asia

The largest set of matryoshka dolls in the world is a 51-piece set hand-painted by Youlia Bereznitskaia of Russia, completed in 2003

Chinese businessman Tan Youhui was looking for a hitman to take out a competitor, Wei Mou, and was willing to pay 2 million yuan (£218,000) to get the job done. The hitman that Mr Youhui hired decided to offer the job to another hitman for half the original price. The second hitman then subcontracted to another hitman, who then subcontracted to a fourth, who gave the job to a fifth. However, hitman number five was so incensed at how much the value of the contract had fallen, that he told the target to fake his own death, which eventually led to the police finding out about the plot, Beijing News reported.

{ Metro | Continue reading }

Can’t hear with the waters of. The chittering waters of. Flittering bats, fieldmice bawk talk.

The U.S. government is in the midst of forcing a standoff with China over the global deployment of Huawei’s 5G wireless networks around the world. […] This conflict is perhaps the clearest acknowledgement we’re likely to see that our own government knows how much control of communications networks really matters, and our inability to secure communications on these networks could really hurt us.

{ Cryptography Engineering | Continue reading }

related { Why Controlling 5G Could Mean Controlling the World }

Facebook algorithm can recognise people in photographs even when it can’t see their faces

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In Shenzhen, the local subway operator is testing various advanced technologies backed by the ultra-fast 5G network, including facial-recognition ticketing.

At the Futian station, instead of presenting a ticket or scanning a QR bar code on their smartphones, commuters can scan their faces on a tablet-sized screen mounted on the entrance gate and have the fare automatically deducted from their linked accounts. […]

Consumers can already pay for fried chicken at KFC in China with its “Smile to Pay” facial recognition system, first introduced at an outlet in Hangzhou in January 2017. […]

Chinese cities are among the most digitally savvy and cashless in the world, with about 583 million people using their smartphones to make payment in China last year, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. Nearly 68 per cent of China’s internet users used a mobile wallet for their offline payments.

{ South China Morning Post | Continue reading }

photo { The Collection of the Australian National Maritime Museum }

Jambalaya!

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For every 100,000 inhabitants, Okinawa has 68 centenarians – more than three times the numbers found in US populations of the same size. Even by the standards of Japan, Okinawans are remarkable, with a 40% greater chance of living to 100 than other Japanese people. […]

one of the most exciting factors to have recently caught the scientists’ attention is the peculiarly high ratio of carbohydrates to protein in the Okinawan diet – with a particular abundance of sweet potato as the source of most of their calories. […]

Despite the popularity of the Atkins and Paleo diets, there is minimal evidence that high-protein diets really do bring about long-term benefits.

So could the “Okinawan Ratio” – 10:1 carbohydrate to protein – instead be the secret to a long and healthy life? […]

The typical Okinawan centenarian appeared to be free of the typical signs of cardiovascular disease […] Okinawa’s oldest residents also have far lower rates of cancer, diabetes and dementia than other ageing populations. […]

Genetic good fortune could be one important factor. Thanks to the geography of the islands, Okinawa’s populations have spent large chunks of their history in relative isolation, which may has given them a unique genetic profile. […]

It is the Okinawans’ diet, however, that may have the most potential to change our views on healthy ageing. Unlike the rest of Asia, the Okinawan staple is not rice, but the sweet potato. […] Okinawans also eat an abundance of green and yellow vegetables – such as the bitter melon – and various soy products. Although they do eat pork, fish and other meats, these are typically a small component of their overall consumption, which is mostly plant-based foods.

The traditional Okinawan diet is therefore dense in the essential vitamins and minerals - including anti-oxidants - but also low in calories. Particularly in the past, before fast food entered the islands, the average Okinawan ate around 11% fewer calories than the normal recommended consumption for a healthy adult.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

photo { Stephen Shore, New York City, New York, September-October 1972 }

Baloo: [tugging on Bagheera’s tail] C’mon, Baggy, get with the beat!

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The Chinese made 50 times more mobile payments in 2016 than U.S. consumers did, tripling to $5.5 trillion in China while U.S. payments only grew 39 percent, to $112 billion. […]

David Rennie, Beijing bureau chief for The Economist, gets somewhat closer to the truth in his forecasting exercise, projected to 2024. Like Rolland, Rennie starts by imagining a dystopian negation of the West. China’s intelligence services, working with the country’s technology firms, have turned millions of cars in America, Europe, and Asia into remote spying devices, letting Beijing track vehicles in real time and identify passengers with facial-recognition technology. […]

The Chinese order will break with the Western model by moving decisively away from Enlightenment ideals of transparency and public knowledge. Even in its formative stage, the Belt and Road Initiative is an exercise in the opacity of power. There are explicit plans and an esoteric practice where deals are agreed upon, often with no written evidence, and rigid hierarchies of access and knowledge. Some of the participants know only the broadest strokes of the plan, sufficient to defend it and to communicate with lower levels; others know nothing; and only a few can see months or years in advance. Or, as you sometimes hear in Beijing, just as every individual has a right to privacy, the party also has a right to privacy. The Belt and Road Initiative is like Holy Writ—never revealed completely and all at once, but only bit by bit and over many decades. […]

When we describe a new Chinese world order, we have to keep in mind there will be other shareholders, other shapers, and other balancers. The West will diminish in reach and influence, but 30 years from now it will continue to offer a powerful alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative, even if it may also be expected to evolve in response to the Chinese challenge.

{ Foreign Policy | Continue reading }

chromogenic print, mounted on gatefold layout board { Hope Dworaczyk, First 3-D Playmate of the Month, June 2010 }

‘Never offend an enemy in a small way.’ –Gore Vidal

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{ Border wall prototypes in San Diego | Richard Serra’s ‘East-West/West-East’ in Qatar }

The veripatetic imago of the impossible Gracehoper on his odderkop in the myre

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{ She was told all bags had to go through the X-ray machine, but she refused to part with her handbag }

Self-actualization

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For hundreds of years, Koreans have used a different method to count age than most of the world. […] A person’s Korean age goes up a year on new year’s day, not on his or her birthday. So when a baby is born on Dec. 31, he or she actually turns two the very next day.

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

‘Clocks can never be pushed back. It’s all a lie. And now it’s dark.’ —Daylight Saving Time

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A top Chinese military contractor is building a data analytics platform to help authorities identify terrorists before they strike. […]

So far, more data has just meant more noise, security experts say.. […]

Since the Mao era, the government has kept a secret file, called a dang’an, on almost everyone. Dang’an contain school reports, health records, work permits, personality assessments, and other information that might be considered confidential and private in other countries. The contents of the dang’an can determine whether a citizen is eligible for a promotion or can secure a coveted urban residency permit. The government revealed last year that it was also building a nationwide database that would score citizens on their trustworthiness.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

White Sun of the Desert

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…the immaculate ultrawhite behind the French doors of a new GE Café Series refrigerator […] the white hood of a 50th anniversary Ford Mustang GT […] the white used to brighten the pages of new Bibles, the hulls of super yachts, the snowy filling inside Oreo cookies […]

All this whiteness is the product of a compound known as titanium dioxide, or TiO2. A naturally occurring oxide, TiO2 is generally extracted from ilmenite ore and was first used as a pigment in the 19th century. In the 1940s chemists at DuPont refined the process until they hit on what’s widely considered a superior form of “titanium white,” which has been used in cosmetics and plastics and to whiten the chalked lines on tennis courts. DuPont has built its titanium dioxide into a $2.6 billion business, which it spun off as part of chemicals company Chemours, in Wilmington, Del., last fall.

A handful of other companies produce TiO2, including Kronos Worldwide in Dallas and Tronox of Stamford, Conn. Chemours and these others will churn out more than 5 million tons of TiO2 powder in 2016. China also produces large amounts of the pigment, and its industries consume about a quarter of the world’s supply. Most of China’s TiO2 plants, however, use a less efficient and more hazardous process than the one developed at DuPont. Starting in the 1990s, if not earlier, China’s government and Chinese state-run businesses began seeking ways to adopt DuPont’s methods. Only they didn’t approach the company to make a formal deal. According to U.S. law enforcement officials, they set out to rip off DuPont.

“At first, you’re like: Why are they stealing the color white?” says Dean Chappell, acting section chief of counterespionage for the FBI.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

oil on wood { Ellsworth Kelly, White Plaque: Bridge Arch and Reflection, 1951-55 }

For when Eric eats a banana an amazing transformation occurs. Eric is Bananaman.

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Chinese ice cream is different, and those differences reflect a different economic and technological context. American ice cream is mainly sold by grocery stores in large containers to be eaten at home. So the basic assumption is that people have freezers at home in which to store the ice cream. Even when ice cream is sold on-the-go, it is sold out as scoops out of those big containers. But historically in China most people did not have freezers at home, though many more of them do now. Ice cream in China is therefore usually sold by convenience stores or roadside stalls, in small packages to be eaten immediately. So rather than big vats of ice cream, it is mostly individual bars.

These constraints have pushed innovation in Chinese ice cream in different directions. You can get all kinds of amazing wacky ice cream flavors in the US, but they are all delivered in mostly the same form: a tub of ice cream eaten with a spoon. Chinese ice cream innovates on form and texture more than with ingredients, with many bars featuring not just crunchy outer layers of chocolate but interior elements made of various yummy substances.

The structural complexity of some ice-cream bars is so great that it’s common for the package to have a 3-D cutaway diagram to illustrate all the goodies on the inside.

{ Andrew Batson | Continue reading }

A jink a jink a jawbo

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After the near‐collapse of the world’s financial system has shown that we economists really do not know how the world works, I am much too embarrassed to teach economics anymore, which I have done for many years. I will teach Modern Korean Drama instead.

Although I have never been to Korea, I have watched Korean drama on a daily basis for over six years now. Therefore I can justly consider myself an expert in that subject.

{ Uwe E. Reinhardt, Princeton University | PDF | via Chris Blattman }

photo { Ji Yeo | plastic surgery in South Korea }