically ill and unable to support your family; how helpless you will be when you are old without huge personal savings. This article did not scare you. It only suggested such possiblities indirectly. It is so real yet so distant. Afterall it is only a side character in a fictional story from a neighbouring country.

It also converted liabilities into dreams. How nice it will be if I could have a home so I can show my friends my personal collection! HSBC financed my home and made my dream come true. No mentioning of interest rates and repayment periods. It just worked. This was the placement in the previous week's issue.

It is no wonder why HSBC is one of the worlds top banks, and JWT one of the world's top advertising agencies.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"The Human Rights Act is a vital part of the fight against terrorism"

As reported by BBC, Lord Phillips, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales gave a lecture titled "Terrorism and Human Rights" at the University of Hertfordshire recently. He believes that human rights is a crucial weapon in fighting terrorism because it "is the ideology in which we believe." The same lecture was also given in Singapore a few months ago and the transcript is available online. To quote what he said:

"Terrorism is not readily defined, and whether activities amount to terrorism can depend upon your point of view. One man’s terrorist can be another man’s freedom fighter."

(Quoting Lord Hoffmann, another senior judge, regarding Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001) "Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community. The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve"

(Quoting the European Commisioner for Human Rights, regarding Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005) "Substituting 'obligation' for 'penalty' and 'controlled person' for 'suspect' only thinly disguises the fact that control orders are intended to substitute the ordinary criminal justice system with a parallel system run by the executive."

"Respect for human rights must, I suggest, be a key weapon in the ideological battle. [...] The Human Rights Act is not merely their safeguard, it is a vital part of the foundation of our fight against terrorism."

Lord Phillips also believes in punishment other than imprisonment. To prove his point he even went so far to pose as a drunk driver and participated in the Community Payback project for one full day and his feelings with the press later.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Crushing Futility

"Sadness is just another word for not enough coffee"

Monday, October 16, 2006

"That's like saying you don't want to kiss your lover's lips because everyone has lips."

I love the analogy.

Apple's Jobs doesn't see threats to iPod: report

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Apple Computer Inc. doesn't expect the iPod media player to be hurt by Microsoft Corp.'s Zune, Chief Executive Steve Jobs said in a magazine interview.

Microsoft has touted Zune, a portable media player due to be launched in the United States in time for the holiday shopping season, as a potential threat to the dominant iPod because of its ability to share music wirelessly.

"It takes forever," Jobs told Newsweek in an interview posted on the magazine's Web site on Sunday. "By the time you've gone through all that, the girl's got up and left."

Jobs was equally unconcerned about the prospect of the iPod losing its cool factor as it becomes increasingly ubiquitous.

"That's like saying you don't want to kiss your lover's lips because everyone has lips. It doesn't make any sense," said Jobs.

Thursday, October 12, 2006




Monday, October 09, 2006

"Deeply unethical"

"Deeply unethical" was Al Gore's comment about American involvement in the accumulation of greenhouse gases.

An Inconvenient Truth is a documentary movie in which the former Vice President of the United States talked about his environmental protection efforts as a politician in the last 20 years. He talked about the causes of global warming (greenhouse gases), its effects on world weather, the reluctance of governmental support on its prevention (such as the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol) and a lot more.

In this movie he said many, many times that global warming is "a moral issue" not political. In this very same movie, however, we can see that it can be as political as you want it to be. Indirectly he criticized the Bush administration for her over-emphasis on "War on Terror" and neglect on the environment. He claimed that the reluctance to adopt environmental friendly policies were supported by oil company lobby groups. It almost looks like it is part of a smearing campaign against the Republican government. There are more problems to this. One of which disturbs me a lot is "Carbon Neutrality" ...

Mr. Information Superhighway said you can reduce your Carbon Dioxide emission to zero. It is impossible unless you do not use any petroleum products. Carbon offset only make you feel better but does not mean you emit no net CO2 gas throughout your life. No amount of tree planting can compensate for the fact that crude oil has been pumped out from beneath the ground. Biofuel will eventually force us into using genetically altered crops, but it is at least a good start for a change.

There are more problems to this movies as Googling can show you, but it is nonetheless a good sign. It means that mainstream American politicians are aware of the environmental impact their country is bringing to this world and believe environmental-friendliness can attract voters. This movie may have been made for political motives, but it also gave the issue an attention it deserved. It is important to note that sustainable development can, and should go hand in hand with profit. Afterall we cannot expect anyone to invest in a company because it makes them feel good. Al Gore's investment company, Generation Investment Management, started investing client money last year based on sustainability research. I hope we will see more of it.

More links:
The moral flaws of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth: "admirable in intent", but ...
Key to "An Inconvenient Truth": Hey, Al Gore is a director on the board of Apple Computer!
絕望真相「影」真絕望: sordinmui's review of the movie

Impressions on An Inconvenient Truth: 7/10

Also watched recently ...
詭絲: 6/10
男たちの大和 (on DVD): 4/10

UPDATE: On USATODAY there is an article revealing how green Al Gore's lifestyle is. Apparently he did not go green energy when it is available, and turned a blind eye on his river-polluting mining concessions. That begs the fat doctor question.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Day against DRM

The third day of October is declared the Day against DRM.

What is DRM? Digital Restrictions Management, they say.
Why is DRM bad? It is a disaster for innovation, free speech, fair use, and competition. Worse still, recent DRM has invaded users' privacy and created severe security vulnerabilities in computers.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


不喜歡拼字遊戲的我,最近在Jolly Thinkers與朋友玩了兩局Sid Sackson寫的Buyword。第一次玩這遊戲是在大學同學T家中。他推介這個遊戲有兩個原因:一是他很喜歡拼字遊戲,二是這遊戲跟其他遊戲不一樣,不要求玩者有豐富的字彙。

盒裡有108個字母,依常用值分為1至4分。遊戲開始大家有$200 Buyword Bucks (錢),每回合有機會買入兩至五個字母,售價是字母點數的平方值。買完字母當然是砌字,賣字所得的錢也是點數的平方。例:上圖BUYWORD這七個字共13點,價錢是13x13=$169。所有字母派發完後,錢最多的勝出!有興趣的話,遊戲規則在Face2Face的遊戲介紹就能找到。

P.S. B字在遊戲中實為3分字母
P.P.S. BUYWORD不是一個英文字;如果BUY、WORD分成兩個字賣的話則是$49+$49
P.P.P.S. 幾個月沒看甚麼電影,這個blog還是改名算了。

Monday, September 11, 2006


以往保險agent都是靠人傳人的方法找新生意。近幾年保險公司經常有新的屎橋,其中一樣就是派樣子甜美的妙齡少女攔住在街上的單身男仕,以做問卷為名,做完之後將被訪者推上停泊在附近街邊的旅遊巴,讓另一個沒那麼甜美、也談不上妙齡的人類推銷不同類形的保險計劃。可能因為屎橋真的發生效用,由 A字頭到Z字頭的保險公司都用同一方法做生意,其後甚至有以年輕男仕吸引女仕的版本。如果時間很多的話我也會上車吹冷氣聽聽有甚麼廢話。

跟朋友約好到之前提過Jolly Thinkers吃東西,之前本打算到新世紀廣場買點東西,不過卻被一個盈科保險的問卷人攔住了。「我冇興趣,不過你不怕嘥時間我都可以聽下…」即使我如是說我還是被拉上車了。跟以往不一樣,這次的經歷比較搞笑。以下為部份精華片段:


我:咁policy fee要幾錢一個月?
佢:(理所當然地)冇policy fee架!




Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Christina Superstar"

「在奧地利有條黃金定律:當Christina Stürmer出新歌,下周必定在流行榜佔高位。試過五次直達榜首,可見我所言非虛。」 -- Gustav Götz (Hitradio Ö3 DJ)

四月的Nie Genug之後,新的細碟叫Um bei mir zu sein。


Sunday, September 03, 2006



Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005容許部長級官員對可能與恐怖活動有關的人仕頒發限管制條例,其中可包括對工作或商業活動、出入境自由、甚至與其他人仕溝通的限制。如果條例經法院同意甚至可違反歐洲人權公約。而恐怖活動是甚麼?可看Terrorism Act 2000。依這裡的定義,美軍的斷頭行動及以色列攻打黎巴嫩其實也是恐怖活動。


UK: Human rights under sustained attack in the ‘war on terror’
UK: Human rights: a broken promise

Saturday, September 02, 2006



Friday, September 01, 2006



Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bad Girls

Lesbian Barbie upsets Mattel

Bad Girl 30
Karin Schwarz, a Brazilian artist, might get sued by Mattel because she portrayed Barbie as a lesbian. "Barbie is a very proper lady and she is not happy about being portraited as something that she isn't," a spokesman from Mattel Brazil said.

The artist stands firm and is unwilling to suspend her "Amazing Girls" exhibition. "Barbie is exploited by Mattel. She wears a bikini, she shows off her belly, has big breasts, and even has a boyfriend", she responded to the accusations.

Whatever Mattel may want people to believe, A Barbie doll is a toy. Aren't people, children or adults, supposed to play with toys in whatever ways they want? Do we also have our freedom of expression to create derivative works of such toys?

Source: Althouse

Monday, August 28, 2006

Comic World Hong Kong 22

由於有朋友擺檔的關係買票進去看CWHK 22,結果變成拍攝Super Dollfie的活動。而全場最『有份量』的應該要算這一對…一對…


Flickr裡有更多Comic World 照片


Friday, August 25, 2006

Victorinox stamps

CHF 1.00 stamp
CHF 1.30 stamp
In the coming September Swiss Post will release a set of two new special stamps. The set is called "Traditional Swiss products – Pocket knife" and features the famous Victorinox utilities knives. The CHF 1.00 stamp shows one of the first "Officer's knifes" produced in the 19th Century. The "Present" stamp is an Explorer knife, according to Swiss Post. If you happen to live in Switzerland you can also get a collector's set at CHF 139 (HKD 880) with the stamps on plaque and a pocket knife, packed in an aluminium case.

Did you know that the company was once named Victoria in memory of Karl Elsener's mother? In the March issue of Focus of Stamps you can read about the history of Victorinox.

Source: Victorinox

Virus as food additives?

FDA Says Viruses Safe for Treating Meat

The combination of six viruses is designed to be sprayed on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, including sliced ham and turkey, [...] are meant to kill strains of the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium.

As long as it used in accordance with the regulations, we have concluded it's safe [...] Consumers won't be aware that meat and poultry products have been treated with the spray [...] The FDA had concerns that the virus preparation potentially could contain toxic residues associated with the bacteria. However, testing did not reveal the presence of such residues, which in small quantities likely wouldn't cause health problems anyway, the FDA said.

According to the news article thIt could probably be a good thing (for now), because canned food might get the same shelf life without using as much chemicals. But where will it end? Will FDA soon approve using the virus as cattle vaccines? Will companies start offering genetically engineered, "naturally" bacterial resistant poultry?

Source: Stephanie McMillan

Wednesday, August 23, 2006



Cambridge House


Sunday, August 20, 2006



Are you SURE you want to remove that?
"Two fully functional penes is unheard of even in medical literature. In the more common form of diphallus, one organ is rudimentary," the newspaper quoted a surgeon as saying.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sudoku Hex by Dr Reiner Knizia

Our popular game designer Dr Knizia just posted a free Sudoku variant on Knizia @ Convivium. You can download and print Sudoku Hex! PDF rules to play. It would be nice if you have a copy of Attika.

Source: Boardgame News

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"Fuck Off!"

Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger got their revenge at the paparazzis. Both starred in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain.

Source: Egotastic!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006




Monday, July 24, 2006

"The quality of work is more important than life"

Except from an article from Daily Telegraph

China calls for the ultimate sacrifice from its Olympics workforce
By Peter Simpson in Beijing

Among the many slogans hung around the huge Olympic Village to spur on the 2,000-plus workforce is a banner proclaiming: "The quality of work is more important than life". The blue and white sign was hidden from public view during a recent visit by foreign journalists.

It appears that the harsh Orwellian language of the slogan, with echoes of the darker days of China's communist past, is being followed a little too closely, as the city rushes to be ready for the Olympics. According to the Construction Ministry, there have been 49 deaths in Beijing's building industry this year.


Patrick Poon, of China Labour Bulletin [...] said most construction companies cover up occupational deaths or serious injuries: "Only between five and 10 per cent of workplace accidents are officially reported."
In 2004, there were 3833 accidents Hong Kong in the construction industy, in which 17 people died.

Source: Burning our money

Friday, July 21, 2006

"愛上Board Games"的樓上café - Jolly Thinkers

早前聽朋友介紹,最近在旺角新世紀廣場附近新開了一間以德式桌上遊戲為主題的小店,今晚剛好有空跟他們上去一聚。店子很小,由一個唐樓單位改裝而成。一進門就看見滿架讓客人自由取用的遊戲,還有六點已經開始『打躉』、正在玩Anno 1503的幾位朋友。我點了一客肉醬意粉($52)及紅豆刨冰($32)。意粉的水準不錯,而能在炎夏吃到美味的刨冰實在很幸福!之後玩了兩局朋友帶來的Havoc

店的名字叫Jolly Thinkers,地址是旺角太子道西182-184號金寶樓1樓C座。稍後有機會再光顧,問過店主後可能拍一兩張照片再作詳細介紹。

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Never Enough"

Christina Stürmer的奧地利官網公佈了新消息:四月推出的新single "Nie Genug"定於八月十八日在德國公開發售,而新大碟也將九月中在德國、奧地利、瑞士發售。想聽新歌只要到官網一走就可以聽到,也可以下載MP3MV


I live in this moment
I never get enough
Don't ask me how and when
the summer comes
No matter how fast the Earth rotates
it is never fast enough for me
It is unthinkable to just watch
Clearly it is

I won't yield
Will go even further
I will stay simply like what I am now

I never get enough of life
I never get enough - there can be more
I want everything all at once and nothing less
I will not just sit and wait for things to happen

I never get enough of life
I never get enough - are you with me?
I will risk everything
I want to win, not to lose
Always more, always more, always more

Sunday, July 16, 2006





Monday, July 10, 2006



今個星期日敗了個有加號的貨品,就是之前提過的Victorinox s.beat MP3。實物跟之前看到的相片一樣漂亮。不過不幸的是說明書竟然錯字百出,且update firmware之後就無法使用。對這種意料之外的事情,我只能又一次orz。

Monday, July 03, 2006

Is France ruled by a bunch of idealists?

France adopts toned down version of download law

"In its earlier form, the bill would have forced online stores ... to share DRM code". The revised law still grants consumers "the right ... to make private copies". Federal Consumers' Union said the amendments is "a surrender to big corporations and a defeat for consumer rights", but Jim Prendergast of Americans for Technology Leadership still thinks it is a "complete disregard for intellectual property".

It is nice to know that a first world Government is still fighting for consumer freedom, but can the French win?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Stop talking

A Pearls before Swine comic strip on 30th June, 2006.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Is there still Justice in the U.S.?

Perhaps there is afterall. I just hope it is not too little or too late.

Court declares Guantanamo tribunals illegal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a sharp rebuke of President George W. Bush's tactics in the war on terrorism, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down as illegal the military tribunal system set up to try Guantanamo prisoners.


The ruling, handed down on the last day of the court's 2005-06 term, followed the suicides of three Guantanamo prisoners this month and increased calls for Bush to close the prison camp. U.S. treatment of inmates at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan has drawn international criticism.

The ruling only addressed the military tribunals, not the broader issues of whether "enemy combatants" can be held indefinitely or whether the camp should be closed.


One of Hamdan's lawyers, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, praised the ruling. "All we wanted was a fair trial," he said outside the Supreme Court.

Civil liberties and human rights groups were also jubilant. Amnesty International said it "sends a clear message to President Bush that he cannot act unilaterally to create a system of law from thin air."

Nicholas Howen, secretary-general of the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, said, "Now is the time for the Bush administration to move ahead swiftly to release all prisoners in Guantanamo."


Source: Yahoo! news

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A very scary, scary movie

I have watched Scary Movie series. All 4 of them in the cinema. Scary Movie 4 is a hilarious, politically incorrect movie. Funny but not much to think about. Except 2 scenes that disturbs me in a strange way.

Abortion: Just before leaving for the U.N., President Harris (Leslie Nielson) looked back at the kids and told Harper, "remind me to sign the Abortion Law."
Gay marriage: Henry (Bill Pullman) said in the party, "let's celebrate this domestic partnership...". He felt disgusted seeing the gay couple kissing each other and said to himself, "the village is nothing like what it was." (paraphrased)

I will leave you to decide if they are just harmless jokes, or if they have a message they want to spread.

Impressions on Scary Movie 4: 6/10

There is a review on PopMatters that I found interesting.

Friday, June 23, 2006

NetHack revisited

The thousand-word essay was not enough to describe all the features and peculiarities of the game, so here is the second part.

The Beast Within

Food is essential in real life. It is also important in sophisticated games such as NetHack. Regarding food, most creatures can be classified into 4 types: omnivores (humans), carnivores (cats and dogs), herbivores (horses) and metallivores (rust monsters). If you need to eat but do not, you quickly feel weak (reduced strength), and will eventually faint and die of starvation. The most readily available food source is the fresh kills you make. Corpses (except lizards) eventually rot and decompose, but before they do, they provide important nutritions for you or your pet.

Eating is good in other ways too. It grants you new abilities, known as "intrinsics" in the game. Eating giants may increase your strength. Eating poisonous corpses (not exactly a good idea) may grant you poison resistence. Eating an invisible stalker makes you invisible. Eating a werewolf turns you into a werewolf.

You can only kill monsters and eat their corpse after they die. Some creatures, like purple worms (from Dune), can eat monsters whole. A purple worm can eat your pet demon and digest it in one turn, giving you lots of frustration.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Stealing is bad, but it can be very rewarding. The foolhardy way is to just grab everything and run, but you cannot get out unless you first kill the shopkeeper, who is a very strong fighter. Not a good idea. You can also try teleporting your way out but you will never be welcomed in the same shop again.

Your pets can do these dirty tricks for you. If you tame your pets by feeding them regularly, they will pick up objects and bring it to you, even objects in shops. A large dog can even fetch a chest.

Yet Another ... Geek Pun?

Like it or not, humour is an essential part of the game. Sometimes they are coded into the game. If you are hit by a quantum mechanic, you are teleported and your position will be very uncertain. Eating spinach can increase your strength. So can a lump of royal jelly if you managed to run into a beehive and kill about 30 angry killer bees.

The game is also full of puns. If you eat an apple or a pear while playing a UNIX version of the game, you get a "core dumped" message. Eating a sprig of wolfsbane (wolf-s-bane) cures lycanthropy. If you levitate across a kitchen sink, you sink and fall to the ground.

A collection of harmless messages can be very funny. NetHackers even give this an abbreviation: YAFM or Yet Another Funny Message. One recent one I encountered is like this:
Kaablamm! You hear an explosion in the distance! --More--
You suddenly realize it is unnaturally quiet. The dog bites!

What really happened? Someone far away set off a landmine, while I am just entering a graveyard.

There are many ways to die. You can die by colliding with the ceiling, you can choke to death by eating too much. You can get thrown off the back of your steed. You can die by repeatedly throwing a cockatrice corpse up until the damage send you to heaven. There is also an abbreviation for this: YASD or Yet Another Stupid Death. Some adventurous players continuously try to find new ways to die! The owners of posts a list of top types of deaths on the website.

The Da Vinci Code

After getting the cat I have been quite slack on movie posts. This situation will improve, if she continues to bite me regularly. I am confining her to jail in the living room and lock myself in my bedroom with the computer. (Who is the prisoner? Me or her?) Back to topic.

The Book

I borrowed a copy of the book from a friend and finished it in 4 days. Not because it was that good, but because I wanted to complete the book before going for the movie. No it was not bad. In the first half before Langdon & Co. went to London it was rather nice, but after that it decayed into a poor imitation of a spy novel. There is one thing I really hate: creating myth that looks like fact. Dan Brown kept throwing lots of unrelated information at us and try showing us how they are related, but he did not really do his research carefully. It really helps to provide a small section of clarifation, like Chevalier's historical fictions.

The Movie with minor spoiler alert

I have repeatedly seen negative reviews from those who have read and loved the book, because it turned a suspense story into an action flick, because it changed the story too much, because they picked Tom Hanks to play Robert Langdon...

It was not as bad as I thought. Lots were changed in the movie but many of them are good changes. In the novel, there is only one bad guy. Sir Teabing the crazy, fanatic supporter of the sacred feminine. Captain Fache was a good guy from beginning to end; Bishop Aringarosa was simply tricked into believing what he should not and was trying to correct his mistakes by confessing to Fache; Silas the albino was a misguided "angel"; The Church paid Opus Dei only for a peaceful "divorce". In the movie the roles have been changed: The Church and the Bishop were conspiring to destroy the Priory of Sion, with the Church supplying cash and Aringarosa supplying the soldier, only to find themselves cheated by Leabing. Fache was a poor stupid cop who believed the lies of Aringarosa. I believe this story made more sense than the original.

There is, however, something terribly wrong with the ending. 2000 years of document lying in the Rosslyn Chapel? Believers rushing out of nowhere to see the last descendant of Jesus Christ? DNA analysis ruined because the body could not be found? They should have used the more opaque ending from the novel: An old woman, a young man and old photos. Nice family gatherings. Words that they chose to trust with faith.

Impressions on The Da Vinci Code: 5/10, because I hate how the ending was mangled.

You might also be interested in this MTV Awards parody.

The Boardgame

Da Vinci Code is the German edition of the 2-4 player deduction game CODA. In this Japanese designed game there are 26 tiles of 2 colours, out of which 2 special tiles are reserved for the advanced game only. Before game begins, you pick 3 to 4 tiles randomly and order them facing you in ascending numeric order, where black tiles are placed before whites in case of a tie. When your turn comes, you pick up one of the remaining tiles, then try to guess ("attack") the number on one of another players' tiles. If you guessed correctly, the "defending" player turns that tile around for everyone to see and you make attack again. If you were wrong, you turn your tile over and your turn ends immediately. The game ends when only one player has any unrevealed tiles, who is declared the winner.

Is it any good? I am not really a fan of deduction games, but I still find it entertaining. Unlike the more American styled games such as Clue, it is simple, easy to explain and short. I have not played it enough to like it, but I will be willing to play it again if given the opportunity.

P.S. I completed Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring in 2 days. It was that good.

Thursday, June 22, 2006





Wednesday, June 21, 2006

NetHack: a cheaper yet better version of Diablo II

I assume nobody understood what the valkyrie post was about. So if you do not mind reading a long, boring essay I will try explaining my favourite game, NetHack, here.

"Let's play a different game than what we're playing"

Diablo II screenshot
Have you played Blizzard's PC game Diablo, or Microsoft's Dungeon Siege? They are a type of games commonly known as dungeon-crawling or hack-and-slash games. There is a common formula to these games: An evil power has risen, and you, the "adventurer" must rush to save the day before the world is destroyed. You begin as a squire, a "level 1" character with weak fighting skills. Battles after battles, you defeat minions sent by an evil wizard or demon, learning new spells and abilities on the way. Replacing daggers with long swords, ring mails with enchanted plate mails, you fight your way to the final chapter, where you get a hard-earned, glorious victory. Then you see the ending movie and credits screen, and start again with the hard-core mode.

Now ditch the handsome 3D graphics and movies. Remove the multiplayer functions. Replace the 3-CD installation set with a 2MB archive and, with a little imagination, your adventure can be even more exciting.

Simplicity is beauty

More than 20 years ago, Rogue was born. Wildly popular (I suppose) among computer gurus, the game was later expanded into something called Hack. Hack was bundled with many BSD-compatible UNIX systems including SunOS 4.1, on which I first played the game while trapped in University laboratories at night. Later I found NetHack, a hugely enhanced version of Hack. I installed it in my GNU/Linux box and played it again and again, trying to beat the game but failed.

NetHack screenshot
These games, collectively called roguelikes, all have a very similar interface. Originally running on computers with 80x24 text only computer terminals when arrow keys were not popular, the game was operated from a standard QWERTY keyboard using HJKL as navigation keys, much like the VI editor. The whole game is presented in the terminal. Instead of animated 3D pictures, The dungeons are drawn using ASCII characters. The @ sign is a human, f stands for felines, including cats and tigers, and % represents food. It looks cryptic at first, but with a little training you can get used to it very easily.

Everything, including the kitchen sink

It is often said that "the DevTeam thinks of everything" (TDTTOE). Having a plain interface does not mean the game is plain. On the contrary, it allows more possibilities that any modern PC game could offer. In NetHack you can start as one of the 12 roles, including Archeologist, Samurai, Valkryie, Barbarian, Wizard and Tourist(!). You goal is very simple: go down the dungeon, steal an amulet from the invincible Wizard of Yendor. After escaping alive, you will then enter the astral planes, fight some elementals and angels, sacrifice the Amulet of Yendor to your deity and ascend to immortality.

Throughout the game you may encounter more than 300 different types of monsters, grouped by similarity into 57 groups, using all uppercase and lowercase letters except I, as well as characters like @ and &. There are many different types of scrolls, potions, wands and artifact weapons. It even has kitchen sinks with peculiar properties, imported from SLASH'EM, itself a derivitive of NetHack.

The DevTeam did not invent all the monsters and items themselves. Most of them has roots in folklore and novels, including Nazguls from J.R.R. Tokien's Lord of the Rings, Medusa and the Mjollnir from Greek and Norse mythology, the Excalibur from King Arthur legends as well as magic lamps filled with Arabian Nights Djinns. They even provided these references in the documentation.

I have already told you that the adventurer is allowed to bring a pet into the dungeon, but did I tell you they have default names? If you play a Samurai, your dog will be called Hachi, the loyal dog of a Japanese professor; if you play a Barbarian, your dog is Idefix, whose owner was a fictional Gaul barbarian named Obelix in Asterix, a French comic book. There is a section in wikipedia about Mythology and fiction in NetHack.

These characters and items are not just for decorative purposes. Most of them retain properties true to the legend from which they are born. If you are worthy enough, the Lady of the Lake may bless your sword into the Excalibur when you dip it into a fountain. On the Medusa Island, you will find a status of Perseus, stoned to death by Medusa. If you break the statue you may be able to find a shield of reflection (polished shield from Athena the goddess of war) and boots of levitation (winged sandels from Hermes the messenger from the gods). Like in Lord of the Rings, the Sting warns you of orcs' presence by glowing blue, and cuts through spider webs instantly. You may even have sex with a succubus and die of exhaustion.

Items can be combined to form the most bizzare effects at the strangest moments. What would you do when you need to cross a river? In a PC game there is usually only one way: talk to a villager, who will tell you that you can find a lever in the bushes to lower the drawbridge. In NetHack, to name a few, you can steal a pair of water walking boots, fly using a potion of levitation, freeze the water with a spell, or swim if you can breath under water. If you have the strength, you can even chain a heavy metal ball to yourself using a scroll of punishment, throw the ball to the other side and drag you across.

Say Grace

Two weeks ago a Ukrainian jumped into a lion cage. He shouted "God will save me, if he exists" but a lioness killed him before any god could save him. In NetHack this will not happen. For one thing there are tigers, panthers but no lions. In addition there is a deity system. There is a God to provide you guidence and to attend to your needs. If you are in your deity's favour, you can #pray and they will protect you from almost any trouble you run into. Monsters will not attack you when your deity is listening to you, and nice things will happen. You may be completely healed, your items may be uncursed, or your deadly food poison might just go away. If your God really likes you, you may also be granted an artifact with immense powers.

You have to pay for all these, though. To earn their favours you may need provide sacrifices. Corpses of powerful beasts work best but geckos are nice too. If you do not have their favours, things could go really ugly. When you annoy your God by talking too much, a heavenly thunder may strike you in your face, or your God may send an angel to hunt you down.

Messing with the dead

When you play the game matters. NetHack uses the computer clock to determine what may happen. During a full moon, dogs howl and werewolves are more feverish. On Friday the 13th, you have worse luck. If you insist on playing at midnight, undead do double damage.

In the game there are some randomly generated special levels. One of which is the bones level. When a character is killed, a bones file may be generated. The dead character becomes a ghost that haunts the place where he is killed. Somewhere during your game you may run into this level instead of the usual dungeon maps. If you manage to kill the ghost and whatever that killed him, you win a great prize and may take the possessions of the poor guy. Beware, adventurer! Most of his possessions may be cursed. If you are playing alone on your own computer you will only find your bones files, but if you want to meet new undead friends, you can transport the dead through a third-party application, appropriately named Hearse.

Alternatively you can play online like I do. Simply connect to through telnet, create an account and you can join the adventure.

Ah-mui's gift for me

I discovered a gift from her just now...

A dried house gecko. Must have come from the kitchen. Am I supposed to put it into the wine bottle?

Word of the day: What does the word "gift" mean in German? And what is the German word for a gift?

  1. das Gift = poison
  2. a gift = ein Geschenk

Monday, June 19, 2006

My first valkyrie past Medusa ended up like this

/ \
/ REST \
/ IN \
/ \
| hokuto |
| 4096 Au |
| killed by a |
| minotaur |
| |
| |
| 2006 |
*| * * * | *

Farvel hokuto the Valkyrie...

You died in The Dungeons of Doom on dungeon level 28 with 277663 points,
and 4096 pieces of gold, after 24746 moves.
You were level 16 with a maximum of 147 hit points when you died.

I should probably genocide minotaurs instead of gelatinous cubes next time.

Interesting and sad moments

Apart from getting through the Medusa level for the first time, there are some more interesting and sad moments, such as ...

Ah-mui turned into a blue dragon after I fed her some chameleon meat

Ah-mui later polymorphed herself into a monkey. Poor her. She was so naughty to stir up a dragons' nest for me.

Surrounded by dragons and orcs and trolls, Ah-mui died a horrible death...

Revenge is never sweet; It tastes like a cockatrice corpse and dragon statues.

Getting rid of Medusa is easy if you have the right tools

Saturday, June 17, 2006

s.beat: music player, swiss army style

Victorinox is into the MP3 business now. At 74 x 22 x 24 mm, s.beat includes a digital audio player, up to 2 GB of USB memory, radio tuner, voice recorder, scissors, nail-file, knife blade ...

Charming, is it not? The 1 GB model is already for sale and can be bought at ThinkGeek. (US$169.99 but is out of stock right now) Do you know if we will be able to buy one in Hongkong?

Source: Rocketboom

Friday, June 16, 2006



可愛的日本ホクト牌ブナシメジ (好像是叫本菇吧…)


Monday, June 12, 2006

Abortion, blood, CSI

When you try to look up something on the Internet, you often end up with something entirely different. No wonder people call it the Web and search engines Spiders. Mixed with a bizzare reading list I come up with the following information.

In CSI season 6 episode 6 "Secret and Flies", Catherine Willows argued with a Dr. Emily Ryan on the presence of life in an embryo. Dr. Ryan works for Project SunFlower, a "pro-life" organization. They believe life begins when the egg is fertilized and that planting embryos into a mother's womb is an adoption nine months early. Willows strongly opposed to that idea and had an argument with Dr Ryan, the transcript of which can be found in Scott McClare's blog. The argument turned sour and, as usual, our good old supervisor Gil Grissom has something to say.

"I'm pro-choice. I am in favour of stem cell research. I'm sorry she felt harassed but my comments were in response to her statements," Catherine said.
"You should have cited Leviticus 17:11," quoting the Old Testament, he continued his lecture, "'the life of the flesh is in the blood.' Taken literally, life doesn't begin when sperm meets the egg, but 18 days later when the embryo is infused with blood."
"Is that your position?"
"If I were speaking with a woman who prefers theology to science, it's a position she'll find tough to refute."

This argument received quite some criticism on the net. Kelly Wait said "... the Biblical reference is about sacrifice and atonement, not about when life begins." Scott McClare said Willow's argument was "un-scientific". Was it as un-scientific as some have said? Did the CSI screen writers try to smear the image of pro-lifers? When I was drafting this post in April I firmly believed the answers were both "no". After downloading the episode and viewing again, I am no longer sure. I noticed for a fact that they tried to describe Dr Ryan as a irrational woman. It is only a side plot but perhaps the screen writers were themselves pro-choice.

But I am quite sure of one thing: science can only explain and predict phenomenons. It cannot be used to explain ethics and moral judgement. In one of my favourite blogs, Dr Crippen has described his problems with the morality behind abortion and believes it should be called pro-abortion not pro-choice. He does not like abortions, but he does not like lethal injections either. Yet he continues to sign those "wretched abortion forms". "It is a woman's right to control her own body," he wrote. There are also some articles on Ann Althouse's "blawg" about the Roe v. Wade case, the South Dakota legislation against abortion, and abortion in general.

Abortion is a delicate issue. At what stage do we call an embryo a life? At what stage is taking it from the mother's womb a murder? If we are to kill someone, what reason is good enough? I have listed others' views, but as always, I am afraid to define my own standpoint. I am afraid to expose my choice. It is wrong to provide ethical judgement using science, but it is equally wrong to explain life with politics, as they are trying in South Dakota.

Sunday, June 11, 2006




『我唔要聽Avril Lavigne,你再聽我推你個喇叭落街』


Saturday, June 10, 2006



以下全是unicode 4.1 內CJK Unified Ideographs Extension B (U+20000)裡的字。『𠝹』字也是在這堆字裡面。

Pac-Man x Space Invaders?
同"飽"。《說文.食部》 :"飽,猒也。𩜕,古文飽。"
同"奏"。《說文.夲部》 :"奏,進也。𡳡,古文。"《字彙補.尸部》:"𡳡,《說文》古奏字。"

有興趣找原文嗎?看Unihan data裡面的dictionary information,漢語大字典下的五位數字就是頁數,例如『臥虎』是第四部2803頁。

如果看不到字形可以試下載Microsoft的新细明體更新套件,不過我安裝也有問題。我在網上找到更新套件的兩個TTF Collection自行安裝:細明體5.03細明體ExtB 1.05。即使用MacOS或GNU/Linux的應該也用得著。

Thursday, June 08, 2006


When we were young there used to be a TV cartoon show called Science Ninja Team. Purely fictional, you say. Perhaps it will become reality soon.

It is said that the modular flying device "GRYPHON" will allow soldiers to fly at 200km/h. It will be quiet, very difficult to detect with radar, and unlike parachutes, it will be almost completely unaffected by weather conditions.

More information is available in the company's latest press release and Daily Mail.

Source: Althouse

Sunday, June 04, 2006

200 litres of diet coke...

Gives us a fancy experiment

Punk; random thoughts through the eyes of an amateur

As someone who have absolutely no knowledge of the punk culture, I love listening to punk music.

Or so I thought.

When I buy a CD, it is often more about buying than using. After I ripped them to MP3 files or downloaded music from the net, (yes I am a pirate, as are about 10 million others; sue me) usually I just play them a few times and stash them away. There are some songs that I seem to prefer over the others, songs that I keep playing from time to time, again and again. Most of them (loosely) punk.

Or so I thought.

So who are they? What have I listened to since the last month that has something to do with punk?

Avril Lavigne
Kuroyume (黒夢)
Simple Plan
System of a down

Some are true pop/rock punk bands. Some are J-Rock / Visual Kei groups with punk/goth influence. Some are probably just teen-pop singers posing punk looks.

Let's just say... I love pop punk music, or punk wannabes who joined major record labels.

Or so I thought. I do not know anymore.

I know nothing... ™

The Wolf, again

Above is the Anarcho-punk symbol which is also embedded in the Damage Control banner. Fellow boardgamer readers, (as if I had any) does this symbol ring any bells? Guess not. What if we rotate the symbol by 180 degrees and erase a few pixels at the center? Does it look familiar now?

The inversed symbol is a clan symbol in White Wolf's now defunct Vampire: the Masquerade RPG and associated products. What seemed like a distorted feline face in a gothic make-up is the symbol of clan Brujah, the muscle of the Camarilla. It is good to know the punk warrior symbol had a deep history - even with some misconception. I know punks used to be poor, jobless, dumpster-diving dropouts unacccepted by the society, but anarcho-punks are not the angry warriors as Brujahs are portrayed in the story, or are they?

I wonder if any other seemingly meaningless symbols have meaningful real-life origins. Say, why did they choose the Egyptian Ankh, symbol of life, as the Caitiff clan symbol?

Friday, June 02, 2006


Can 5 people play a game by staring at wooden cubes scattered randomly on the table? (see photo on right) You can. And it could be a very nice one.

Through a friend's group order I got a copy of Oraklos from Funagain Games during a clearance sale. At USD $5, it is truely a bargain and I can bypass the usual restrictions, that I must have read the rules before getting a copy.

Oraklos is designed by Tamara Jannink and Joris Wiersinga and published by Splotter Spellen, a small Dutch boardgame company. The components the usual Splotter quality: bad but functional. The box smells like old cardboard. The ink did not coat that well, giving a rough surface and cards were tied using rubberbands. Limited budgets I suppose.

The true gem, as I have experienced from Antiquity, lies solely in the rulebook. In Oraklos, one player throws about 20 colored cubes onto the table. Then players attempts to locate quadrilaterals whose corners match the symbols on one of the 3 hint cards they have. There is a twist: if you look closely enough you will notice the cubes all have holes. Quads with holes on top do not count as a valid pattern. As do quads which enclose or touch any other cubes.

For game test purposes, we played a standard game to completion last night. Finding a valid pattern was more difficult than I thought, especially patterns which 3 different colours. As far as I know, all players seem to have enjoyed the game. The game took around 30 minutes, double the printed playtime, but I did not find it boring, and I wish to play it again real soon.






Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hamster fighting machine

Turn Your Hamster into a Fighting Machine

It is worse than my crazy idea.

Source: The Argument Clinic

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Antique discovery, part 3

Some old coins locked in the other room. Guess that would make my part 3.

I have placed a "new" one dollar coin as size comparison. Please note portraits of King George VI on coins issued before his death in 1952, and I would also like to add my comment that the recent coin designs are uglier than how they should be.

Marriage Toll


"Men conduct scientific research (or do anything else) in order to attract women and get married (albeit unconsciously)," he says. "What’s the point of doing science (or anything else) if one is already married? Marriage (or, more accurately reproductive success, which men can usually attain only through marriage) is the goal; science or anything else men do is but a means. From my perspective, scientists are no different than anybody else; evolutionary psychology applies to all humans equally," he adds.
Source: Althouse

Sunday, May 28, 2006


醫生又說亞妹咬人是小貓的必經階段,『(英文)大個就唔會架啦!』醫生如是說。我只能 orz

更多相片在Yahoo! flickr