Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Beijing's 1st Tibetan Search Engine

New search engine Yongzin looks very similar to Google, no?
China recently launched its first search engine -- in Tibetan called Yongzin, which means "teacher" or "master". State media outlet Xinhua says Yongzin is a "unified portal for all major Tibetan-language websites in China".

The search engine has been in the making since 2013 and cost 57 million yuan (US$8.7 million) to produce. Eighty percent of the 150 developers are ethnic Tibetan, and the site is expected to benefit 2 million users.

You will be hard pressed to find images of him on Yongzin
With an entire population of over 1.2 billion, why would the Chinese government bother to set up a search engine for such a small percentage of people?

"[It will] meet the growing needs of the Tibetan-speaking population and facilitate the building of Tibetan digital archives and the expansion of databases in the Tibetan language," an official said.

Or how about trying to control the information flow Tibetans can access in their own language?

Tibet watchers outside of China seem skeptical about this latest development. "After decades of effectively suppressing the Tibetan language, China now puts emphasis on being seen to support it," observed Alistair Currie of the Free Tibet Movement.

"As with everything in Tibet, language is tainted with political connotations, and Beijing wants to control any development rather than permit it."

And there are problems trying to find images of Tibetan tea
Some media asked Tibetan-speaking users to try out the portal and found searches for the Dalai Lama didn't even show his official website. "None of the top results [on Yongzin] are particularly relevant," a researcher said.

When the search switched to images, the results showed images from a defunct website compared to Google, which had lots of pictures of the Dalai Lama.

Another search was made for "Tibetan tea", and those results showed Chinese officials drinking tea, whereas Google had images of the actual beverage.

Currie noted there were many more blogs, websites and social media from Tibet that were not accessible through the search engine.

So what's the whole point of this 57 million yuan exercise when hardly anything is accessible?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Olympic Stars Coming to Hong Kong

Hong Kong fans are going to be excited to see Fu Yuanhui this weekend
The euphoria of the Summer Games in Rio have begun to evaporate, but it will extend in Hong Kong this weekend when the Chinese gold medallists come here to show off why they're in the best in the world.

Sixty-four Olympians will come, including the 12 "golden girls" of the women's volleyball team who won gold for the first time since 2004, along with their coach Lang Ping.

Diver Wu Minxia will show off her diving skills
Others include diver Wu Minxia, swimming Sun Yang and badminton player Chen Long.

Even though badminton bad boy Lin Dan was unsuccessful in defending his title, he will also be in Hong Kong, as well as bronze medallist Fu Yuanhui, who became an internet darling for her post race interview when she found out from a reporter she came in third, and being open and honest about her menstrual cramps.

Hong Kong Olympic officials had been requesting Fu to come, but the previous policy from the Chinese side was only to have gold medallists come here.

But Fu's attendance was confirmed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying today, which will surely thrill those who managed to snag the 5,700 tickets that went on sale on Monday morning and were gone by 1pm.

Superstar Lin Dan will demonstrate his badminton prowess
Already some of the tickets are being scalped for as much as 1,000 yuan each, when they were bought for only HK$20, each person able to buy a maximum of two tickets.

The athletes' visit starts here on Saturday, when they will hold table tennis and diving demonstrations at Queen Elizabeth Stadium and Victoria Park, and participate in a variety show in Sunday.

They will also have a meet-and-greet session with young people in Ma On Shan, and visit the Hong Kong Sports Institute to meet local athletes.

Attention will definitely be on Fu and wonder what she'll inadvertently gab about next!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Review: Catch in K-Town

Delicious Catch crab boil with mussels, clams, chorizo and sweet corn
Did some eating around Kennedy Town this weekend with my cousin in town for a few days.

On Friday evening we went to the popular Catch, short for Catchick but also a hint to the seafood menu, as in catch of the day.

When I booked the table for 6.30pm, they asked us to vacate it by 8.30pm, which gave the impression it was very busy, but when we got there, we were the only ones dining in the restaurant for at least an hour.

A side dish of pan-fried okra with lentils and shallots
Nevertheless it was fun having the place to ourselves, and having the restaurant open up to the street gave us another perspective -- watching people walking by peering in to where we were, as well as buses and trams driving through.

My cousin was craving beef tartare, so we ordered this one ($138), that arrived on two baguette slices topped with half quail eggs. We liked the chunks of beef, but the seasoning was on the very spicy end of the scale with a slow, hot burn.

We had a side of pan-fried okra with lentils and shallots (HK$48) that was quite a large bowl for two, but we liked the taste and healthiness of the dish.

For mains, the baked salmon, walnut, coriander, capsicum and chilli salsa, and minted cabbage salad ($198) was light and very refreshing with the combination of flavours and textures.

Baked salmon with chilli salsa and minted cabbage salad
Then we got our fingers dirty digging into the Catch crab boil (HK$168 for small, HK$328 large). Since we ordered the small one, the crab was also relatively small, and didn't have that much meat in the legs, but we really enjoyed eating the mussels and clams, both plump and juicy.

We also liked the thick slices of chorizo and of course the buttery sauce. We asked for some bread to mop it up and we were soon stuffed -- so much so we couldn't even fit dessert in.

When we wobbled out of there around 8pm, we had a short walk around the neighbourhood to at least try to digest some of the meal, a memorable one.

G/F, 93 Catchick Street
Kennedy Town
2855 1289

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Playing Piano... Again

An upright piano ready to be played and it was a fun hour that whizzed by
The apartment building I live in has a clubhouse with a variety of facilities, such as a swimming pool, gym, classes for baking and making crafts, tai chi and so on.

In order to entice more residents to use the facilities, today was a day to try things out for free and booked in advance, though things like the swimming pool and gym were first come, first served.

Not having played piano for over 20 years, I thought this would be a good chance to see if my fingers still had the magic touch on the ivories and reserved myself a room for an hour.

I printed off some sheet music from the internet and then headed to the clubhouse at the appointed time. I was shown to a small room that had an upright piano and two chairs; a clock was right above the piano so there was no mistaking what time it was.

I got out my first piece, Minuet in G by JS Bach and started playing the right hand, trying to remember how to read sheet music, and then ventured to add the left hand and presto -- I was playing music!

It was very rough at first and immediately after playing at the end, I started the beginning again, hoping it would get better, and sometimes it was, and sometimes it was worse. How did I forget to play that note? Why is my fingering all wrong? I was determined to play it better the next time around.

Soon 30 minutes was over and I was still playing Minuet in G. I moved onto Fur Elise by Beethoven, but it turns out I had the abridged version. That's OK because I managed to play the first part OK, partly because it was arpeggios and easier to follow because there was a lot of repetition.

I used to love playing Fur Elise, channeling the romanticism of Beethoven; but now it didn't seem to hold as much meaning to me as it did as a 15-year-old trying to figure out her way in the world.

So I went back to Minuet in G for the last 15 minutes. It's funny how as a kid practicing piano an hour went by at a snail's pace, and here it whipped by and I was playing non stop to get as much practice in as possible. My fingers weren't doing exactly what I wanted them to do, but not bad for not having touched a piano in over two decades!

It was a good distraction to do something different, and also use my brain in another way.