January 4, 2020

A return to Shanghai

Back in Shanghai after 16 years.

I didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of time out and about, but I managed to go to a bookshop to see what people are reading. I felt that the selection was tamer compared to what I used to see in bookstores about a decade back. The only trouble with coming back to China is that now I realise how much I missed China after defecting to Taiwan. Suddenly, I am borrowing library books on China, I am suddenly subscribing to China related podcasts. I want to go back to my West (Sichuan) and the North East. The other hassle is the visa is around 100 USD and its only single entry. They are far stricter about registering where you stay.

I sometimes think that all places have a certain time where they kind of exist in a twilight zone - you can steal a little bit of chaos and we think that the things will keep getting tending towards less rigidity. I think in China that time was the late 1990s and 2000s. Surely, China is more affluent now and I have no doubt, most people have a higher quality of life. It is just that the selfish me wishes for my China of that time.

China Travels
November 30, 2019

The Lit Fest

I have been observing that India has so many literary festivals. Its like if you fall from the sky, you will land right next to a lit fest. I was in Mangalore. A random walk led me to a literature festival. There was not need to buy tickets, I walked right into a panel. The panel has four women.

India Books
November 23, 2019

A new book shop

Nice to see a new bookshop in the city. Versus other Asian cities where bookshops are shutting down. People have interesting encounters with other people or places or circumstances. They write these in books encouraging us to try new things. Books (and the ideas within them) are the nutrients that a society needs in order to grow.

Saigon Books
November 20, 2019

Come Undone 2019, using iPad only

In 2012, I got rid of my computer and decided to go full time working on an iPad. I mostly stuck to the iPad as the main computing device with small gaps in 2013 and 2014 where I dabbled with a Chromebook, mainly to experiment. From time to time, I had to have a MacBook around mainly to deal with software or web services that would not run on the iPad or the mobile browser. With the launch of iPad OS and the browser supporting file downloads and more complex web services, there is even less reason for me to get back to a computer.

 Using iPad only 

Here are the apps that I use on a regular basis.

Task Apps
Writing and archiving Apple Notes
Blogging Ulysses and Custom Shortcuts
Image editing and enhancement Darkroom
Image archival Google photos
Video Editing Lumafusion
Audio Ferrite for recording and editing audio, Anchor for posting podcasts and Auphonic (web service to clean up the audio)
Presentations Keynote
Drawing and illustration Paper, Linea and Apple Pencil. The Paper app is it a minimalist drawing app that lets me make functional drawings
Documents Word, Excel, Pages, Numbers, Google Drive
Teaching Microsoft Forms (web), Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams
Conferencing Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Skype
Reading Kindle, Apple Book
Video Amazon Prime, Youtube Premium (mostly so that I can save talks or presentations offline)
Events Adobe Spark for creating social media posts
Scheduling Agenda, Fantastical

In my use case, I prefer the iPad OS mainly for some apps that I use all the time.: Paper, Linea, Ulysses, Fantastical, Apple Notes. I also enjoy Shortcuts to speed up some repetitive tasks. Most of all, as a regular traveler, I like the simplicity of an iPad - one charging plug can charge everything that I have. I do not have remove the iPad from the bag at airport checks. I have the cellular model which allows me to connect from almost anywhere I go.

November 19, 2019

Flawed Algorithms Are Grading Millions of Students’ Essays - VICE

But research from psychometricians—professionals who study testing—and AI experts, as well as documents obtained by Motherboard, show that these tools are susceptible to a flaw that has repeatedly sprung up in the AI world: bias against certain demographic groups. And as a Motherboard experiment demonstrated, some of the systems can be fooled by nonsense essays with sophisticated vocabulary.

Link: Flawed Algorithms Are Grading Millions of Students’ Essays - VICE

Link: Reset Podcast discusses AI based essay marking and writing

Link: How to recognize AI snake oil

November 14, 2019


Kagurazaka neighbourhood of Tokyo. Tokyo has many such interesting neighbourhoods that are worth exploring. This neighbourhood is a bit upscale but there are cheaper restaurants that you can find if you spend some time exploring.

Travel Tokyo