Wednesday, April 27, 2005

True or False: Only Americans are bad in math

We always read about how the US is behind in math and science. We have even coined 'math anxiety' as a term and a semi-acceptable student condition! Thus, when I travel to other countries, I expect to be impressed by the amazing math skills!

When I was in Thailand, I used the hotel's computer for a few minutes to send a couple of emails. I used the PC from 2:56 to 3:13 (of course, I just made up these numbers but it will illustrate the same point). The hotel charged per minute. At the end, the lady at the reception took a calculator and entered 313 - 256, looked up 57 on her chart, and told me to pay so many Bahts. I was stunned. I explained that her math assumed that there are 100 minutes in an hour. After a few minutes, we counted the minutes together with our fingers and I convinced her that it was only 17. But she still didn't understand why the calculator gave an incorrect result. She even showed me that it worked for 3:13 - 3:02. Other people working at the hotel were trying to help. Some did the math in their head and said '17' but nobody else could explain the flaw in using the calculator. I was a little worried that they'll make the same mistake with our hotel bill since we were staying there across a month boundry (i.e. 10/27 - 11/3). But luckily they didn't subtract the two dates to count how many nights we stayed there.

We might not be the best in math in the world, but given the fast pace of life and love for sports, tv, video games, etc we can all substract time.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Bike pedaling and study on email lowering IQ

A friend recently gave me a tip on how to pedal a bike. Most of us push down on the pedal. For those of us with clipless pedals, we push down while pulling up with the other foot. This is all wrong. Apparently, it's better to push forward while pulling back with the other foot, a little like kicking a ball forward and backward (of course you can only do this with clipless pedals). I tried this today on a long 70 miles ride. The difference is like a civic vs an M3. I was also a lot less tired at the end. Pushing up/down uses a very limited range of muscles. Kicking has a much better power transfer and uses more muscles. I'm a believer. But it's hard to change a habit and it required a lot of concentration at the start to not push down.

On a non sequitur, a new study has shown that email is bad for intelligence (about twice as bad as marijuana!). I wonder if this is another reason why startups do better than big companies?! I also wonder if the same goes for following blogs.

Is access to capital a basic human right?

1 billion people on earth earn less than $1/day. 3 billion people earn less than $2/day. Not only these people live in poverty, they literally have no hope to ever come out of it. Most of us have bought things on credit at some point. The banks helps us get richer. But people in poverty don't have this chance. So a Stanford professor (Prof Yunus) went to Bangladesh to help. He ended up starting a bank since most regular banks didn't see the opportunity. Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has started loaning money to people in poverty (2.1M current borrowers in 37K village -- interestingly 94% of them were women). The women borrow the money in groups and use it to build small business that can create saving and thus ignite a positive cycle. 98% of these loans get repaid. The bank has given out $4B and has helped 37M people in Bangladesh move out of poverty. This is called microcredit as the loan amounts are very small.

So we can have a futile argument about 'capital as a basic human right'. In the meantime, there are solutions that can help the rich and the poor.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Another modern art painting

Monday, April 18, 2005

My Painting

Here is a picture of a modern art painting I did over the weekend. Posted by Hello

Friday, April 01, 2005

My Project at Google

I can finally talk about my main project here. No, it's not the Firefox
I blogged about. It's the Google Gulp.

Make sure you read the last question in the FAQ. Also, check out (while not being logged in) to find out how much space you get.

You can join a Google Group and get an email whenever I post something here.

I've found a great review site for digital cameras.