Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Who Needs Fiction: History's Worst Software Bugs

A friend sent me this. It's a very entertaining article, from which I've excerpted a portion below. You can read the whole article here.

History's Worst Software Bugs

Simson Garfinkel Email 11.08.05

Last month automaker Toyota announced a recall of 160,000 of its Prius hybrid vehicles following reports of vehicle warning lights illuminating for no reason, and cars' gasoline engines stalling unexpectedly. But unlike the large-scale auto recalls of years past, the root of the Prius issue wasn't a hardware problem -- it was a programming error in the smart car's embedded code. The Prius had a software bug.

With that recall, the Prius joined the ranks of the buggy computer -- a club that began in 1945 when engineers found a moth in Panel F, Relay #70 of the Harvard Mark II system.The computer was running a test of its multiplier and adder when the engineers noticed something was wrong. The moth was trapped, removed and taped into the computer's logbook with the words: "first actual case of a bug being found."

Sixty years later, computer bugs are still with us, and show no sign of going extinct. As the line between software and hardware blurs, coding errors are increasingly playing tricks on our daily lives. Bugs don't just inhabit our operating systems and applications -- today they lurk within our cell phones and our pacemakers, our power plants and medical equipment. And now, in our cars.

But which are the worst?

It's all too easy to come up with a list of bugs that have wreaked havoc. It's harder to rate their severity. Which is worse -- a security vulnerability that's exploited by a computer worm to shut down the internet for a few days or a typo that triggers a day-long crash of the nation's phone system? The answer depends on whether you want to make a phone call or check your e-mail.

Many people believe the worst bugs are those that cause fatalities. To be sure, there haven't been many, but cases like the Therac-25 are widely seen as warnings against the widespread deployment of software in safety critical applications. Experts who study such systems, though, warn that even though the software might kill a few people, focusing on these fatalities risks inhibiting the migration of technology into areas where smarter processing is sorely needed. In the end, they say, the lack of software might kill more people than the inevitable bugs.

What seems certain is that bugs are here to stay. Here, in chronological order, is the Wired News list of the 10 worst software bugs of all time … so far.

July 28, 1962 -- Mariner I space probe. A bug in the flight software for the Mariner 1 causes the rocket to divert from its intended path on launch. Mission control destroys the rocket over the Atlantic Ocean. The investigation into the accident discovers that a formula written on paper in pencil was improperly transcribed into computer code, causing the computer to miscalculate the rocket's trajectory.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Art of Medieval Monasteries

A friend sent me this article. I've excerpted a portion below. The full article includes many wonderful picture which you'll want to see. Enjoy.

Those Medieval Monks Could Draw

When you think of medieval art, drawing may not spring instantly to mind.

Medieval ivories and enamels? Definitely. Medieval sculpture, metalwork and stained glass? Sure.

Of course medieval artists — many of whom were anonymous monks working as scribes in scriptoria — drew. All those manuscript illuminations had to start somewhere. But did they actually make drawings that survived and were cherished as drawings, or that filled practical needs that only drawing can?

To most of us, European drawing before the Renaissance and its emphasis on individual genius and the artist’s hand is a dark, uncharted void. Which may explain why “Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art feels so startlingly full of light. You may even find yourself rubbing your eyes and blinking.

The 50 little-seen works on view span nearly five centuries and reveal medieval drawing to be vital, evolving, remarkably diverse and essential to the medium’s Renaissance blossoming. The medieval period is often compared with its successor and found lacking. And the superficial clumsiness in some of these works may initially ratchet up your awe for the Renaissance and for the radical changes wrought by its embrace of antiquity and its obsession with the human body and linear perspective.

But with a little time at this show the gap starts to shrink. The skills of medieval artists dovetailed with their otherworldly goals: the bodies that interested them most were heavenly. But, as this exhibition demonstrates, realism was not beyond their reach.

The material on hand ranges from accidental drawings — that is, unfinished illuminations that inspired a new emphasis on line — to exquisite efforts like a breathtaking ink rendering of a facade of Strasbourg Cathedral from around 1260. Many of them crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time to be here. Adding to their freshness, almost all come from university or monastic libraries rather than museums.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Golden Chicken Gao Style BaGuaZhang Practice.

For a couple of years, I studied the Gao style of BaGuaZhang under Victor Chao in Ann Arbor, Mi; who is an associate of Rick Taracks whose Wujifa practice I've mentioned earlier. With my kids activities and being busy at work, I wasn't able to continue.

When discussing the Gao style, almost everyone thinks of Hong Yi Xiang, the most famous student of Zhang Jun Feng, who brought the Gao style from Taiwan from the mainland. He had other students however, and Victor's teacher, also surnamed Zhang, was one of them.

In 2000, Rick and Victor visited Taiwan and trained with Master Zhang. Master Zhang wouldn't let Rick video everything, but he did bring back some rare footage. I give you the Golden Chicken Gao Style BaGuaZhang practice:

The Old Man

A friend sent me this ...

As I came out of the supermarket that sunny day, pushing my cart of groceries towards my car, I saw an old man with the hood of his car up and a lady sitting inside the car, with the door open.

The old man was looking at the engine. I put my groceries away in my car and continued to watch the old gentleman from about twenty five feet away.

I saw a young man in his early twenties with a grocery bag in his arm, walking towards the old man. The old gentleman saw him coming too, and took a few steps towards him. I saw the old gentleman point to his open hood and say something.

The young man put his grocery bag into what looked like a brand new Cadillac Escalade and then turn back to the old man and I heard him yell at the old gentleman saying, 'You shouldn't even be allowed to drive a car at your age.' And then with a wave of his hand, he got in his car and peeled rubber out of the parking lot.

I saw the old gentleman pull out his handkerchief and mop his brow as he went back to his car and again looked at the engine. He then went to his wife and spoke with her and appeared to tell her it would be okay. I had seen enough and I approached the old man. He saw me coming and stood straight and as I got near him I said, 'Looks like you're having a problem.'

He smiled sheepishly and quietly nodded his head. I looked under the hood myself and knew that whatever the problem was, it was beyond me. Looking around I saw a gas station up the road and told the old man that I would be right back. I drove to the station and went inside and saw three attendants working on cars. I approached one of them and related the problem the old man had with his car and offered to pay them if they could follow me back down and help him.

The old man had pushed the heavy car under the shade of a tree and appeared to be comforting his wife. When he saw us, he straightened up and thanked me for my help. As the mechanics diagnosed the problem (overheated engine) I spoke with the old gentleman.

When I shook hands with him earlier, he had noticed my Marine Corps ring and had commented about it, telling me that he had been a Marine too. I nodded and asked the usual question, 'What outfit did you serve with?'

He had mentioned that he served with the first Marine Division at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. He had hit all the big ones and retired from the Corps after the war was over. As we talked we heard the car engine come on and saw the mechanics lower the hood. They came over to us as the old man reached for his wallet, but was stopped by me and I told him I would just put the bill on my AAA card.

He still reached for the wallet and handed me a card that I assumed had his name and address on it and I stuck it in my pocket. We all shook hands all around again and I said my goodbye's to his wife. I then told the two mechanics that I would follow them back up to the station. Once at the station I told them that they had interrupted their own jobs to come along with me and help the old man. I said I wanted to pay for the help, but they refused to charge me.

One of them pulled out a card from his pocket looking exactly like the card the old man had given to me. Both of the men told me then, that they were Marine Corps Reserves. Once again we shook hands all around and as I was leaving, one of them told me I should look at the card the old man had given to me. I said I would and drove off.

For some reason I had gone about two blocks when I pulled over and took the card out of my pocket and looked at it for a long, long time. The name of the old gentleman was on the card in golden leaf and under his name......... 'Congressional Medal of Honor Society.'

I sat there motionless looking at the card and reading it over and over. I looked up from the card and smiled to no one but myself and marveled that on this day, four Marines had all come together, because one of us needed help. He was an old man all right, but it felt good to have stood next to greatness and courage and an honor to have been in his presence.
Remember, OLD men like him gave you FREEDOM for America. Thanks to those who served...& those who supported them.

Remember, Freedom isn't "Free" -- thousands have paid the price so you can enjoy what you have today.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Traditional Martial Arts vs Mixed Martial Arts

Rob Redmond over at 24 Fighting Chickens always has something interesting to say about karate. This time is topic is the utility of a traditional martial art, such as Shotokan Karate, vs Mixed Martial Arts, with regards to normal people like you and I. The full article can be read here. Below is an excerpt.

The Most Effective Martial Art on Earth
by Rob Redmond - June 16, 2009

Every martial arts magazine must apparently run an article on a regular basis that asks which martial art is more effective. Two martial arts are compared, and the various pros and cons are assessed. Then the author ducks the whole issue and writes a cop out about how neither is really more effective – it just depends on what your goals are.

I’m here to tell you that there is one most effective martial art on earth for hand to hand combat without weapons. Are you ready to find out what it is?

The most effective, dangerous, viciously cruel martial art is everything that is banned in an MMA fight.

I am frequently asked what I think of MMA compared to Shotokan. I don’t really think you can compare them. Professional MMA seems to be populated mostly by people who have lived tough lives and have nothing to lose.

Amateur karate competitions seem to mostly be populated by middle class suburbanites with everything to lose. If they lose a tooth, they can’t close the big business deal the next day. Please don’t hurt me!

Because of the demographic differences between the amateur karate point circles and the professional MMA ring set up for television – there is no way to draw any comparison. I’m sure if MMA were undertaken by suburbanites and there were more heavily muscled tough guys doing Shotokan that the reputations of the these two arts would be reversed. Certainly I would never succeed in MMA. I might break a nail.

I can see it now. “Dang! You broke my nail! What do you call that move? Throw a shoe at Rob and he breaks a nail blocking it? Cruel! So cruel! You owe me an apology.”

I am also frequently asked about the recent success of a competitor in MMA circles who supposedly has a Shotokan background. Look, I’ve never seen anyone in an MMA fight doing anything that I learned in a Shotokan dojo. I’ve seen the new, powerful competitor Ryoto Machida, and nothing he does resembles anything you’d see in a Shotokan ring to me. He’s a kick boxing wrestler just like the rest of them.

What I am interested in are the things that the MMA associations ban. That’s where the gold is.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To please the gods ...

I wrote previously about Samurai Archery. Here is another article about the mounted archer, the Yamabuse. Below is an excerpt. If you click here, you'll be directed to the orginal article.

Time's Arrow

Traveling back 1,500 years through yabusame -- archery on a galloping horse

Baseball may be the jewel of Japanese sports, but this field of dreams -- a boggy expanse of plowed-up rice paddies bisected by a soil embankment approximately two hundred meters long by four or five meters wide -- is set up for something else: a display of horseback archery, known as yabusame.

This ancient mix of sport and ceremony is at the same time refined and vigorous, and, it turns out, somewhat in-your-face. Mounted archers draw arrows in long bows and let fly at targets hardly bigger than opened laptop computers, all the while galloping at full tilt.

Standing below the embankment path during a run is like being passed by a semi-trailer, complete with a cheek-stinging spray of sand and gravel. The sight of the horse charging down the precarious track all straining muscles and pounding hooves, leaves the impression that this sport may in fact be rather dangerous. And the horsemanship is the more impressive for typically being acquired, senior archer Shigenori Tanaka says, on shared horses at sessions held no more than once weekly.

Nami Kaneko

"Our skill level has risen these past few years," says Mr. Tanaka of the Takeda School, one of two groups performing yabusame in Japan and the organizer of this event. "But the real samurai were good shots, not like us Sunday riders." At 37 years old, Mr. Tanaka has been riding for 12 years, long enough to break both forearms and reach the rank of kyoshi (teacher), second only to hanshi, or master.

Mr. Tanaka, who also serves as Takeda's press officer, is radiant and lithe -- almost rubbery -- in his feudal-era striped pantaloons, dusty soft leather shoes and gold-embroidered chest protector. Add in a cheeky red hat strapped around his jaw, and the overall effect is more sweet than warlike. Around him a couple of dozen men and women, costumes vivid against the dull soil and dead stubble, make their final touches. An ensemble of taiko drums has been set up beside a nearby blossoming plum orchard.

Halfway along the track, where Mr. Tanaka stands, is a small watchtower with a single hanging drum for the bugyo, the master of proceedings. Opposite the tower is the central of the three target areas, each with a pole about two meters high. At the head of the track, horses fidget in their corral in front of a Shinto altar.

It all seems like ancient times -- or at least a samurai movie. (Indeed, the school has trained riders for films that include "Seven Samurai" and "Kagemusha"; the late Toshiro Mifune, Japan's most macho movie star, was a graduate.)

Nami Kaneko

Mr. Tanaka, whose day job is in a high-tech division of Toshiba, joined yabusame to reconnect with his Japanese roots. He displays an equal mixture of pride and humility at his skill. "I was already shooting targets two years after I started," he says. "Most people take four or five. In the teacher's judgment, I learned quickly."

Takeda attracts apprentices for both spiritual and sporting reasons, and preserves a practice that it traces back almost 1,500 years, although Yoshikazu Kondo, a professor of Japanese history at Kanagawa University, says it wasn't until the Heian period (794-1185) that the first written mentions appear. Flourishing until the end of the Kamakura period (1185-1333) before losing popularity (perhaps because methods of warfare changed, and civil strife declined), it was revived as a martial art early in the 18th century.

In the Meiji period of the late 19th century, militarism helped yabusame's resurgence, and attached to it -- as to most martial arts -- the formal elements of state Shintoism. "There was no such dimension to yabusame before Meiji," Dr. Kondo says.

But there was always a spiritual side. Yabusame is a sport with a looser approach to competition than you'll find at, say, the Olympics. The point wasn't so much to determine a champion, the professor says, as to please the gods.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Samurai Art Exhibition

I've posted previously about an art exhibition entitled Art of the Samurai. Another exhibition is opening in San Franciso, entitled "Lords of the Samurai." An excerpt of a review is to be found below. The full article may be found here. Of course with the full article, there are some pictures to go with it. One of them is on the left. It is entitled "Wild Horse" and it was painted by the famous samurai, Miyamoto Musashi.

Art review: 'Lords of the Samurai'

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Lords of the Samurai," which opened Friday at the Asian Art Museum, evokes a martial ethos completely antithetical to the remote-controlled carnage of today's high-tech warfare.

The samurai of premodern Japan belonged to a social order in which the cultivation of martial virtue did not preclude but encouraged cultivation of artistry in other disciplines such as calligraphy, painting and the composing of poems.

The core precepts: that as guardians of civil order, samurai ought to internalize something of their culture's highest accomplishments, and that the ideal of an honorable death implied that of a worthy life.

In a catalog essay, Takeuchi Jun'ichi, director of the Eisei-Bunko Museum in Tokyo, from which most of the exhibition comes, recounts an extraordinary incident of the emperor's intervention to end a battle that jeopardized the life of the daimyo, or warlord, Hosokawa Yusai.

Head of the Hosokawa clan at the time, Yusai (1534-1610) was probably the only man in Japan at the time with full knowledge of a canonical poetry anthology and of an orally transmitted esoteric commentary upon it. This knowledge, probably more than his hereditary prerogatives and his military and civil achievements as daimyo, argued for his life being spared.

Takeuchi speculates that even the attackers besieging Yusai's castle, aware of the knowledge he embodied, feared to prosecute their full strategic advantages, hopeful for some resolution that would preserve the cultural treasure he personified.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Dragon Head

More on the tong in San Francisco. Below are excerpts. The full articles may be read here, here, and here.

Enter the Dragon Head

Raymond Chow says he's left his gangster days behind to help bring peace to Chinatown's streets. Is he for real?

By Mary Spicuzza

published: August 01, 2007

Raymond Chow ducked the instant rival gang members opened fire. But he suspects he survived the Golden Dragon Massacre, a shooting at a Chinatown restaurant that left five dead and about a dozen people injured, because of seating preference. He and his fellow gang members always sat in the corner.

The infamous 1977 massacre was not Chow's first shootout, and it certainly wasn't his last. "Pretty much every street in Chinatown I have been [in a] shoot out, I have had a gun battle from the past," Chow said, walking along Waverly Place on a recent sunny afternoon. For him, it all comes back to this narrow street that dead-ends at the old Golden Dragon, which has since been renamed Imperial Palace Restaurant. "All that pretty much started in this alley," he said, pointing out various shootout locations from his past.

Back then Chow was an ambitious rising star in the Hop Sing Boys — a gang linked to a fraternal organization named the Hop Sing Tong. The Hop Sing Boys were then fighting for control of the streets of Chinatown with rivals like the Wah Ching and Joe Boys.

Many knew him by his nickname, Shrimp Boy. His grandmother had given him the moniker as a boy to ward off evil spirits — in the belief that evil spirits can't find little children if they don't know their names. Chow, who now stands about 5 feet 5 inches, also happened to be the smallest of five brothers, and the nickname stuck.

Shrimp Boy built his reputation as one of Chinatown's most notorious gangsters, one with an extensive rap sheet including everything from extortion and armed robbery to attempted murder and involvement in the heroin trade. Then he got busted in the 1990s while reportedly trying to unite different Asian criminal organizations, or triads, to create an international empire with Peter Chong, a reputed crime boss with a group named Wo Hop To.

It looked like Chow, who had spent most of his adult life in prison, was going to grow old there. That is, until Chong — who'd fled to Hong Kong — was extradited to the United States to stand trial. Chow was freed about four years ago after testifying against his former partner in crime.

Now Chow says he's changed his ways — or is at least making different choices — and leading a law-abiding life. He says he wants to help the community he used to "terrorize" by working with youth to help keep them out of gangs. And he's also the new leader, or Dragon Head, of a prominent tong, the Hung Moon Ghee Kong Tong ("Supreme Lodge Chinese Freemasons of the World").

Chow's appearance has changed, too. He still wears a couple of earrings in one ear, but his head is now clean shaven and his tattoos are usually barely visible under his conservative business shirts and Chinese tops. Still, walking toward Uncle restaurant last month, he said his notorious reputation made for a rough transition when he was released from prison. "When I come out of jail and I walk [down the street], everybody scared to say hi to me," he said. "Nobody really want to talk."

Now it seems as if the opposite is true. Each time we walked together around Chinatown, Chow was met with smiles, waves, and greetings called out from street corners and shop windows. Many called him "Big Brother," or "Dai Lo!"

"Now, today, they call me Dai Lo, as love, it's respect, it's to honor me," the 48-year-old Chow explained. "For the older people, to honor me like that, I'm grateful. And I take them as my teacher, my friend, and my family."

Of course, it's a word that Chow (born Kwok Cheung Chow) knows quite well. In the world of Asian organized crime, Dai Lo has another meaning: crime boss.

Mayor sinks 'Shrimp Boy' market

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Former Chinatown gangster Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow is once again a man without a job.

No sooner did Chow's offer to run the city-funded Chinatown Night Market at Portsmouth Square for a mere $1 a year come to light than Mayor Gavin Newsom's office killed it - along with the market itself.

Citing a "significant change in the control of the Chinatown Neighborhood Association," which ran the market, the mayor's economic development czar pulled the plug on the venture by withdrawing $35,000 previously committed to the group.

The "change" to which czar Michael Cohen referred was the recent addition of six members of the Chee Kung Tong - run by Chow - to the group's board of directors and the subsequent naming of Chow himself as the summer outdoor market's new manager.

"As a result," Cohen wrote, "we have no choice but to terminate the grant agreement, effective immediately."

Chow - who has spent much of his adult life in prison in the United States in connection with gang activities - told us he had no problem with stepping aside. But he said it was unfair to punish the Chinatown community by stripping the funding for the street market.

"Why not be up-front and just say you don't have money for it?" Chow said. "But they (blame) me, and that's totally not cool. I feel like I'm the scapegoat."

Chinatown gang ties no hindrance to award in S.F.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A convicted Chinatown gang member who faced possible expulsion from the United States -- and who came under scrutiny earlier this year when a well-known community leader was shot to death -- just got a surprising star on his resume, thanks to a San Francisco supervisor.

Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow and his tong are the proud recipients of an official certificate of honor from the city, an award arranged by Supervisor and state Assembly candidate Fiona Ma.

This is the same Raymond Chow who was active in a Chinatown tong called Hop Sing until he and two dozen others were indicted in 1992 on racketeering charges for their alleged involvement in everything from underage prostitution to the international heroin trade.

Chow subsequently was convicted of gun charges and given a 25-year prison term -- but he was released in 2003 after he cut a deal with the government to testify against a high-ranking associate.

San Francisco police, however, have since concluded that he's once again associating with members of Asian gangs, in violation of his deal, and the feds have been trying to get him deported to China.

That apparently hasn't stopped Chow from getting around. He's just been named as the local head of the Chee Kung Tong, or Chinese Freemasons, replacing his slain predecessor. And for his installation ceremony last weekend, Ma's office arranged for the tong -- which has chapters on five continents -- to receive the certificate of honor from the Board of Supervisors.

"Raymond Chow says he's learned his lesson the hard way and wants to be a positive influence on the lives of young people," Ma said. "I'm an optimist and want to believe that people mean what they say, but only time will tell."

Members of the Chinese community we spoke with were reluctant to comment on record. But San Francisco gang task force Inspector Henry Seto, who was among a handful of officers who monitored the fireworks-filled installation ceremony from the street, said he wasn't surprised by the certificate.

"I wouldn't be surprised by anything that happens in San Francisco," Seto said.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Eye of the Dragon

I wrote previously about a tong related killing in San Franciso. The story isn't over. Below is an excerpt. The full story can be read here.

Change at Chinatown market under city scrutiny

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A notorious former gangster has taken over a Chinatown street market that is financed by San Francisco taxpayers, a development that has set off alarm bells at City Hall.

Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow - who was once sentenced to 25 years in prison on gun charges but says he's gone legit - was named manager of the Chinatown Night Market on Friday by the Chinatown Neighborhood Association, a group with close City Hall ties.

The potential embarrassment of Chow's involvement, we're told, prompted a contentious closed-door debate about the city's $35,000 grant to the program - with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu cautioning against the deal, Mayor Gavin Newsom's staff largely noncommittal, and Planning Commissioner Bill Lee arguing to move ahead.

"The mayor wants the whole deal closely scrutinized," mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard said Tuesday after news of the controversy spread.

It is unclear, however, whether the city can do anything about Chow or the $35,000 - which the city awarded in a contract it signed with the market's sponsors in December.

The summertime market, where vendors pay a fee to sell their wares in street booths, has been operated since its founding a decade ago by the Chinatown Neighborhood Association, led by two longtime city pols, former Police Commissioner Pius Lee and ex-Redevelopment Commissioner Benny Yee.

Critics have complained that much of the taxpayers' yearly $35,000 contribution to the event has not been accounted for - a charge that was largely confirmed by a city controller's audit two years ago that recommended pulling the plug on the public funding.

Last week, Lee and Yee called a Chinatown news conference to say they were stepping away from the neighborhood association to pave the way for the group's reorganization. They said six of the association's 19 board members would be members of the Chee Kung Tong, or Chinese Freemasons - with Chow, head of the group, serving as the market's new general manager.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The First Emperor of China

This month's Smithsonian magazine features an article about the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, and is terra cotta army. The article is accompanied by many wonderful pictures. The online version has some extras. It's well worth looking up.

Some of the terra cotta soldiers will be part of a traveling exhibition which will visit museums across the United States.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Taikiken and Karate: An Old Relationship

The Japanese version of Yiquan, Taikiken, has had a long relationship with the karate of Mas Oyama, Kyokushin. At the Taiki Shisei Kenpo blog, there are a set of video clips which follows the career of a high ranking practitioner of both Kyokushin Karate and Taikiken. Enjoy.