Tuesday, November 24, 2015

District Council Election

The election for the District Councils is now over. In our district, candidate number 2 was the pan-democratic district councillor for a number of years but was voted out of office several years ago.  Number 3 was a popular young pan-democrat.  Number 4 was the incumbent pro-establishment candidate. Number 1 was an unknown.  

In the end, the pro-establishment incumbent (no. 4) defeated the pan-democratic young man (no. 3) by a small number of votes - smaller than the number of votes obtained by no. 2.  Hence many are of the opinion that if the pan-democratic camp was better organized, they would have defeated the pro-establishment candidate.  As it turned out, the pro-establishment candidate was able to retain the seat.  Similar scenarios were repeated across the city.   

On the other hand, a larger percentage of people came out to vote.  An unusually large number of young people put themselves forward as candidates, perhaps influenced by the Occupy Movement, and some of them won.  This is encouraging.  In many ways democratic participation at the district level is even more important than participation at the city level.  The more people participate, the more we can make sure that we are heard, that the government is run the way we want it.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cha Gwo Ling (茶果嶺)

When I ran from Hung Hom to Loha’s Park (日出康城) in the eastern end of Kowloon last Saturday, I discovered Cha Gwo Ling.   

Officially Loha’s Park sits on reclaimed land, not a landfill (of garbage).   But it is very close to an operational landfill, visible in the photograph to the right of the estate.  

Presumably Cha Gwo Ling was so named because there were trees whose leaves were used to make Cha Gwo (茶果).  I knew there was such a place, but I have never been there.  I did not even know exactly where it was.  And I often confused it with Tiu Keng Ling (調景嶺, 吊頸嶺).  Cha Guo Ling turned out to be just beyond Kwun Tong (觀塘), on the waterfront.  There are some old-looking small houses and pretty big trees. 

There is a eatery which could be somewhat interesting. 

There is a fairly impressive village office compound.

There is a Queen of Heaven Temple (天后廟).  

The Queen of Heaven (天后) was actually a fairly junior goddess who was considered a protector of fishermen.  I suppose that was because the village used to house a lot of fishermen.  But there is little evidence of that nowadays.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dr. WANG Yuanyuan and Impact Index

My research student Yuanyuan is now a Doctor of Philosophy.  Last Saturday she was granted the degree by the university.  

She received the degree based on her work on quantifying the credibility of reviews (and hence the reviewers who wrote the reviews) on tourism attractions.  For some time, the state of the art was to measure the credibility of a reviewer by the average number of “helpful” votes (similar to “like”s) that a reviewer receives per review.  However, there are some situations where the average number of votes may not be most appropriate.  For example, is a reviewer A who wrote one single review which received 10 “helpful” votes  (average=10) more credible than a reviewer B who wrote 5 reviews each getting 9 votes (average=9)?

After much brainstorming and experimenting, we hit on the idea of adapting the idea of the h-index, used to measure the quality of the academic papers written by researchers.  The result is the Impact Index, which quantifies the number of reviews written by a reviewer which received at least a certain number of votes.  

She then collected a large amount of data from several tourism recommendation web sites based in the USA and China and carried out many experiments to verify that the Impact Index (and its variations) does perform better than the state of the art in general.   In the process, she also discovered some of the tricks that certain web sites used to manipulate the data.  

My friends, please say hello to Dr. WANG.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

Treasures on Ap Liu Street ()

There are lots of treasures on Ap Liu Street.  “Auto-focus” glasses for the elderly. Incredibly cheap.  

“Authentic” palm-size fans.  

The widest range of well-designed knives and multi-tools.  

There are also SIM cards galore.

Where else can you find someone to fix your remote control?

Strong magnets of all shapes and sizes.  You really have to be careful around these things.

Where else?

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Service-Learning 2015

In 2014-15, ~3,000 students in our university have taken a 3-credit subject in service-learning.  Each of them went through lectures, workshops, eLearning, …, to prepare for the service.  Each of them did at least 40 hours of service, and seriously reflected on their experience, to learn from it.  Each has learned, first hand, about the needs of the community, and how they can apply what they learned in university to serve the needy.  In the process, they learned more about themselves and how to be a responsible citizen.  

Three-quarters of them served in Hong Kong.  About one-quarter served in Mainland China or overseas.  About 140 served in Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar or Rwanda.  

There is a photo exhibition on campus on what they have done.  

Some have taught English. Some built solar panels to charge batteries. Some wired houses for LED lighting. Some inspected eyes.  Some designed fashion for people recovering from mental illness.  Some taught secondary school students to build robots.  Some taught young people to write smart phone applications.  Some did health checks for the elderly.  Some helped the handicapped to rehabilitate.  Some helped slum dwellers to eat healthier.  And a lot more.  

Come to see them for yourself. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Poached fish

Fried chickens are deep fried in boiling oil.  

Steamed fish are steamed over boiling water, aren't they?

Normally they are.  As it turns out, sometimes steamed fish are actually poached.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Farm food

Last Sunday we went shopping for organic produce at a farm in Fanling 粉嶺 - more accurately, in Hok Tau 鶴藪.  

There weren’t too much available.  We did find some 洛神花, but the farmers had planned to make jam out of them.  

We found some taro - mothers and babies.  We bought some babies. 

We found white turnips.  These were the first fruits of the season, so called 早水蘿蔔. They were really small but really good. 

Our greatest reward, however, was that we were invited to stay for lunch.  It was literally salted fish and vegetables 鹹魚青菜, which we enjoyed very much.  Equally enjoyable and also educational was the conversation.  

We learned (not for the first time) that it is very difficult to make it profitable growing organic vegetables.  They do not actually bring their produce to the market.  They grow vegetables for themselves and their friends, and to sell to the occasional passers-by like us.  Their main business is providing flowers and plants for housing estates.  Their flower business feeds their vegetable business.  At least it seems to be working.  We are happy for them.  

Further, they do not own the land.  It is rather ironic that the people who own the land in Hong Kong do not want to farm.  On the other hand, the people who want to farm have no land.   Land in Hong Kong is indeed scarce, but not to the extend that we cannot grow at least part of our food.  A responsible government would see to it that we are in control of the food that we eat.  But that does not seem to be the kind of government that we are having.