Reflections about Universal Suffrage

On August 31st, 2014, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) made its pronouncement about the selection of the HKSAR Chief Executive in 2017, through a document entitled “Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Issues Relating to the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by Universal Suffrage and on the Method for Forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Year 2016”, hereinafter referred to as “the Decision”.

It was an important day in the history of Hong Kong. So important, in fact, that millions of Hong Kong people proceeded to watch the Miss Hong Kong Pageant 2014 Finals instead of reading the Decision, let alone thinking or discussing about it. The Brave New World is upon us.

Ranting aside, I am writing to convey my thoughts about the situation, and raise some questions in the process.

OCLP Is Doing It Wrong

There, I said it. Some people believe that I’m pro-OCLP. I’m not. But I’m not against it either. 

The problem with the OCLP is that they gave the establishment a break by invoking “international standards”.

“International standards” is ineffective as an argument for a simple reason: standards don’t say anything about the underlying fundamental principles of morality and justice.

Certainly, a respectable standard about democracy and human rights is formulated with some presupposed fundamental principles of morality and justice, but it is not the fundamental principle; it cannot replace the fundamental principles. When we demand that a system meet some international standard, the authority can arbitrarily reject it on technical grounds “because it doesn’t apply to our special case”, as we just witnessed in Mr Leung’s response.

Instead, we need to take the fight to them and directly point out the blatant inequality and manipulative nature of the establishment’s proposal. We need not refer to “international standards” to perceive inequality and contradictions. It would be intellectually more taxing, but ultimately I believe it will be more effective and more fruitful. You can get away on technicalities, but you cannot get away on ethics.

One might observe that the Basic Law clearly states the selection of candidates by a nomination committee as the ultimate aim. What this entails is that we need to also challenge the Basic Law on ethical grounds. We need to keep in mind that the law is not absolute, that it is arbitrary to various degrees; otherwise there would be no raison d’être for a Legislative Council at all. Again, it would be a difficult fight, but it would be a fight that the authority cannot easily flee from.

“Broadly Representative”

The Decision stipulates that candidates to the Chief Executive election in 2017 shall be nominated by “a broadly representative nominating committee” (my italics). A look at the composition of the nominating committee reveals what is meant by “broadly representative” and what values the establishment holds.

There are 1200 seats in the nominating committee, divided into four sectors of equal size.

The first sector, i.e. a full quarter (300), is “the industrial, commercial, and financial sectors”. It is comprised of individuals and corporate members, representing mostly employers, and big-money businesses – in other words, corporate interests. Somehow, corporations, with their concentration of power into private hands, have the right to pick Chief Executive candidates for us.

In contrast, in the third sector, “the labour, social services, religious and other sectors”, the labour subsector only takes 60 seat, yet there is no doubt that non-professional labour far outnumber high management and employers in the society.

This mean that any entity with enough money is given more voice than the people with lower income. Again, note that I’m using the word “entity”: any organization with some kind of “collective will” and a bunch of wealthy people behind it is given more voice than real human beings.

What gives them the right to have a voice at all, let alone more voice than real people?

Take a look at the name of the third sector, too: “the labour, social services, religious and other sectors”. That’s right, this is the “miscellaneous” sector. Not just any kind of miscellaneous sector, but the kind where “dissidents” – people who most strongly oppose the Central Government and the collusion between private power and policy makers – are jammed in and sharing a small number of seats out of 300. Since any person who wishes to run for Chief Executive needs only obtain the support of a little over half the nominating committee, the NPCSC has effectively round the opposition into a minority group and is telling any Chief Executive hopeful that they may skip wooing that group at their convenience.

The 50% Rule

The Decision stipulates, as I just mentioned, that any Chief Executive hopeful needs only the support of over 50% of the nominating committee in order to be nominated as a candidate. In other word, you can become a candidate if you obtain support from 601 or more members out of the 1200 total.

At the same time, the NPCSC wishes for the 2017 election to consist of 2 to 3 candidates.

By the pigeon hole principle, this means that each member in the nominating committee have the right to give their support to at least two candidates.

In fact, some of the nominating committee must support more than one candidate: if each committee member supports only one candidate, then there will only ever be one candidate, as only one person can obtain the support of more than half of the committee.

Effectively, this means that committee members have a right to a Plan B candidate.

What gives them the right to have a Plan B while the rest of the population can only vote for one candidate?

In addition, what message is this arrangement sending to the voters? I believe the message is that “it doesn’t really matter whom you vote for” because you are picking either their Plan A or their Plan B.

Migration Assistant cannot be trusted

So my rMBP arrived Thursday morning and I started a migration over LAN that night, before hitting the bed. It took 9 hours (i.e. until Friday morning) to drop to “1 minute remaining”. On the rMBP, Migration Assistant told me to plug in an ethernet cable to make the migration go faster. “But you don’t have a built-in ethernet jack anymore!” The irony.

And then it decided to hang at “1 minute remaining” for the remainder of yesterday. (WTF x 1)

So I said “fuck it” and aborted the migration. For the record Migration Assistant allows you to cleanly abort a migration, by pressing Cmd-Q. To see if I can speed up the migration, I removed the HDD from the old machine and put it in a USB 3.0 enclosure. I restarted a migration over USB. This time Migration Assistant tells me it will take about 2 hours. Much better.

And then the unthinkable happened:

At around the “37 minute remaining” mark, Migration Assistant stopped copying files and pretended it was done. (WTF x 2)

And it gave me a warning message to this effect: a user’s UID had to be reassigned from 502 to 501 and because the user also has a relocated home directory, I may need to manually correct the permissions after the migration. (WTF x 3)

Even a seasoned Mac user like myself find this warning message a little cryptic. “Thanks for not even telling me the username or relocated home directory path in question!” (WTF x 4)

I knew something was wrong, so I started digging into the newly migrated home directory…

“Where is my music? Where are my photos? Why am I missing random files and directories?” (WTF x 5)

And I’m not even talking about special files and directories that may have application-specific or machine-specific semantics – e.g. I can *somewhat* understand if you don’t completely mirror “~/Library” because that’s mostly profiles and settings, which can have application-specific semantics. And by “semantics” I really mean stupidities like the use of absolute paths where relative paths would be more appropriate. Instead, I’m just talking about ordinary files and folders: zip files, text files, etc.

At this point I said “fuck it” for a second time and just rsync’ed all the missing ordinary files and directories.

:~ Kal$ ping *

I know. I have not blogged for a few months now. The same goes for most of my friends. It seems that being away from school does drain the very soul out of us. Everybody must be busy with something and has lost interest in blogging. Let me list some of the things you can be busy with:

  1. Aimless browsing of Facebook
  2. Ignoring the hundreds of Facebook requests that you get daily
  3. Spamming your friends with Facebook requests
  4. Playing a Facebook game
  5. Reading Digg, Reddit, Engadget, or Slashdot
  6. Starting/engaging in a flame war on one of the aforementioned sites
  7. boys/girls at the office
  8. your boss’ hot secretary
  9. your boss/your boss’ hot daughter
  10. game consoles (and games) for which you finally have the money
  11. overtime work
  12. cooking (because you are living on your own now)
  13. laundry (same reason as above)
Pretty much everyone has been slacking off as far as blogging goes, except Jawaad, Skrud, Spiro, and Kevin.
Hall of Shame:
  • Nadia – has not blogged at all for almost 2 whole years now;
  • Terry – lost his domain name to some domain squatter.
Eric is clever, updating his MSN Space with sets after sets of pictures instead of writing.
I know all of you must have made new friends. I have, too, even all the way in Japan. But gee, try to give sign of life from time to time and not forget about TSG and everybody else from Concordia.

Short咗

星期日行街行到腳仔軟。先係朝早同屋企人响荃灣兆和街嘅合發茶餐廳喫早餐,跟住我同家姐疙咗去如心廣場睇吓落成咗係乜樣。點知原來咩都冇,得間酒店開咗。隔離荃新天地又係未裝修完。結果唯有走去荃灣廣場行Jusco。不過一入廣場門口,就俾Wanko雞乸咁大隻字嘅「二折」牌嗍咗埋去。就咁樣就開咗市,家姐即刻搵到聖誕禮物俾阿媽同係Montreal嘅死黨同學。跟住再上幾層,喺間DVD/唱碟鋪搵埋老竇嘅禮物。Jusco嗰度反而乜都冇買就走咗。

第一回合完,就哽係食嘢補充能量。上次喺綠楊食越南河,發然仲有好多檔可以試。所以今日又番去綠楊,試另一檔唔知”Euro”乜鬼嘅(家姐溫馨提示:「係EuroGoGo呀。」)。啲意粉都OK,係嗰兩支奇異菓汁同橙汁甜咗少少。

補給完,我地就先分道揚鑣:家姐去銅鑼灣會合企鵝姐,開始佢嘅第二回合;我就去展開我嘅旺角探險。點解去旺角?因為我隻踎屎死咗。讀者一定諗:『踎屎死咗關旺角咩事呀?』。咁我就話你知啦。話說PCCW寄咗封信嚟話多謝我申請寬頻,所以送無綫踎屎,要去旺角挪。不過我點會淨係為咗隻踎屎去旺角丫。前世未迫過咩。其實我主要仲想搵OS X Leopard Family Pack,買番隻模型鉗,同撞吓仲搵唔搵到MG版F91。模形鉗喺烟廠街嗰邊好易搵。有個店員同我講有田宮兩款一貴一平,仲話貴啲嘅唔會咁易剪崩。我話「唔係啊嘛?剪膠咋啵。」所以最後去咗Modern買把最平嘅(50蚊)。隻F91我差啲搵唔到,得番一間有一千零一隻。原來因為唔好賣,好多鋪都冇再入貨。Leopard搵到我傻。出街前我就明知唔熟旺角,去中原地圖睇過信和中心同旺角電腦中心大概係咩位置。點知…去到旺角兜到我傻,嗰度啲遊客資訊牌又退晒色,都睇唔到啲街線,淨係睇到街名。Sino同MKCC又攪笑到冇牌嘅。攪到我問咗幾次啊sir先搵到MKCC。最後我見MKCC兩間有賣Apple嘅都斷Leopard嘅貨,知道冇機,就連Sino都放棄搵就去咗銅鑼灣join家姐同企鵝姐。去到銅鑼灣先發現佢地係搵我去破財擋災。家姐買咗對平平地嘅太陽眼鏡唔駛一個鐘就買咗兩件幾形嘅黑色casual恤衫自己著同兩條呔送比Montreal嘅朋友;咁就900蚊。跟住去睇吓有咩形戒指補番老竇唔見咗嗰隻。不過最後冇買,淨係睇咗款,因為我地唔肯定老竇手指咩嘥屎,刻咗名嘅話又冇得換;要等我地噠老竇其它戒指嚟度吓先。企鵝姐見我地攪咁耐,就游咗去第二檔睇衫,仲執到筍嘢。

之後就去咗SOGO睇玩具。原來我真係大鄉里,依家先知Sylvanian Family系列咁誇張嘅。酒店,水車,菓汁檔,你諗到就有。一傾之下,先知道企鵝姐玩得仲pro。佢嫌Sylvanian Family本身嗰幾款屋太細,所以用Hello Kitty嘅一款大屋代替。真係orz。我仲好奇想睇吓SOGO有咩Gundam貨,一睇之下先知佢食水深;隻F91我喺旺角買先168蚊,喺SOGO要259蚊。

行到攰,又到食嘢時間。去咗檔佈置得幾有越南feel嘅餐廳。叫咗牛肉河,燒豬肉檬,炸春卷,仲有招牌炸雞翼。每人70蚊左右埋單。

跟住家姐順便係藥房買牙刷,然後就分手番屋企。

番到屋企,由於眞係太攰,發生咗啲好hard plastic嘅事…

我好心急咁打開合F91睇說明書,見到呢幅嘢:

當時腦入邊嘅反應係『死嘞。唔記得買較剪添。』

More manifestation of my idiocy. Or is it?

Today I tried to withdraw money from my Canadian bank account at one of these neat Japanese ATMs that support, among others, the Plus ATM network … only to realise that I cannot recall my PIN – for the 5th fucking time. I tried only a second time because I was afraid the third time would invalidate my bank card. And why do I have such a high tendency to forget my PIN? It’s because I almost never use it. I almost always rely on credit card and web banking (the password of which is a lot more secure yet easier to remember than my PIN). Furthermore, as a security paranoid, I never write down my PIN and I don’t use any part of my address, telephone number, or birthday as PIN.

Thank god I remember the PIN to my Hong Kong bank account, which by chance is also Plus ATM compatible. So I withdrew money from my HK bank account instead. Problem solved.

It still bugs me that many banks still rely on 4- to 6-digit PINs though. What’s the biggest temptation for non-security-conscious people when creating such a PIN? I’m just guessing but I’m probably not far off: birthday or last digits of telephone number. Why haven’t banks switched to biometrics already? It’s more secure and more convenient than the PIN anyway. Border control at many countries already uses fingerprint (+ facial recognition between Hong Kong and China). Considering that some countries are paranoiac about terrorists, if border control can rely on biometrics to identify people, why can’t banks use the same technology for stuff that is not even immediately life-threatening? Cost does not seem to be a valid impedance to implementing biometrics at ATMs. Who says banks must replace all ATMs at once? Can’t they start by installing a new one at every branch (or the biggest ones) first, and slowly phase out the old, PIN-only models.

Am I missing something?

So much for holding an engineering degree.

A short story of my life so far as a complete failure.

Here I am, sitting on a futon, in a 6-tatami (i.e. 9.72 m2) room, with my back to a wood column of the wall, in Hibarigaoka, a suburb in West Tokyo. Why am I sitting like this? It’s because I can’t afford to buy a desk and a chair. The room already cost me 112000 yen for the first month, and 56000 yen per month thereafter. I don’t get my own apartment; this is a house share; we are currently 7 people in the house, although 3 will have left before September. This is not even central Tokyo. The room smells pretty bad because we are both guys and neither of us seems to know how to keep things tidy. Right now, we have a couple of dirty socks, a bunch of grocery receipts, magazines, and a plastic water bottle scattered across the floor. As of this writing, I have a grand total of 86330 yen with me. This means I blew 213670 yen out of the 300000 yen that dad gave me, in less than 1 month. I still don’t have a job because 1) I don’t have presentable work experience, 2) there is no entry level job other than for native Japanese speakers, 3) there is no PHP job.

How did all of this happen? I don’t know. And I’m trying to get a clearer idea by writing. I suppose I have been showing signs of gullibility and eventual failure since I was in elementary school. You know how I agreed to immigrate to Canada? My parents told me there are no compulsory home assignments for school in Canada. “Oh really?”

Then it was time to get into high school. I ended up in the same private high school as my sister, because the school had good reputations and had turned into co-ed just a few years before. There were lots of attractive girls and I had an easy time getting decent grades. I enjoyed all 5 years there. Or did I? Puberty hit me and I have always wanted a girlfriend since then, but I never got one. Mom always told me “She won’t be your wife.” So I never bothered doing anything more than glancing from time to time at the girls I liked. What was I thinking? The day of graduation, I cried like there was no tomorrow, not with my friends, but at home instead. My instinct was probably sensing what was waiting for me in life.

Then came time for pre-university prep school, something that we call the cégep in Québec. As fate would have it, I ended up in the same prep school as my sister was, and got into the IB programme, just like she did. I should have learned earlier. What was I thinking? I came out with an IB score that seemed too high to be what I deserved. I didn’t really learn anything useful from the programme except the question “how do you know?” from theory of knowledge, which I use now and then while trolling Digg.com.

I made some good friends in the IB programme, and a few of us decided to study software engineering in the same university. I liked computer games and I’ve been sitting in front my computer all day in my free time anyway, so why not? What was I thinking? Unlike my friends, I failed to enter the co-op programme. I graduated, with decent grades, but just below the threshold for Distinction. To this day, I still get the chills thinking about artificial intelligence, compiler design, and database implementation. My uncle asked me for opinions about an ERP system that the family business was going to implement. I gave him very vague answers that amount to “I don’t know”, if anybody were to examine closely enough. Sometime towards the end of my bachelor studies, dad started an aluminium extrusion business. I’m leaving out all the details about the nice girls that liked in prep school and in university; I never do anything about them, remember?

Right after graduation from university, my father suggested that I take a summer break and travel around China instead of taking a job immediately. His reasoning is that I would not have a better chance to witness all the change that has gone through China after I start working. I agreed with him at that time, and took a roadtrip with one of my uncles through about 1/3 of China. I even took another business trip with another uncle to the US. What was I thinking? I missed the peak hiring season, and I had already started forgetting everything about design patterns, Rational Unified Process, and so on. Heck, even if I had not started forgetting, those little pieces of knowledge would have fallen out of fashion in the quickly evolving IT sector anyway.

Once summer was over, I returned to Canada with my family to finalise our retreat back to Hong Kong. We had to sell our house and our car, and close our bank accounts, among other things. Then one day, something broke in my head and I decided that I didn’t like Hong Kong and Mainland, and that I wanted to stay away from the mess that was my greater family. I told my family that I wanted to stay in Montreal. They didn’t stop me in my selfish fit of the moment. They left me with the car and my sister left me with her savings. They even helped me find an apartment where I can live after we sell the house, and the washing machine and stove to go with it. Mom and my sister were crying as they entered the boarding zone of the airport. Mom thought she wouldn’t see me again in her life. I was also crying as I drove “home”. WHAT THE FUCK WAS I THINKING?!?!?!

The next morning I woke up to realise that there is nobody to eat breakfast with me anymore. I cried like a maniac. I opened the refrigerator and I found the curry that mom had prepared for me; I cried even harder. It was absolutely heartbreaking. Even now I’m sobbing as I recall my experience. I could hardly call that home because I lived there alone the whole time. It was more like a big prison into which I banished myself. I didn’t even get in touch with my friends after university anymore. Some of them have gone to work in Seattle, another went on a tour in Afghanistan. I didn’t look for a job because my friend (my current roommate) invited me to do freelance web design and web application development. What a great way to mess up my career. Since we were doing freelance stuff, the chances of us properly learning new tools was a big, incredible, zero. The whole time we were using only PHP5, HTML 4.01, CSS, and JavaScript. And I suck at web design, I can’t even do Flash, ShockWave, or Director. I don’t even know how to use Photoshop. Who was I trying to kid, trying to be a web designer? The whole experience gave me another big, incredible, nothing to buff my resume with. At that point, I still didn’t have to try shrinking my resume to 2 pages because I actually had no valid, presentable working experience.

Soon, my friend decided that business wasn’t good enough in Montreal. He told me that we can make more money working in the financial sector in Japan. I agreed to come to Japan with him, partly because Japan is closer to home, partly because I had fallen for a Japanese girl that I met in Montreal and that I wanted to do something about it, namely, learning her language first. I couldn’t properly liquidate everything because I was busy finishing off existing projects. The only thing I managed to sell at a decent price was the car. Pretty much everything else were given away. I tried to sell the sofa at $100 and even took the trouble to deliver it. The truck rental wasn’t cheap, but I thought money from the sofa and the other furnitures I was selling would have covered it. Guess what? The buyer gave me cheque instead of cash like I had said in the ad and it bounced.

Closing the bank account was another disaster. I decided to leave the bank account open because I had to wait for the refund from the car insurance company. Turns out that the cheque never got into my proxy’s hand. So now I have the option to fly back to Canada just to close a bank account that has no money in it or leave it and remain a resident (which means I have to pay income taxes even if I don’t live in Canada anymore). I also emptied the safety deposit box without discontinuing it. Out of the stuff from the safety deposit box, I deposited the few $1000 CAD bills into the bank account before wiring everything back to Hong Kong, following the advice of another friend that it’s too dangerous to carry a couple thousand dollars in cash at the airport. I completely forgot that those $1000 CAD bills were in the safety deposit box was because they were out-of-print collectibles.

And now I’m in Tokyo, trying to miraculously reboot my life. It’s not happening. Dad and his business partner have intentions for me to succeed them in the aluminium extrusion business. What am I doing here getting an IT job for? What Japanese company is going to hire somebody who has graduated for over a year and who still does not have job experience?

I’m so stupid I don’t deserve to live. I’m a failure.

引越しました

今日新大久保からひばりヶ丘に引っ越しました。すごく暑い日でした。さらに荷物が沢山すぎるので、二回往復しました。シャッツは完全に汗に浸っていった。

新しい家はハウスシェアです。今部屋が足りないから、この三週間は友達と同じ部屋に住んでいる。後ドイツルームメートは故郷へ帰るので、そのときもう一つの部屋がある。

Today I moved from Shin-Ookubo to Hibarigaoka. It was really hot today. Furthermore, because we had too much stuff to move, we had to do another round trip. My shirt got all soaked in sweat.

The new home is a house share. Since there is not enough rooms right now, I’ll be sharing a room with my friend for 3 weeks. After that, the German roommate is moving back to her hometown and we will have another room.

東京に到着!

四日前に東京に着いた。ここは本当にでかい都市です。東京の市区だけでは全香港と同じぐらい大きさかも知れない。まあ、その感じです。

そして。。。昨日の朝は鼻血が出た。少し吃驚した。「大丈夫かなー。まだ三日でしたぞ」っとおもった。

もし文法が間違えば、私を改めて下さい。

I arrived in Tokyo 4 days ago. This is a really huge city. Perhaps just the urban area of Tokyo is about the same size as all of Hong Kong. Well, that’s the feeling I get anyway.

And then… yesterday morning I had a nosebleed. I was a bit surprised. I thought “Woh, am I ok? It’s only been 3 days!”

The Real Origin of the Canadian “eh?”

Here is my take on the origin of the Canadian “eh?”

The French keyboard layout.

When you want to type in French, the easiest way is to switch to the French keyboard layout, instead of using the Alt + 0XXX codes for the accented vowels and the c-cédille. However, once you switch to the French keyboard layout, some other keys, such as the forward slash (/), become harder to find, so we Canadians in the French speaking provinces often switch back and forth between the English and the French layouts. Sometimes, though, we forget to switch back from the French layout to the English layout. And this is what happens when you ask a question in English, while typing with the French keyboard layout:

“So you want to go to China Town tonightÉ”

You see that “É” at the end of the sentence? That’s what happens when you try to type out the question mark (Shift + /). In the French keyboard layout, that key combination gives you the e accent aigu instead of the question mark.

The sentence ends up being read as “So you want to go to China Town tonight, eh?”

And that’s how the Canadian “eh?” was born. 🙂