Golden Persimmon

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Dried Persimmon 

Since childhood dried persimmon had been something to dread to hate
Hard and dry and mouldy-like
Never knew thins
Till today


fleeting 09 – Doors of Happiness

2006.11.04  Club O (Cantonese) 錄音:
從一首詩 Doors of Happiness 說起

Part 1/4 (18:51)

Part 2/4 (20.09)

Part 3/4 (16.24)

Part 4/4 (32:59)


When this poem was first written in 1994,
The last 2 lines were:
You try to open it
And find it _________________

When this poem was revised in 1995,
The last 2 lines were:
You try to open it
And find it _________________

And when this poem was revised in 1996,
The last 2 lines were:
You try to open it
And find it _________________



We wish you

2017.12.25 Merry Christmas_2017

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And …

paqariku atawsami
Feliz Navidad



2005 Christmas Message from Dear Old Teacher L

2017.12.24_Christmas Greetings_L.M.Wu (i)

The accident on 6th November showed that cocoon is another kind of predicament.

In the three weeks in HK before that, I saw only the heaviest smog I had ever been in and bore the hammering and drilling of the renovations of our building. I wanted to be out, though. I was pleasantly touched by the increased courtesy on buses and the amount of voluntarism among our old girls.

Then in a half empty MTR train at an hour before midnight, I fell. The number of hands helping to pick me up and offers of balms etc. was amazing. Even when we got off the train, quite a few gathered round with concern to ask whether any help was needed. So did the two or three casual strangers we met as we struggled up the stairs. I did not know I had fractured the left femur until three days later. After that, things happened pretty fast: I had surgery on the 15th and was out of hospital on the 20th. I have not been knocked out. With the help of Dr. David Fang, the kindliest and friendliest doctor you could wish for, and my physiotherapist Miss Li and her assistant, whose amiable professionalism I can only admire, I am up and walking in three weeks.

What have I learnt?

This city which I called home for 35 years is no longer brash, brassy, self-seeking, quick to blame others for misfortune. There is renewal and resilience. Casual strangers readily show concern; people are ready to help and voluntarism is prevalent. The taxi drivers I have met say ‘take you time’ and ‘be careful’. They initiate or join conversations as if they had known you for twenty years. And, under the pall of the smog, the pavements are well-paved and clean, and the young trees and other plants found almost everywhere where space is struggle to overcome the pollution descending on them. Though I still long for the serenity in Tasmania, my faith in this great city restored.

On the personal level, we have learnt what concern our friends (who knew what happened) have for us, not pity, the extent to which they are ready to help; especially the Kams and Davy Chu have no yardstick. And Sarah Loy has taught me that it is as blessed to receive as it is to give. I realize now it is a feeling of undesirable superiority which made me only want to give and reject receiving.

Kenyu is now very, very patient, a difficult thing to do for a diabetic. He has regained his legs he lost to his wheels three and a half decades ago. He is also enjoying friends and relatives on the phone more than ever.

2017.12.24_Christmas Greetings_L.M.Wu (ii)
L. M. Wu

12 years after:

In Hong Kong
Air pollution still prevails,
But cleaner the city will soon be.
For low-end sectors are being cleared.
Helpfulness friendliness rare if not extinct.

Your home yonder has also become far from cozy.
Patience declines as your health wanes.
You wish for a little more tolerance,
Knowing less might be next.

But when I call you tomorrow,
I will still wish you a Merry Christmas.
For you taught me to cherish HOPE
Over 50 years ago.



A Little Christmas Carol for Natasha_08_Sword-Bridge

2017.12.17 A Little Christmas Carol for Natasha_08_Sword-Bridge_F.png


膽 琴心 邀新歲
頭 柳鬢 迎青舟

sword-bile harp-heart invite New Year
bridge-head willow-sideburn welcome green boat

On Monmon entering Cambridge (sword-bridge 劍橋)


Fanny-Min Becker 14 December at 11:36 ·

// Play it for entertainment value if you want, but remember that
you are purely betting on the greater stupidity of others. //



14 December 2017

Let’s try to explain, in simple terms, why Bitcoin and other digital pseudo-currencies will fail. Bitcoin is the World’s first distributed, decentralised Ponzi scheme. No single operator is running it, and everyone has a chance to participate in it, but its value is determined purely by the weight of money coming into it and the willingness of holders to sell it. Like any Ponzi scheme, earlier participants came in at lower cost, and are now receiving much of the billions of dollars (yes, really) that newcomers are putting in.

Some members of the scheme spend their time telling their friends how they should get in on this Big New Thing and how much money they have already made “on paper”, or more accurately “on screen”. If your Bitcoins are now “worth” more than you paid for them then you may feel successful, but if you haven’t yet cashed out as much as you’ve put in, then you’re still a potential victim. On the other hand, if you’ve got your cash back or more, then you’re already a paid-up and paid-out member of the Bitcoin Ponzi Scheme. And unlike Bernie Madoff, you’re probably not going to jail, although some of the self-serving promoters of Bitcoin are skating dangerously close to that if it can be proven that they knew their claims were false and/or were simultaneously selling. Also, unlike the beneficiaries who cashed out of Madoff’s funds before he crashed, you probably won’t have to pay anything back. That’s the beauty of a decentralised Ponzi scheme.

Most of the larger participants will privately admit, if only to themselves, that Bitcoin is a bubble, but they also believe that they can get out before it crashes, or don’t much care because they have already cashed out far more than they put in. But just remember this: Bitcoin is essentially a zero-sum game. At any point in time, the cumulative sum of all net cash put in by losers will equal the cumulative sum of all net cash taken out by winners (excluding mining costs).

“But banks are awful – there must be a better way”

Millions of smaller participants, perhaps holding the not-unjustified view that the World’s banking systems and governments have failed them, think that Bitcoin or other crypto-tokens are the future of money, some kind of utopian “end of fiat currency” scenario in which we will all trade with each other in units of “crypto-currencies” and take back control of our financial lives. We’re here to tell you, for reasons explained below, that as long as the World has governments with the power to tax and spend, that isn’t going to happen. Citizens should instead pressure their governments to stop the insane amount of interference in the banking system which has kept it so difficult and expensive for honest people to wire money, open accounts and do business, particularly when they are running small businesses. Banks should not be expected to act as policemen, particuarly now that Governments are getting more access to their customers’ data.

No, it’s not a currency

To be viable as a currency, something must be both a medium of exchange and a store of value. These are mutually independent criteria: one cannot be satisfied from the other. If a currency doesn’t have some intrinsic value relative to real-world assets or liabilities, then even if you can wire it around the world in minutes, it’s value will fluctuate based on the willingness of others to take it off your hands and nothing else. It won’t be a reliable store of value, so it will be tossed around like a hot potato. Any merchant who accepts it will immediately convert it into a fiat currency to avoid the risk of holding it.

Governments no longer guarantee the exchangability of their currencies for gold, silver or other rare atomic elements. They instead issue “fiat” currencies, basically IOUs, the value of which (measured in other currencies, or the goods and services it can buy) can also crash if they print too much – as Zimbabwe did. A fiat currency is only as good as the country which issues it. However, a government levies taxes in the same currency (creating liabilities for taxpayers), and spends that money to pay civil servants and provide citizens with basic goods and services, such as education, healthcare or public roads, or just hands it out as welfare that its poorer citizens can spend. A government also measures business profits and salaries in the same currency – giving currency its third major function, as a unit of account. You won’t see companies or people filling out their tax returns in Bitcoins.

So a government (particuarly an elected one) has an inherent incentive not to dramatically devalue its currency, destabilising its economy with hyperinflation and reducing the real value of both its tax collections and its expenditures. Situations like Zimbabwe are the exceptions that prove the rule, and almost always result in the overthrow of the government involved. Governments therefore aim to manage the quantity of money so that there is just a modest incentive to spend it or lend it; many central banks have declared targets of 2% inflation and some (notably the US Federal Reserve) have a dual mandate of maximising employment.

By comparison, Bitcoin isn’t issued by any Government or any single entity. Nobody stands behind it, and its rate of creation is determined not by inflation targets but by a simplistic formula which halves the rate of production every 4 years. Indeed, because supply does not expand to meet demand, Bitcoin has been going through hyper-deflation – the price of everything measured in Bitcoin has been plummeting, making it irrational to spend Bitcoin unless you expect it to decline in value. So perversely, anyone who has the confidence that this is the future of currency is unlikely to spend it.

Incidentally, that formula for the mining rate, like every other aspect of a distributed system, is only set by consensus; it is perhaps only a matter of time before the consensus, out of rational self-interest, decides to abandon the software-imposed cap of 21 million Bitcoins and increase the reward for “mining” it, once the majority of operators have cashed out enough from the Ponzi scheme to make that attractive. What makes you think that a global collective of miners, without a country or an economy to run or an election to win, will not at some point begin to debase their “currency”?

“But its value is its utility”

Some Bitcoin proponents say that its value is derived from its utility as a medium of exchange – but that just takes you round in an infinite loop, because to be able to exchange value for goods and services, a currency must have a widely-accepted, stable value on its own. And even if that utility were there, the fees for transactions have begun rising, make Bitcoin unviable for small transactions. This has also prompted a split within the mining community (known as a “hard fork”), with a new variation in the software to allow more transaction capcity in every 10-minute settlement run. The result is that each old Bitcoin token on 1-Aug-2017 split into a current Bitcoin token and a “Bitcoin Cash” token, and there is no reason why that can’t happen again.

The combination of price volatility and transaction fees has also resulted in some early adopters such as Valve Corp (operator of the Steam gaming platform) dropping it as a means of payment.

“But it costs money to mine it”

Other proponents – John McAfee, for example, argue that Bitcoin has value because it costs money to “mine” it in enormous server farms, burning Gigajoules of electricity every second in the “proof of work”, literally creating hot air. That, again, is a false and circular argument, because the only reason that so much energy and hardware is being deployed to heat the air is because the price of Bitcoin is so high, and the only reason it is so high is because so much real money is being used to buy Bitcoins.

The key to understanding this is to understand that the Bitcoin software sets the “difficulty” of a cryptographic puzzle so that it is solved by brute force every 10 minutes on average. The more machines working on it, the higher the difficulty is set.

In more detail, the algorithm that all Bitcoin miners run is a distributed lottery in which each machine is performing random “hash” calculations on a “block” of transaction data, and the first machine to produce a hash-value below a certain target “wins” the mining reward, currently 12.5 new Bitcoins, plus a currently-smaller amount of existing Bitcoins deducted as fees from the transactions. Each 10-minute block only has room for a certain number of transactions, so the fees are set by bids attached to the submitted transactions. Indeed, the only thing that you can only buy with Bitcoin is the transaction confirmation.

The first 1,612,800 Bitcoins (up to block 32255) were generated on a single PC in 2009 with a “difficulty” level of 1. Today hundreds of thousands of machines are running the same software, with a difficulty level on block 499035 of 1.59 trillion. But if the price of Bitcoins drops, then machines will be turned off or used to mine another kind of cryto-token, and the difficulty level will drop again, reducing the mining cost in response. So it is the price of Bitcoin that drives the mining cost, not the other way around, and the price is determined by the money flowing into the Ponzi scheme, not by the cost of mining. If only the same amount of energy were being devoted to more useful computational tasks, such as protein folding. For more on the mechanics and origins of Bitcoin and its inherent flaws, see our article The Hole In Bitcoin, 4-Nov-2013.

It can melt down, but you can’t melt it down

You won’t find any pictures of Bitcoins in this article, because unlike the mass media, we don’t want to mislead you into thinking that Bitcoins are shiny, golden and metallic and have some kind of intrinsic value. Bitcoins are just 256-bit sequences of 1s and 0s, or 32-byte numbers. Nothing more than that. When the market crashes, you can’t melt them down or use them as jewellery or for electrical circuits. You can just print them out and wonder why you paid so much for a collection of 1s and 0s. The few physical coins that you see in stock photos were just produced as a promotional gimmick. Some are sold “empty” and others have inside them a printed private key for Bitcoins, like a fortune cookie. Anyone who has that key can transfer the Bitcoins electronically, leaving an empty physical coin.

But what about other uses?

Readers may have observed that Bitcoin seems to have found an application, or a partner, in crime. For example, producers of ransomware software have locked down computers and then demanded that the victims purchase and then send Bitcoins to a designated, anonymous network address. This is certainly an application, but for its utility, criminals still depend on ultimately being able to exchange the Bitcoins for real-world goods and services, or equivalently for fiat currency. So although Bitcoin can be used to skirt around the burdensome anti-money-laundering regulations or capital controls as long as it remains in the Bitcoin network, this is rather like entering an underground railway system – you can’t stay there forever. At some point, you have to resurface. And if only criminals are using the network, then it’s going to be rather difficult to get out without being noticed. So the ransomware operators can buy illegal drugs with Bitcoin, but how are the drug sellers going to convert their Bitcoins into cash or anything else?

Reduced to this level, Bitcoin is just an intermediary system between money-service operators, with victims exchanging cash for Bitcoins, and criminals trying to convert received Bitcoins back into cash without being noticed. No wonder, then, that most of the World’s governments have reacted by classifying any exchange that converts fiat currency to or from Bitcoins as a money-services operator, requiring the usual “know your client” obligations that are imposed on banks and remittance firms, thereby imposing similar administrative costs which are reflected in the conversion fees. These regulations severely limit Bitcoin’s potential as a payment system for crime.

Join if you want

We don’t doubt that some people are getting tremendous entertainment value just watching the price of a small bet (relative to their net worth) on Bitcoin go up and down. It’s no different to a night at the casino or the racetrack in that respect. As long as you accept that you could lose everything you bet, you too can participate in the World’s first decentralised Ponzi Scheme (or any of its imitators), but just remember that you are purely betting on the greater stupidity of others.

©, 2017

Now that we know

Now that we know

Taishan nuclear power plant
Deaerator manufactured w. defects:
Seam gaps of 20 – 25 mm and not 2.

No way to remedy?
Too wide a gap to weld?
May affect core cooling?

All this they knew in 2012.
And only now we are told.
But so what now that we know?


Thanks to Joanne Choi for sharing.

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FactWire News Agency 傳真社

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