Advanced mathematics?

January 29, 2009

You can see the non-critical zeros a few times

You can see the non-critical zeros a few times

Just started to re-read Karl Sabbagh’s story of the development of the proof to Riemann’s hypothesis.  A student of Gauss, Riemann broke out later to make valuable contributions to mathemathetics, principally in higher dimensions and non-euclidean geometries (which are intrinsic tools in the development of quantum theory, which I love). 

Riemann’s hypothesis stipulates that there is a relationship between prime numbers and distribution of zeros in the zeta-function.  In number theory, the established method of working out when a prime would appear is done by Riemann’s method, but it is unproven to be true for all circumstances.  As such, this is probably the last great unproven conjecture in Mathematics (Fermat’s theorum proven a few years ago by Wiles).

The zeta function when plotted out

The zeta function when plotted out in the complex plane


Then in thinking about mathematics, I remembered Nash’s game theory, which in turn jogged my memory on the very interesting monty hall problem, for which I found a good explanation in wiki. I must say i insisted on 50% when I first heard the problem.
Here’s the link.

Chinese New Year

January 28, 2009

Catered food 2009
Catered food 2009

Growing up in Malaysia I have always looked forward to Chinese New Year.  Like most Chinese families, my family would gather during the holidays for the reunion feast, never mind that I grew up Japanese.  The feast was an undertaking usually done by the women in the family, where they would cook up and showcase their specialities.  As a child, I ate with relish, only to discover later, and perhaps with my palate getting increasingly sophisticated, that they weren’t very good cooks. In the later years cooking became a chore, especially to feed ingrates like us, the decision to switch to catering or dining at a local restaurant was made without much fuss.

We’d stock up on New Year goodies (biscuits, sweet meats, drinks etc), and mandarin oranges to exchange with vistors who’d come around during the festivities.  Usually half of these cookies and sweet meats would be gone by New Year, so usually the purchase of such confectionary we’d account more for the thiefs inside the house than bona fide vistors.   

In the past, we’d buy firecrackers and sky-piercers, and often lit them without getting away fast enough, and perhaps the earliest memory of ever getting an adrenalin rush.  At barely an arm’s length, the fireworks would start exploding or whoosh up into the sky, close enough to get burnt from errant sparks or to smell the gunpower. Later, the sale was understandably banned, though as children we couldn’t have understood it too well.   Chinese New Year was became all the more sedate because of it.

In recent years, Chinese New Year or any other holiday or memorial day, has lost its significance and lustre.  A natural cynic, I’d protest against the hallmarkization of Valentine’s day, and even see little sense in commemorating birthdays.  Religious holidays have no bearing on me whatsoever.  But it’s not entirely “bah humbug”, for I see the symbolism behind MLK day(not in Malaysia), or labor day, and I do observe mother’s day, and love the communal bond of a get-together like a Chinese New Year reunion dinner.

Yee Sang Yee Sang


KLPac open day

January 20, 2009

home85resIt’s my favourite part of the city, and I take every opportunity to visit.  An oasis in the middle of the city, a serene purpose-built park around defunct railway buildings, and its ruins dramatically dot the landscape, with wide open spaces, swans in the ponds, empty archways as art forms, and the lone tree.

The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Center stands in its center, as a converted old building, enmeshing the old & the new, retaining the flavour of its brick past with stainless steel railings & large glass panes.

 On Sunday they had an open day, for which we arrived late, but caught glimpses of the KLPac idol(self-explanatory) in the main foyer. I hung around, repelled by the pop songs the contestants chose to sing, but impressed with the professionalism and gratified with the lack of camp that accompanies these things.  Elsewhere, I spotted plays enacted on the lawn, there were photography studios conducting classes,  tap dance instructors teaching its techniques.  We participated in a percussion session, handed sticks and drums when we came in- at its start, everyone just banged away, and slowly the cacophony gave way to a constant rhythm.  An instructor stepped in to conduct, seperating the room into different beats, starting & stopping, varying speeds, to great effect.

Later, I bought dvds from a stand on films made by Malaysian directors.



Belle Epoque

January 19, 2009

Today marks the last day of the Bush administration, a selfish, myopic & deceitful regime, and tomorrow dawns a new hope.  This post marks this day.

Today marks a notch in the journey for social & political maturity in Malaysia, with the victory in a by-election in the heartlands, in Kuala Terengganu.

Today the cease fire starts in Gaza, but tenously, held together by 2 sides with almost no credibility.

Hopes springs eternal in the human breast – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

daisoRead that the Malaysian government announced the end of their austerity drive today, which means all spending, special projects that were previously frozen because of the worsening economy are now unfrozen.  Government departments are now cleared to spend. The report was just that, only a few lines longer than my statement.

I did my part for the economy I guess-  got into deeper debt by taking a delivery of my new car last week, a Volvo S60. To me it was timely decision, the maintenance bills of my old S40 was piling up and its resale value was dropping – I’ve reached and surpassed my shutdown point.  But to get another Volvo was an emotional decision – Never as reliable as a Japanese car, nor passionate or drivable as the Germans or the Italians, but I have always felt safe in my Volvos, and its clean and sleek lines appeal to me in its scandinavian oeurve of form and functionality. 

While driving back from Kuantan last week, the topic of conversation between PL, Waka and me was on our financial futures. PL was in the market for an apartment in Singapore, and asked for my advice.  I started on lecturing about the need to knowing the full picture; our targets on how we want to live, our responsibilities (children’s education and ensuring their futures etc), our retirements & beyond.  On knowing the tools in which to do it, the various ways of savings and investing, the planning & organization, the timing & execution.

The key to wealth creation – a moderate salaryman’s guide – is a combination of austerity & savings, wise investment and the timing of your debt.   On this last point, I just have to make sure that I can manage my debt, that some of my investments generate revenue now, that some of them have future earnings, that some of them act to shelter me from unforseen circumstances.  I have to time it such that when I retire and draw my last fixed pay, my debts are cleared.  If I can do it early, I live like my last post.

Went to Daiso in the Curve today, the famous Japanese 100 Yen shop (in Malaysia it’s RM 5). The business model is that the store sources 90,000 products from around the whole, but most of the time OEMs its own products, on a range from products from canned food to stationery, crockery to cleaning supplies, party favors to toys, gardening tools to fishing equipment, mostly for 100 Yen retail.   I shopped at Daiso IMM in Singapore for years, as did my mother in Japan.  The emergence of the Daiso-style retail, at least in Japan, stems from the 90s, when the bubble burst, and conspicuous consumption frowned upon, many co-operatives started up sourcing and packaging cheaper, no-brand products and goods, at the same quality.  Acceptance of this meant the proliferation of over 2,500 stores in Japan, and 500 overseas.  It has been called the Wal-mart of Japan.

Malaysia is now in the midst of campaigning for the by-elections in Kuala Terengganu, for a seat in Parliament, and the incumbent party and the opposition are waging the war by proxy, for its results may indicate the people’s will to push out the current corrupt and inefficient government.  RPK’s latest post in his iconic “news” portal contains photos of the houses of various high level civil servants, whose government salaries including allowances should not exceed, say, RM 10,000 a month (USD 2,800) – (but I should find the source for actual data). These homes are multi-million dollar houses.  I suppose RPK went around Kuala Terengganu creating something similar to celebrity maps of Hollywood.

Which brings me to my original source of concern.

Our rather corrupt and inefficient government has issued a blanket thawing of spending in all its equally corrupt and inefficient departments, without an actual blueprint of action nor explanation in objectives. I can only guess that the message is economic stimulation, in which case should target the most pressing, timely and far-reaching agenda.  I assume identification of needs have been done already, and our finance guys have made impact studies on return (I hope?). Perhaps spending on infrastruture and other forms of stimulus will trickle down to the real economy, but do we know by how much? How does it balance with how our real economy is actually going to fare in the coming year? Will there be a tangible return, or will there be too much lost in translation in our corrupt and inefficient ways? How will our politicians call it?

Where is the message of austerity & wise investment?

New Year

January 9, 2009

I am refreshed after an ice tea in the veranda. The day is sunny but a distant rumble and a quick look up signals impending rain. The laundry flaps in the wind, not yet completely dry, but asking if someone could come collect them quickly. I put it off, instead stare absently into a football game on the beach. Elsewhere, dogs bark.

I caught 2 rather large trouts earlier this morning, and I entertain visions of perhaps making a quick 2 flavor lunch out of it. The first, lightly salted and grilled, and the other, with a homemade orange-miso sauce and pan fried. I toss a rockette salad.

I go for a short swim. For this one would have to walk through the village, go down the hill path, through the well trodden football field with the rickety goalposts, and into the woods.  At the clearing, I am at the beach, but not the one I want to be in.  I swim across the little river mouth (where the river meets the sea), to get to my favorite spot.

Here, as the first drops of rain falls, and the waves start coming in, I dream of the wild sargasso sea.