Myanmar … brimming with optimism/hope/confidence ? …

Nov. 5-7, 2015 (Yangon/Dallah, Myanmar) :

Downtown Yangon is just too densely populated and congested, which makes it dirty and filthy.  As a significant fraction of the roads/streets have been occupied by the street stalls or hawkers selling all sorts of stuff, their widths are considerably shrunk.  Only on the last day did I realize that just a bit north (~1 mile) of downtown — such as the area around the National Museum or north of the central station, it suddenly looked like a nice suburb area in US that I can even consider living.

As a tourist, it’s just too hot to walk around comfortably. The atmosphere and chaotic street scenes and traffic have reminded me of Bangkok > 18 years ago.  But of course, Bangkok (or anywhere else) then didn’t have 3G (or whatever) data network which was very good in Yangon (as good as in US or Luang Prabang of Laos).

In the first morning, I finished the task of sending a postcard (stamp costing 500 kyat) — an old habit/tradition of mine.  But before I could buy a stamp with kyat, I had to exchange the local currency.  My US$50 was in good enough quality as nobody gave a fuss. The exchange rate for US$100 is 1:1273, only 1:1268 for $50, 1:1253 for $20 or $10 and only 1:1213 for $1 – $5, in the KBZ Bank — one of the biggest banks there.  Somehow they had preferred bigger notes exactly as the tourist guides etc. have stated.  I saw other people carrying passport which I didn’t have.  In the form that they asked me to fill in, they asked for a passport no. and I filled in a no. as much as I could remember — which (after I checked later back in the hotel) turned out to be correct for only the first half of the digits 🙂

1105151644What is shown here was one of the 4 photos at Yangon’s most famous site, Shwedagon Pagoda, taken by a nice girl.  Getting to this Pagoda in late afternoon, it’s like I had achieved my purpose (though maybe meaningless !) of coming to Yangon.  That afternoon, in my heart or mind, I had an internal struggle whether to stay inside the hotel for the air-conditioned comfort or walked under the scorching sun for more than half an hour from my hotel to reach that Pagoda 🙂

Like everybody else, I walked barefoot there as it was a requirement, just like many of the Buddhist places — last year I walked barefoot in the Royal Palace (also of Buddhist nature) in Kandy of Sri Lanka for a couple hours.  It’s worse than Mosque in the sense that I couldn’t even wear socks.  Men also dressed in similar fashion like women — but they are called “longyi” for men.  Of course, there are some men/women in Yangon who dress themselves in more westernized manner.  In any case, these dresses are kind of like a “norm” to me when I have been visiting a different Asian country every year.  They are all slightly different but also kind of the same to me, just some leptons and quarks …… In the photo, my eyes were not really closed, but probably because my eyes are small and I was just tired, they just looked that way.

1106151644The most refreshing bits of my entire Myanmar trip was probably the ferry trips between Dallas and Yangon on my 2nd day.  From the angle in the this photo, Yangon looked quite industrial 😁

It is said this ferry trip should take 10 minutes but it’s more like 6 minutes.  10 minutes probably includes the time to walk out of the terminal.  Foreigners these days needed to pay US$2 each way or $4 return (compared to virtually nothing ~100 kyat for locals).   Nobody (in tourist guides or online) mentioned anything about paying in kyat (for tourists) and when I asked, it turned out to be 5400 kyat — about 6% more than $4.  But since I have too much kyat left, I chose to pay in kyat.  Somehow, they also gave me a 300 ml bottle of purified drinking water.

Probably I seemed to know what I was doing and was very determined in my refusal, nobody in Dallah really chased me for long.  It is said that there was a big contrast between Yangon and Dallah, but to me there wasn’t that much a contrast to me — again, it was due to too high of an expectation value. It’s just city vs rural village, it’s as dirty or filthy on both sides of the river. But just that Yangon has taller houses/buildings, modern development such as a few shopping malls and higher class hotels — I am typing from the most famous one, “The Strand” (not sure since when, I have learnt to make use of the lobbies/reception areas of luxurious hotel to take can rest and enjoy the air-conditioning). The houses in Dallah (that I have seen 10 minutes away from the ferry terminal) are suspended up from the ground by posts as if it is water underneath. I guess there must be substantial flooding … Overall, it’s just poorer than Yangon, not really fundamentally different.

The (short) time spent on the ferry with the breeze was the best part of the journey and actually the most enjoyable moments in my entire Myanmar stay, both spiritually and physically.

By the way, when I reached Dallah, away from the ferry terminal, the data signal was still “H” (HSPA, an enhancement over 3G), the same as in the Yangon side.  Myanmar has just reminded me of Laos 2 years ago that data network has been everywhere which had allowed me to upload to Facebook (and both countries don’t seem to do much censorship, at least not for Facebook, unlike Mainland China !).  I think, due to different frequency spectrum for 4G, my smartphone (LG G2) configured for US could not be used for 4G outside US.  [ 3G doesn’t have this frequency problem and this phone has all 4 frequency bands for me to make phone calls (2G) if I want to. ]

Earlier in the morning, I went to visit the National Museum.  The major exhibit there is said to be the only Lion Throne left, which one could find on the ground floor.  Then, one would encounter all kinds of other exhibits from model statues of various Myanmar ethnic groups and paintings to 40 million years old rocks and even a small piece of rock from the moon (from the Apollo era) given by President Nixon.  There was certainly much space left over for even more exhibits.  I guess the Museum has achieved the purpose of introducing Myanmar but it has given me a feeling that they just tried to fill the space, even just sparsely.  Nevertheless, there were 5 floors which in any case are still a lot to be seen, impressive or not.

The surprise later was that a couple blocks south from the Museum across the Pyay Road, I came across the only modern and multi-story shopping mall “Taw Win Center” in my entire Yangon stay and because of sufficient air-conditioning here, I have physically enjoyed myself much more than in the Museum honestly speaking.  It had  restaurants but I was not that hungry and only bought some cakes in the supermarket at the basement.

1107151335On the last day and afternoon in Yangon, I took the Yangon Circular Railway (Circle Line) which has been said to take 3 hours.  But it actually only needed ~2 hours and 31 minutes, for my experience; but at least I’ve finished reading my novel.  The train goes around the entire Yangon and comes back to the same Yangon central station. On one hand, I’ve got time to kill; on the other hand, I tried imbedding myself among the Yangon people and told myself that this was real travelling and real experience. Though one sometimes got to see some rural green fields, there was just too much trash along the rail track and overall, it was quite boring. I chose the air-conditioned train (even though it was not really strong) to make it slightly more bearable and I didn’t really care of taking photos for the scene outside.  Air-conditioned or not, it’s all US$1 for the entire trip (or even the entire day). It’s obviously not the cleanest but I have only occasionally smelled something 😅

I have typed the above paragraph (in Facebook) from the Sule Shangri La Hotel, not too far away from the train station, enjoying their A/C, toilet, electricity (to recharge phone) etc. I’ve killed a couple hours there before I went over to the East Hotel (just across the Sule Pagoda Road) for dinner as it’s cheaper there and also one of the suggestions of the “The Rough Guide to Myanmar (Burma)” before I headed to the airport for my 1:10 am flight (actually on Nov. 8th).  By chance, the previous night, I also went to one of the Guide’s suggestions, the 999 Shan Noodle Shop, which was even cheaper ~2100 kyat and tasted good enough.  This restaurant was probably run by ethnic Chinese and it’s quite deep into the 34th St. from the main Anawratha Road — ie., if not suggested by the Guide, I’d not have come across it myself.  At the end, I have chosen not to eat street food in Yangon due to the questionable hygiene and the fact that the street food (a lot of frying and oily stuff) didn’t really appeal to my appetite.

Everyday news has shown us bit by bit the election results from Myanmar’s general election which happened a few hours after I left Myanmar. The last day before I left, on the train, I saw in a glimpse one of the few big slogans that I could read (as it’s in English) which said “Myanmar, brimming with ….”. I don’t quite remember the word after “brimming with” …. Maybe, it’s “optimism” or “hope” or “confidence” 🙂  I can write a reason for each …

Let’s hope that the ruling party/army will accept the election results and it certainly looks much more likely than 5 years ago. Among other things, the right to vote in the general election or being able to use facebook is something that the Burmese seem to have but not their neighbors across the northern border. The right to vote may not lead to prosperity or anything and it’s just something which seems more difficult to have than owning iPhone or iPad in some parts of the world. Though my choosing to study physics instead of engineering (or medicine) in college didn’t guarantee any bright future (some people might argue it’s certainly a less prosperous one), it probably gave me my life some meaning as I seemed to choose a path of my own decision instead of my parents’ — which would render my life meaningless. I certainly cherish this right/freedom to choose at that particular juncture even though I never know what’d happen if I had chosen to study engineering or medicine which might be disastrous or might lead to a more financially wealthier life — but for the latter, if they were not my own choosing, I’d sometimes feel that I’d be merely a robot under my parents’ or the government’s super-computerized control. Hehehe … I think even the Chinese novels “家、春、秋” written more or less 80 years ago gave me such a strong emotion in terms of “love” and personal life/choice, when I first read it in early secondary school — I remember that the teacher gave me a “A” for my review — maybe like : if you don’t choose your own lover but only follow your parents’ arrangement for you, life is meaningless 🙂

Interestingly, soon after I left Sri Lanka about a year ago, Sri Lanka also had an important election which made the ruling President Rajapaksa step down in a narrow margin (~51.3% vs 47.6%) . It seemed so unlikely when I was there because I only noticed Raja’s posters in Colombo and nobody else. My Sri Lankan friend/colleague told me that Raja sort of “sold” Sri Lanka to China for his own benefit. Election result is diffiult to predict, especially when you try to do so beforehand 🙂 { Just like many theorists, people like to claim to have “predicted” the unavoidable result afterwards. } The existence of election is certainly interesting than its absence … not the least with the entertainment of Donald Trump. ( I’m very liberal in my voting right … Once you get the voting right, you could vote based on their look, the one sentence they have said or whatever. You only need to bear the consequence of the result collectively, good or bad, such as G. W. Bush or B. Obama et. al. )

The right to vote (in a real election — that people like Donald Trump can try) is probably more “expensive” to get than iPad and iPhone…. And of course, some people don’t care about iPhone or iPad (like me) and some people may not care about the right to vote or the freedom to use facebook 🙂 { What is also interesting is that you can use facebook in Laos and Myanmar — or all the Asian countries that I’ve been in recent years — but not in Mainland China. } These days, I more and more look up to, like and prefer the place that people actually care about the right to vote and I can’t bear with a place that people seem to be satisfied without the genuine right to vote/choose.

I watched the French TV channel in my apartment in Meyrin of Switzerland (near CERN) after the 1995 French Presidential election. Seeing virtually like hundreds of thousands (if not a million) of people around the Arc de Triomphe, it was probably the first time that I suddenly realized and was so moved that people could be so overjoyed by just the sheer existence of an election (somehow I didn’t feel that people were happy whether Chirac had won, but it’s more like people cheering after a successful midnight party). Probably because of language barrier, I didn’t really feel anything about their elections in Myanmar or Sri Lanka when I was there as a tourist. The 2015 Sri Lanka election had the turnout of >80% ! Which is a number that itself just shows a kind of emotion or at least “!” ! { Voting turnout would probably come down after it becomes routine … just like your love for your iPhone would dwindle after the initial excitement. } I’ve long thought that people’s happiness is ~ dX/dt — X can be anything and t is time. You don’t really feel happy or sad just because of the absolute magnitude of X but its change would affect your happiness. Walking down the Champs-Élysées from Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde (even after a few times) is probably still more enjoyable/romantic to me than walking in Yangon downtown (the temperature must be a factor here, too). Nevertheless, if I had a machine to measure happiness, I’m not sure that the richer Parisians (or other richer people in richer cities) are happier than the Burmese. Certainly, at this moment, the Burmese is probably brimming with more “hope” or “optimism” than the Parisians; in other “words”, d(Hope)_Burmese/dt > d(Hope)_Parisian/dt .

Aung San Suu Kyi had created the famous statement before the Nov. 8 election that she would be “above the President” and run the govt. if her party NLD could win enough seats to take over the presidency. The military has written the Constitution to exclude her from the presidency but she can play tricks to get around the Constitution to practically run the govt. That’s probably what the uncertain negotiation before the coming Feb. will be about. Later, if they get enough votes, they may even change the Constitution so that she may be the President herself (rather than having to have a puppet President for the lack of a better term). That’s the obvious path but it seems so far away from now. There are female artists who are called “Goddesses” but Aung San Suu Kyi is the real Goddess in Myanmar and one would find her posters for sales more than anybody else. Some people criticize her for her ignoring the matters of minorities such as the Rohingya people. Nevertheless, her fight against the dictatorial rulers and her toughness to endure her being practically “jailed” at home for ~20 years (instead of staying in her comfortable home in Oxford — also my alma mater — with her kids and husband) has deservedly won her the Goddess status in Myanmar. Though it doesn’t guarantee that she knows how best to run the govt. (as the revolutionaries may not be the best rulers), her greatest contribution/legacy will be her tremendous efforts to lead Myanmar to democracy (esp. if it happens to work).

Last but not the least, 5-6 days after I mailed my postcard from Yangon, my family in Hong Kong received it !  According to my own experience, this is considered fast among all the countries that I’ve visited or compared to Vietnam/Cambodia/Thailand which are not more distant from Hong Kong than Myanmar.  I have used to have the “theory of public transport” (as seen by tourists) to judge how good a country is.   Now, I may have another “theory of communication” to judge a country.  In the public transport aspect, Yangon hasn’t scored well at all.  But for the communication aspect, from the above postcard experience and that of the network data, Myanmar or at least Yangon has left me a very good experience which has somehow made me feel hopeful for their future. Communication is not everything but good communication to the outside world would at least help keep their government honest, among many other benefits.  Maybe, Myanmar is even brimming with confidence as Myanmar is not afraid of letting the outside world see them as they are and at the same time not afraid of their citizens seeing the outside world.

Continue reading

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

小題大作 …. Eligo, ergo sum



譬如,雖然我只要了兩碟,一位推車阿姐就前後幫我打了三個印。我先要了個叉燒腸粉,不知當時她打了幾個印。本來阿姐已推車離開了一步,但她又回過頭來向我推銷她的據說很傳統的糯米雞。我考慮了數秒後就表示我要,她給了我糯米雞後自然又再打印。連之前叫的一碟,我們才叫了三碟,但我居然看到四個印。我馬上發聲,向阿姐表示不滿、疑問。她一開始不認為是她的問題,和氣地說『唔知你啦!』數秒間,我也沒有即時想到怎麼才能證明是她的錯。倒是當她看到了3個「23」的印後,就說「對哦,怎麼可能…」我也很快意識到3個「23」的意義,那就是證明喔!看似老實的阿姐隨即連聲道歉。最後她還說我很精明,竟然會察覺!有可能阿姐是企圖欺詐,但從她的表情開來似乎是無心之失。呵呵呵 ……

然而,之前還有位阿姨,推銷她的點心態度就更強硬一點。這位阿姨,看我對他的推車上的煎、炸食物不感興趣,她竟拿起當中一碟炸蝦球,指著說什麼平日沒有,只在週末才有,之後更口裡嚷著「很好吃的,你信我啦!」、硬將那碟炸蝦球放在我們的檯子上。我有1 ps 的猶豫,考慮是否可以順從那位阿姨的硬銷,要下那碟炸蝦球算了?!可是,當我想到別人硬要幫我選擇,我心裡突然有股說不出的強烈反彈。老舊『新紮師兄』的那首『堅持心中理想…』的歌聲又裊裊在我腦中縈迴盪漾,我毅然將那碟炸蝦球放回那位阿姨的推車。笑著笑著,我對阿姨以強碰強的姿態、中肯地說出『我不要、我不要』。

那阿姨之後就沒再糾纏我,沒有和我揮刀舞劍起來。其實,我有時還是蠻喜歡、期待以強碰強的真實場面,對著對方大吼、大聲呼喊,表示我的反對和不滿!雖然有時事後要做補救工作,但那一刻的高昂、激奮有時還是蠻教我享受的,即使只是一剎那 🙂

不過,我之後陪我媽在華僑文教服務中心坐下來回想起來,不禁聯想到另一件我還有點熟悉的『別人硬要幫我選擇』事件:中國全國人大硬要塞給香港的政改方案,這和「很好吃的,你信我啦!」是何等的相似!想著想著,就愈發感到有趣、好笑。慶幸的是,香港仍然有一班人及一股力量不順從別人告訴他們真正喜歡的是甚麼,不肯像人大代表那般戮力參與全國人大的所謂選舉而就號稱中國大陸有選舉的一幕幕自欺欺人的滑稽戲。…… 忍不住又要說我喜歡用的比喻,儘管我父母的選擇可能有多正確、他們有多愛我,但因為不是我自己的選擇,我絕不會順從他們強烈推薦給我的配偶;就算我不知道我的不順從將失去甚麼,我仍毅然拒絕接受他們幫我的選擇,而堅持我自己的選擇───單身!也又要濫用和改造笛卡兒的名言,『我選擇,故我在』(大概是”Eligo, ergo sum” ?!)!因為如果我自己不積極去選擇我的人生(就算是別人認為是多麼差的選擇,如我選的顏色、閱讀的小說等),我就好像不再存在了。

Posted in 生活 | Leave a comment

The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter

Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter [ 2014 ]Quite a few books have seemed good at the beginning but at the end, they just haven’t pass my (not very high) threshold of recommending.  But I can recommend this one as long as one can get past the author’s ego 🙂

After reading this book, one’d be very up-to-date about the current status of the Dark Matter searches as well as Dark Energy and other astrophysical / cosmological matters.  Though the book seems to have been written in an effort to educate the general public, the author has delved a bit deeper into the matters of Dark Matter and also Dark Energy (to slightly less extent).   I’ve found the Chapters 7 & 8 the most informative for me.  When I have been listening to seminars about Dark Matter searches, I’ve sometimes found them quite confusing as the experiment results are often contradictory to each other.  The comparison plots with so many experimental results all in one (in various colors) are very difficult to digest.  But this book is effectively like nice colleagues giving us lectures summarizing the search results of the Top quark (in ~1995’s) or the Higgs boson (in recent years).   I’ve also learnt some tidbits here or there in the last chapter (Chap. 9), not to mention the “dark star” which I probably have never really/seriously heard of and might explain the origin of those supermassive black hole with millions or billions of Solar masses.

Excluding the pages of Notes/Index, this book is only a bit more than 200 pages, certainly easier to read than Roger Penrose’s >1000-page “The Road to Reality”.  I don’t remember that I’ve heard of the author’s name before reading this book.  Apparently, she’s a professor & theoretical astrophysicist in the U. of Michigan and she’s introduced her contributions quite fully throughout this book.  From my judgment, her most significant contribution was probably her calculations with 2 other collaborators for the rates of WIMP scattering off various target materials, which has led to the start of the Dark Matter direct searches (p.131-134).  I’ve learnt that for spin-independent WIMP-nucleus interactions, the rate is amplified by A2 where A is the atomic mass or even A4 for nuclei lighter than the WIMP (p. 134-5).  But for spin-dependent scattering, there is no such factor and “a WIMP interacts only with the total spin of the nucleus” (1st sentence of the 2nd paragraph on p.135).

Dark Matter searches have been going on for years and the author has thoughtfully and interestingly divided a dark matter project into 5 stages (p. 141).  To me, dark matter project is like a conglomeration of physicists from the fields of astronomy, particle physics and condensed matter physics.  I’ve always only had a vague impression of what they’ve been doing and often assumed that they were doing the impossible.  This book has modified my impression quite substantially and though I may not be as optimistic as the author, I won’t be surprised that they might have a breakthrough in a few years.  But Dark Energy is a more difficult matter.  I remember Frank Wilczek has said that it’s the problem for the next generation in a colloquium in our Lab. a few years ago.  And of course, this kind of Standard Model of Cosmology (with Dark Matter and Dark Energy) assuming General Relativity’s validity to infinity can be totally wrong and we may need another revolution before we make real progress.

A few noteworthy points in Chap. 8: Dark Matter experiments of DAMA, Cogent and CRESST seemed to favor the evidence of WIMP whereas CDMS, XENON and LUX, up to early 2014 (I guess), seemed to have shown null results.  DAMA (famous for its annual modulation as predicted by the author and her collaborators) apparently has refused to share their data with outsiders, which makes the community skeptical (last paragraph on.151).  The indirect search in the South Pole or the space have generally found no evidence of WIMP so far.  10 GeV WIMP has been mentioned quite a bit in this book but the fact that LHC and other accelerator experiments have never seen such a not-so-heavy particle makes me personally very skeptical of its existence.

I like reading about personal things mixed with scientific discussion.  Eg. I still remember what Peter Woit has told me about Schrodinger’s personalities in his book of “Not Even Wrong”.  In this book, the personal stories in the middle of all the researches are often interesting.  Eg. two of the four co-authors of their paper (on decaying vacuum energy) has included her former fiancé and her then-fiancé (lines 5-6 of p.203) !!   She was originally an experimental particle physics graduate student in Columbia U.  She told us that her first task was to check 1000 phototubes, having to remove input cables and then replace them.  This has immediately reminded me of my friend who came to Fermilab as a gradudate student of the same Columbia U.  His advisor (our senior colleague in Dzero) told him to check hundreds (?) of our Fermilab-designed IC chips — though boring, it’s somewhat easier than the author’s task as my friend has just needed to put each chip into a socket and check whether a LED lit up.  My friend somehow felt frustrated and gave up on physics research totally soon afterwards.  But this author didn’t !  Now, I feel that it’s like an apprentice test that one has to pass before you can be a particle physics graduate student in Columbia U. … Hahaha … The advantage or luck of the author over my friend was that she knew how to drive.  When she drove to U. of Chicago to look for acting classes (!) — lines 2-3 of p.4, she has somehow ended up signing up for a cosmology class which has changed her life.  Subsequently, she left Columbia U. for U. of Chicago to work with David Schramm in theoretical astrophysics.

Nevertheless, her skills of intertwining physics with personal stories may not have achieved the optimum.  It’s obvious that she’s mentioned her contributions whenever there was a chance, and at times, you cannot but feel that she’s just wanted to brag even though the stories might not really add anything to the book.  Like on p.52 (4th line  from the bottom), when the COBE result was announced (and she’s not a member of the COBE collaboration), she wrote “At the University of Michigan, I convened a meeting of the faculty to tell them about this important result”.  If I were the editor, I’d have crossed out this sentence.  Because it doesn’t even add any glory to herself, almost like I told people that I drove to work or ate lunch that day.  Another example is on p.172-3 when she received an honorary doctorate from Stockholm University in 2012.  But there is no joke to laugh at or anything, except probably to have the chance to praise herself as “one of the world’s best known astroparticle physicists” used in the nomination.  Near the end, though not much to add to the scientific content, the author seemed to feel compelled to tell us and very proud of what she said in the annual World Science Festival when 3 women represented “dark matter” and 3 men represented “dark energy” : “Dark matter is attractive while dark energy is repulsive.” (on p.213).  I guess there are physics point of view and also that of sexism.

The least appealing chapter to me is Chap. 6 when the author discusses the Higgs discovery and I guess she probably has grabbed quite a bit from the websites and/or literature of CERN and the LHC experiments.  It’s one of the very few places that I’ve felt more familiar on certain subjects than she is.

p.85 (lines 22-23): “2009” in the sentence “The Tevatron was the premier high-energy physics laboratory until it was shut down in 2009 …” should really be 2011 as Tevatron was shut down on Sept. 30, 2011.  p.92 (8th line from the bottom): “… a radius of 3 kilometers (5 miles) …” has the obvious mistake that 3 km is not 5 miles.  p.124 (lines 16-17): “… the least powerful of the four fundamental forces, the weak force” and similarly on p.130 (4th line): “weak interactions, the least powerful of the four forces” are erroneous as in general the gravitational force should be the least powerful !

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Less than 50 hours in Sri Lanka

I guess if one follows a travel agent, one might see the best of Sri Lanka among other advantages.  I don’t like that mainly because I don’t want to deal with companions (having to talk and discuss what to do next etc.) all the time.  Just like I like having lunch alone, I like travelling alone.  Another major reason is that I like to make my own choices to the greatest extent possible.  We’ve got so much limitation in this mortal world already (eg. I can’t travel faster than the speed of light, I can’t make people I don’t like disappear or I don’t have infinite resources to use etc.).  Probably just like people fighting to have the most genuine election possible, I’d like to exercise my free will as much as possible and I don’t want anybody to make the main plan and offer me a few hours of stupid “free activities” here or there.  Before I left for Asia, I did ask my Sri Lankan colleague (a postdoc in a US university) some practical questions.  But I have even (somewhat “brutally”) prevented him from giving me suggestions about where to go.  Nevertheless, after I came back to US, I did talk with him and gave him some genuine (and often negative) views of mine.  It’s interesting to listen to him a bit how he “defends” his home country.  In writing the following, I’ve probably absorbed a little bit of what he has said and this may have helped make the following not sheer nonsense or completely idiotic 🙂

My flight CX 611 landed in Colombo around 11:15 pm on Nov. 26 and CX 610 left Colombo before or around 01:00 (after midnight) on Nov. 29.  So, my stay in Sri Lanka was really not more than 50 hours.  I’ve stayed in the historical Grand Oriental Hotel where some world politicians and royals have stayed in the past.  Unfortunately, any glory there was probably in the past tense and it’s now not comparable to the newer 5-star hotels.  Its lower rate was a main reason that I have chosen to stay there.  It’s described as one of the tourist spots in some tourist guides but my (“Kangaroo”) taxi driver have had to ask like ten policemen / drivers / shopkeepers / pedestrians before we could find this hotel.

1127140922bIt’s said that many tourists don’t stay (long) in Colombo.  In the US public libraries around me, Sri Lanka travel guides seem to be quite unpopular and if so Colombo may have probably provided a clue 😦  After a night’s sleep, I started walking towards the area of Pettah (the market) very early in the morning, one could see how the locals live their normal lives.  The dirty streets and sewage looked very unappealing to me but that’s probably what colorful realism is.  The most disappointing part was probably the couple so-called museums such as the Railway Museum and the Municipal Museum (Old Town Hall).  They supposedly have entrance fees of 500 Sri Lanka Rupees (US$1 ~ 131 Rupees) but nobody bothered to collect it.  It seems to me that the govt. staff probably have little incentive to do their jobs (as obviously the entrance fees wouldn’t become their salaries).  The above photo has shown almost all the real rail components and trains that the Railway Museum had to offer.  As a result, due to the lack of funding, the museum conditions have deteriorated.

1127140930The nicest spot near the Pettah area was the floating market on Beira Lake in Bastian Mawatha, which was a new green project.  The lake seemed extraordinarily green and clean, especially compared to the rest of the areas nearby.  This is about the only major nice spot that I have found that has not been mentioned in the travel guides.

The Dutch Museum is probably the only museum that is worth going around the Pettah area.  There were two floors with quite some rooms and quite a lot of historical antiques to see, mostly about the Dutch colonial days (the Dutch ended the Portuguese control and took over for ~ 138 years before they ceded their possessions in Ceylon to the British in 1796).  Each item might not be shiny or spectacular but at least the quantity was there.  There they did collect the 500 Rupee entrance fee 🙂 Here, the economic correlation is even obvious to a physicist.

1127141202In the afternoon, I walked to the Colombo National Museum in the south near the Vihara Maha Devi Park.  The southern area was more of middle-classed area with better, newer and modern houses and even high-rise buildings.  I was hoping of ~3 km but it’s probably more like 6 km at the end (from my hotel).  This is probably a good time to talk about walking in Sri Lanka.  It’s probably not too different from some other countries in South or Southeast Asia that one needs to venture into the middle of the road to dare stop the coming vehicles in order to cross a road.  But unlike last year in the ancient town of Luang Prabang in Laos of which the roads were generally narrow without too much traffic, many roads in Colombo are big and wide ones with a lot of traffic.  As usual, I’ve just observed how the locals crossed the roads and just tried to learn and follow.   Another peculiar phenomenon was that, though there were traffic lights, they seemed to be turned off or otherwise not working at all ?!  Last but not least, though I am not usually sensitive to air pollution, the smell of exhaust from vehicles in Colombo has been often just unbearable.  After walking past the Old Parliament Building (and took a photo), the female portion of a Caucasian tourist couple informed me that they’d follow me to cross the main and wide road of the Galle Face Centre Road.  After a hundred metres or so, I asked her to help take a photo of me in the Galle Face Green with its beach running next to the Indian Ocean.  In spite of the cloudy weather, the beautiful scenery there was of the largest scale in this trip and was the nicest place in Colombo.   The entrance of the National Museum was bit difficult to locate as it has been changed due to the renovation work going on.  Probably due to the construction, the entrance fee was reduced to 250 Rupees but the two floors and four big rooms have offered even much more space and more neater archaeological artifacts and structures to see than the Dutch Museum.  I considered taking a tuk-tuk taxi back to my hotel but to save a few bucks and for exercise, I’ve chosen to walk back and visited the Galle Face Green for the 2nd time ( — I’ve just needed to argue with myself in this kind of decision making process without worrying any companions’ thoughts or opinions or mood. )  It was probably worth it and I’ve probably trained myself enough such that my hiking a few days later in some Hong Kong mountains didn’t seem that so challenging to me 🙂

Next morning, I checked out of my hotel and caught the 7 am Expo Rail to go to Kandy, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka.  Though I’ve put minimal stuff in my knapsack,  it’s nonetheless probably the first time that I’ve carried everything with me for an entire day and night during a trip.  I have chosen to take the more luxurious Expo Rail to go to Kandy mostly because the ordinary train couldn’t be booked online in advance and one have to either go to the train station or make phone calls to buy the tickets for ordinary seats (even the first class).  The ticket price difference (one way), 1450 Rupees (Expo) vs 340 Rupees (first class), is not big enough for me to take the risk to ruin my tight schedule.  In reality, the Expo Rail didn’t have its own train or locomotive and it’s just an extra carriage at one end of the ordinary train !  This carriage was air-conditioned and they served food and drinks (included in the ticket).  The extra bonus (which I already knew before I got on the train) was the availability of electric socket (to recharge your smartphone etc.) and WIFI (even though the WIFI was not very stable and got broken from time to time).  The luxurious carriage couldn’t avoid the all too often violent vibration of the train which were very loud and sometimes even scary, as it’s all the same train after all.  Kandy (with an elevation of ~465 m) is the beginning of the hill country but I didn’t feel too much of a climb or decline during the train rides.  The scene outside the window was more interesting than the city of Colombo but it was not really breathtaking.  My colleague told me that the view would be much more spectacular when the train continues to climb after Kandy 🙂

The fast intercity train took about 2.5 hours to travel from Colombo to Kandy.  After one left the Kandy train station and walked less than 1 km to find the Kandy Lake, one would know that Kandy is probably a better tourist spot.  The main tourist attraction, the Temple of the Tooth, is just next to the Kandy Lake.  These two are basically everything to me about Kandy.

I’ve been vaguely familiar with the Buddha Tooth relic all over the world and it’s not that big a deal to me.  But to me, this probably is the main difference between Sri Lanka and India, ie. the dominance of Buddhism vs that of Hinduism.  At the entrance of the Temple (entrance fee of 1000 Rupees), though I tried to put my shoes inside my knapsack, a guide or policeman kind of forced me to take them to the dedicated shoe storage (and later the guy there would ask for a tip when I retrieved my shoes … I grudgingly put in 20 Rupees in a glass jar instead of 100 or something).  Apart from the main indoor temples, there were sand and gravels on most floor areas (except those with carpets) and it’s really uncomfortable or even painful occasionally walking with bare feet.  When I arrived, it was not too long after one of their daily puja/offering occasion at 10 am.  Many faithful believers were queuing for a long line (typically with lotus) to try to take turn to worship near the main hall with supposedly the tooth relic behind the door (which I couldn’t see).  There were quite a few other buildings, even including a Raja Tusker Museum to honor their elephant !  I’ve tried to wander everywhere quickly and they didn’t ask for extra fee until I got to the Museum of World Buddhism which had an entrance fee of another 500 Rupees.  That’s the most decorated and sophisticatedly designed museum that I’ve been in Sri Lanka.  Various Buddhist features all over the world were shown in many colorful exhibitions and they were all quite interesting even to non-believers 🙂

1128141330Other places that I have visted in Kandy were just not comparable to the Temple or the Lake.  I was a bit like a scout trying to reach every target (that I have planned) in an exploration exercise.  At the end, I sauntered around the entire Kandy Lake once.  ( In the planning stage, I thought about going to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, 6.5 km from Kandy.  But since I probably wouldn’t have enough time to visit the gigantic garden and I have preferred waters to lands, I had decided to walk around the Kandy Lake which was free compared to the entrance fee of 1000 Rupees for the Botanical Gardens. )  Even without sunshine that day, it’s a pleasant nice walk around the tranquil and clear lake.  On the other side of the lake, I took the chance to visit an important monastery in Kandy, Malwatta Vihara.  But it’s funny that I found almost nobody there, monk or not.  When it was the time that I had to leave the lake and head back to the train station, I really missed the Kandy Lake and wished that I could stay longer around the lake.

The first night,  I had dinner on the top (4th) floor at the Grand Oriental Hotel which offered a very good view of the harbor and that is said to lure people to dine.  I had a good meal even though it was probably more of a western dish.  The 2nd after returning to Colombo from Kandy,  I went to Hilton hotel to have my last supper.  I wanted to choose a local dish and I somehow chose Kottu Roti (which turned out to be a bit like flat rice noodle).  I asked it to be not too spicy and the waiter suggested “median” ?  In a split of second, I said “yes” which was a big mistake.  It turned out to be extremely spicy for me and I should have said “not spicy at all”.  I had to drink tea and ate at the same time to dilute the flavor.  At the end, I probably haven’t finished half of the dish.  Too bad !  Another note about food is that by chance I’ve found it very economical to eat pastries as lunches 🙂  In the Tiffin Hut of the Grand Oriental Hotel (lobby), it may be 70 Rupees; whereas in pastry shops in the streets, it may be only 40 Rupees — what I paid for in Kandy anyway — or even lower.

All in all, though I can’t say that it was an exciting and exhilarating experience of my lifetime, after I could get myself safely back to Hong Kong, I could declare that it’s another interesting experience in another South Asian country 🙂  I had considered trying to take a public bus to go back to the airport and just like what I did in Rio de Janeiro, I could try to observe the day before to find the bus station and see how people get on the bus — both of which were non-trivial in Rio.  Though I succeeded in Rio during daytime, this time was at night and from all the information that I could gather (which was far less than Rio or other places), it’s not clear that the bus going to the airport would still operate late at night (as late as like 8 pm).  At the end, I took the “Kangaroo” taxi again, with a cost of 2400 Rupees ( and it was 2500 Rupees when they picked me up from the airport, both using the Negombo Road instead of the new expressway which have cost 300 Rupees more each way ).  This company’s taxis seemed to be Toyota Prius.  I was lucky that the driver did very well until the very end when he arrived at the kerb of the departure hall and the left front wheel of his taxi somehow hit the kerb.  The hubcap came off and the tire was flat.  I couldn’t help smirking.  ( I know, it’s not nice of me ! )  I have paid him and left quickly worrying that he might want to ask me for money to fix his car.  It’s after 9 pm and I hoped he had a spare tire in his trunk.  ( By the way, people drive on the left side of the road, just like in UK. )

One thing that is convenient in Sri Lanka is that though not all people speak fluent English, seemingly all the useful signs have an English version in addition to those of Sinhala and Tamil.  Of course, if locals with very good English trying to talk to me, I’d avoid them, which was one principle that I have picked up when I travelled in India 12 years ago. Because I felt that people with good English taking initiative to talk to me would most likely be people who would want to rip me off or at least try to gain something from me.  It’s like “cuts” in particle physics analyses that any realistic cut would unavoidably lose some signals (that you want to keep) in addition to backgrounds (that you want to get rid of).  This tactic of mine might have probably cost me many interesting experiences but it might be one thing that have kept me alive.  And one reason for my travelling solo is to avoid talking to people anyway.  However, occasionally when I ignored or refused some very insistent tuk-tuk drivers trying to persuade me to take their rides, I did try a few times to ask them for directions.  It seems that they were hurt the most if I kept ignoring them and they said to me that if I told them where I wanted to go, they’d tell me.  Indeed, when I told them, they really gave me the right direction (even I didn’t get on their tuk-tuks).

One last thing to mention was that my air ticket from Hong Kong to Sri Lanka (and back) was more than US$1000 with CX (for ~5 hours).  By comparison, my CX return ticket between New York (JFK) and Hong Kong (also non-stop) was less than US$1000 (for ~15 hours).  Even though I could find cheaper tickets (like half of the price!) between Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, it’d not be non-stop flights like the ones that I’ve taken and would have easily cost me 10 hours more each way.  This time, I’ve cared more about time than money.  See ?! Money is not necessarily the most important factor.  Otherwise, I should just not travel at all (if I want to save money).

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment


First written on Setp. 28, 2014 :

今午,十二點半前到那個『粗茶淡飯』餐廳午膳。最初的15到20分鐘都只有我一個顧客,不知道是否因為這個原因,他們對我前所未有地好ㄟ!我只叫了個$12.95 的『京醬肉絲』,但那侍應小姐卻『自發地』先送上兩小碟不同的前菜 (涼拌海蜇皮之類,但有一碟是綠色的,我也不肯定是甚麼)。當時我想,也許沒有其他客人,所以他們對我這麼好吧?


埋單後,還有驚喜!那侍應又送了一小碗的西米露(加菠蘿),迷你的甜品。我連忙驚呼『還有這個』!侍應小姐就嫣然一笑 … ( 嫣然也許過份美化了點,但她給了我這麼多好吃的,我就給她一個『嫣然』,應該也不為過吧。)

必須再三強調的是,前菜、豆腐皮和甜品以前都沒有送過!搞科學的人們經常都喜歡解釋現象(特別是事情發生之後!),也讓我試試看 ……

第一個解釋當時現象的想法是,她希望我多給小費? … 不過,最後我只留了$1.9當小費(因為連稅埋單是$14.1),不算多給了吧 … 呵呵 … 心裡某個角落會想到,如果我給多點,或者下次她還會對我這麼好? … 不過我畢生致力於研究『怎麼在我對人不特別好的情況下,人家會對我特別好?』因為我覺得,如果我對人好(以錢 或 其它的方式) 來換取別人對我的好,這是常規,好像沒有研究的價值,也出不了 paper,故我不特別去幹這種事(譬如,以捐錢去換來別人的讚賞或感激或令自己感到快慰) … 我更想要的是,能不能夠我不捐錢甚麼的,別人也感激我?!

另一個可能的理由會不會是,知道我來了數次,希望我以後多來、來得更密一些 ?(其實我有一段時間沒去,因為他們過去的服務實在太差了。但一個月前,我和媽冒險去了一次,竟然發現他們的服務變好了、侍應竟然還穿制服!)這次就給我一點甜頭,作為一種鼓勵?哼… 哼 ….

當然也有可能,那位女侍應對我有意思?嗯 … 嗯 … 這種事情以前都沒有發生過,但以前沒有發生的事情不代表以後也不會發生啊?!要不然,不會有怎麼多人擔心核電廠的安全啦? … 然而果真如此的話,我以後還要不要去這餐廳呢?

或許,也有可能我在不知不覺中已練成了『我不對人好、人家卻對我好』的神功,自己卻還不知道 ? … 有可能嗎?… 喔 … 呵呵 … ??

記得小時候有一次和父親大早在攤位買家用品,我父親大力講價,那個老闆最後表示由於我們是他的當天的第一個顧客/(可能的)生意,他不想壞了當天的運氣,所以就勉為其難地以賤價賣給我們。所以有沒有可能,那個老闆也有一個對當天第一個客人特別好的政策? … 呵呵 … (又或者,不管早到、晚到,這是他們服務的新政策、新作法?) … 這個以後可以(特別早點去)來反覆驗證、驗證! … (要否定這個理論也許多去一次就行了;但要完全驗證這個『隱藏政策』倒困難得多。因為就算你去了十次都果真如此,也不能保證第十一次,他們會再對你那麼好。)

當然,還有一個被人經常忽略的真理、也是科學家最喜歡用的解釋:今天完全只是一個偶然。量子物理、Feynman 的 Path Integral 都樂於告訴我們,每一刻會發生甚麼事情都一般都有很多很多可能,每一種可能性都有個 >0 的或然率 (要不然,如果=0,那就是不可能 => 不用考慮)。服務有好有不好的,從 0 到 1 間有無限的可能。每一次,沒有去之前都不可能知道會怎樣?只有去了,才會真正嘗到服務好壞的滋味。高能物理追求過程中某種罕有的狀態時最喜歡用的招數就是讓那過程不停發生,上億次、萬億次、億億次 … 我去了這個餐廳多了,各種不同服務(0 到 1)都會碰到。今天也許是 無限地趨近 1 的一個偶然而已 🙂

Posted in 生活 | Leave a comment

寫在蘇格蘭獨立投票有結果前 … 八國聯軍 …

First written on Sept. 17, 2014:


蘇格蘭獨立投票到最後那一兩個星期竟突然緊湊起來,不到最後還不知鹿死誰手!這一次,我又被這投票所渲染的歷史氣氛和意義 感動了。我第一次被投票和選舉感動的好像是在我日內瓦的住所,觀看法國選舉的報導,當時是1995年J. Chirac 當選法國總統,數以萬計的法國人投票後齊集凱旋門慶祝選舉的圓滿結束。當時大概是我法語最好的時候,但電視上的內容我也只聽懂一部分而已。然而不知為甚麼,我深刻地感覺到那些法國人的興奮不是基於到底誰當了總統,而是在歡呼選舉的本生或 新時代的到來。那好像是我第一次感受到選舉原來是有『她』的生命的,居然特而奇來地震撼了我心坎、心靈。


看到英國首相Cameron 感情十足和意味深長地呼喚蘇格蘭人民要對獨立投反對票,我就樂壞了。是的,他可以做的也只有呼籲、想法遊說蘇格蘭人民投甚麼票,但到底他們投甚麼票,他和我一樣都是無法控制的。甚至他和我一樣都不能投票 🙂 英國人可以讓蘇格蘭人民投票決定蘇格蘭獨立與否,不是由大不列顛、全英國人民來決定ㄟ!只是由蘇格蘭人民決定蘇格蘭的命運。這是多麼的理所當然,卻又是那麼的難能可貴。(我說呀,中國政府連由全中國人民來投票決定香港可否獨立都做不到、不會做、不敢做!)我從來都沒有喜歡過英國人(特別是我在英國的時候),但在這一點上,此時此刻的英國人(及其政府)比中國人可愛要多得千倍、萬倍、無數倍!( 對啦,你明白『可愛』是甚麼意思嗎?… 是『可以去愛』喔!可以容忍這樣一個政府的中國人民,怎能叫我去愛?!)『勉強冇幸福』這個道理,從印度獨立 或 現在蘇格蘭獨立與否的投票來說,英國人比中國人懂得多啊。


在51% 對49% 或類似的情況下,英國首相或任何人都真的控制不到星期四的蘇格蘭獨立投票結果,人們只能戮力地呼喊、呼籲或利誘。我們的預測能力跟任何政治人物基本上都是一樣的,~50%!跟很多來自中國大陸(甚至香港)的人談話,我總覺得,人們整天都有種好像甚麼事最後都一早有人決定了。…當美國政府要部份關閉的時候,雖然我也許會直接受影響,但我簡直樂壞了!我看到失控的政府,我有多開心!失控,就令我感到自由意志存在的可能性的增加。美國總統和國會,兩方面都拿對方沒有辦法,只能看誰更能忍受被人民唾棄、謾罵。2007/8年的金融風暴,不會有人說是美國政府在全盤控制吧?!同樣的,八九年六四我們不是也看到了一點中共失控的場面嗎?!(如果你告訴我那是共產黨精心設計的一場戲,我寧可選擇不相信 Higgs 的 存在 🙂 )每次看到接近51% 對49% 之類的選舉結果,人們大概可以更肯定自己的存在,我們不是被人遙控的機器人啊,不是那個大模擬系統裡的一棋子!



小說故事可以在20 年後(— 希望在我有生之年嘛!),到時印度人口大概已經超越中國,正是他們有擴張需要、傾向的時候。 中國人口衰老(很難跟那個只准生一孩政策無關),再怎樣造假,經濟也已無限地趨近於零或甚至負數。不能改變政府的人民當然只有埋怨、不滿,香港廿幾年前建立的反共組織也默默和西藏、新疆、內蒙、雲南等的分離勢力合作、籌劃,有點像1911年之前的革命那般。不過這次不只推翻共產黨的獨裁專政,而且會分裂中國。大家都理解到,秦始皇獨裁一統之前的局面才是百花齊放、百家爭鳴的最好局面。甚麼不統一中國就會造成生靈塗炭之說,當然是秦始皇這個勝利者最喜歡說的啦!有獨立思考的人,可以有別的想法。看看歐洲就知道了,迴異不同的歐洲各國人民生活得不是很多姿多彩嘛?!今日的資本主義或共產主義,都是哪來的?!相對論、量子力學就跟不用說了。中國眾多的網絡公司的產品都是那麼類似於 Google/Facebook等 ?!… 獨立思考喔 !思考的空間和自由喔!

當然,戰爭是要犧牲的,戰爭也是壯烈的。以前共產黨喜歡說甚麼八路軍、新四軍之類的紅軍,有很多英勇的故事。(現代的名稱好像已變成是甚麼第十八集團軍之類。)這回,小說故事也要來一些八國聯軍英勇的事蹟,當然犧牲不能倖免,壯烈地打潰那些『紅軍』的描述也不可少,而同時也要打心理戰吧?! … 哼 … 嗯 … 中國人民已經聽厭了中共的幾十年的統戰口吻,心裡都知道他們所說的都是騙人的,雖然不是每一刻都很明顯,但仔細留意一下,不難發現。譬如,不只其它國家的人民不相信,就連中國人都不相信中國的奶粉,而要搶著購買香港的和西方的奶粉,中國人民內心深處其實都不真正相信共產黨所說的一切。(就好像李光耀在他的回憶錄裡說過的)只要一看到共產黨倒台 >50% 的趨勢,華人都會突然變成共產黨的敵人!不是說華人很現實嘛?!分裂勢力和『八國聯軍』的內應外和,終於帶來了各種獨立的景觀。廣東省怎麼一定要和河南人在一個國家,西藏、新疆更不用說了。上海人也不喜歡北京、山東或貴州人吧 … 何必強求在一起!香港當然可以趁勢獨立。獨立後,不代表就是敵人嘛,看看美國和英國嗎?!現在不是最好的拍檔!

… 嗯嗯 …… 哼哼… 所謂 “The devil is in the detail.” 但小說的好處就是作者可以自圓其說!… 多麼希望托爾斯泰上身,讓我創造出洶湧澎拜、波瀾壯闊的偉大場面, 呵呵 …


Posted in Personal opinions | Leave a comment



之後到早上一直都沒有恢復。因為我不停地密切關注,我曾經一度發現,電力公司的人以為他們已經恢復供電了。他們以為拉了那條很長的接駁電線,就已暫時恢復供電。但其實,起碼我們那一排屋,都仍然沒有電。我中午回家時,一邊打著手機、與電力公司投訴,一邊跟鄰居閒談。鄰居告訴我,很多電力公司工作人員在另一幢屋後聚集,我得知後立即衝向他們正在工作的地方,去告訴他們我們那裡還沒有電ㄟ!他們果然不知情,表示非常意外。之後,其中兩人就跟我來看看情況。到達我們那裡時,他們還向我的鄰居詢問。鄰居們(老太太、爺爺們)反應都很慢,電力公司工作人員大聲問某年老鄰居他家是否還是沒電,他好像耳朵有問題一樣,回答說『甚麼? 沒電,我知道呀!』 🙂  笑死我了!但那些工作人員得到了答案也就不再與他計較,之後他們就又重新調查、研究 …

我之後又曾再去找他們,再三強調我們仍然沒有電,但我2點過後還是離開了,當時家裡還沒電。我回到實驗室,2點40 分左右,我打電話到家,竟然聽到我的電話錄音的聲音,沒等我媽接電話,我就知道電已經恢復了。

好在我及時發現他們以為已經修好而其實不是的事實,要不然可能晚上也沒有電。最後到深夜,他們挖了很多的泥土,才找到根源,不就是埋在地下變壓器前面的接頭嘛 。也許我所做的對結果沒有什麼影響 … 但也許我指出他們的錯誤判斷,為他們找尋問題的根源提供了額外的線索。

影響和推動這個社會的, 經常都是某一小撮積極分子 (在我的這個例子裡,我當然大言不慚地在指我自己) 🙂  其他人(如我的鄰居)都只不過在坐享其成。當然在今天這個事情上,我樂意當這個積極分子,因為是利己嘛,利(其他)人只是個副產品。科學家深夜不睡,還在實驗室努力苦幹, 心裡大概並沒有想著要對人類有甚麼貢獻吧!他們是為了自己的興趣,或者追求那克服困難和別人做不到我做得到的快感,但他們當中的一小撮卻不知不覺地對這世界產生了莫大的影響。


新聞最近看到不少關於以色列和巴勒斯坦哈瑪斯組織的戰鬥。某程度上,我很佩那些猶太人和巴勒斯坦人,他們這麼久(幾千年?)一直都在努力不懈地鬥爭。我懷疑,他們可能一早習慣了,起碼比在所謂和平的地方的居民要習慣多了喔。如果Tel Aviv 的居民說今年只有一枚火箭在他們頭上飛過,他們意思應該是,今年是很平安的一年啊!但如果,香港或台北居民看到有一枚火箭在他們頭上飛過,他們可能以為世界末日就將來臨(可能以為那些解放軍終於打到來了!)。所謂不習不慣,習了就慣!就如 Malcolm Gladwell 在 “David and Goliath” 一書中所提到的在第二次大戰中的倫敦居民那樣,在多次被炸後而不死的絕大多數,只會越來越習慣,甚至被這些轟炸訓練得越發大膽起來!以色列的猶太人可以放棄他們的領土而避免鬥爭。但他們從建國一開始到現在這六十幾年來,就似乎不停地在打仗,從不放棄,寸土必爭,飛過來的火箭早已經不能嚇跑他們了。



以色列不是我最喜歡的地方,去年在那裡開會,就領教過他們的機場保安,大概是全世界最可惡、最麻煩的。(可能由於當地幾乎沒有『亞洲人』── 我說的是美國所謂的『亞洲人』!── 他們對亞洲人比較敏感。) 某個下午,當我在 Tel Aviv 漫步時,心裡有時會忽發奇想,希望能看到火箭在上空飛掠而過的場面。但當時Tel Aviv 的海灘(現在可能也一樣)和巴西 Rio 的 Copacabana 或 Ipanema、或 紐約的 Coney Island 等海灘一樣的那麼熱鬧和充滿夏日的渡假氣氛。怎麼說了,相對於那些所謂『務實』、『順從』的人民,我更欣賞他們的不妥協和習慣了打仗的生活!有火箭就躲進防空洞,火箭飛過了,再出來游泳、遊樂。在德國飛機威脅下的倫敦小孩子,據說後來也是在轟炸機過後就繼續踢足球的。



Posted in 生活, Personal opinions | Leave a comment