Toy Trains Battle Royale for Supreme Dominance of the Tracks

I couldn’t think of a better translation, but you get the general idea from above what’s going on here. On Youtube, where you can find just about anything, there are quite a few guys in Japan who have filmed incredibly complex train crashes involving toy PLARAIL trains.  These are plastic battery-powered Japanese toy trains that zip around on blue Tomica track, of which there is quite an abundance in my own home.  These Otaku train guys film massive competitions between various train types across multiple track layouts to determine once and for all who is the strongest. My kids are hooked. There are literally hundreds of these videos.  My boys watch them over and over again to the point they know which trains will succeed and which will fail, and more complicated, which track layouts we should attempt to duplicate here in the house.  “No daddy, build the one with six bridges and four crossing points” (and by the way, my son says ‘points’ instead of ‘switches’–darn British-based education system over here). ]]>

Paper cutouts for boys

With both sons home for the Christmas holiday, it doesn’t take long for the toys to become “boring” and playing to become “dull”.  So we’re having to scour the net for new things to do, and that led to cutting out paper and making stuff. First up was some Doctor Who Tardi(ses) or whatever is the plural of Tardis.  The boys got “Where is Doctor Who” for Christmas so they are having fun looking for the Doctor and Rory and Amy in a book filled with Daleks and Cyberman. Next up is their old love of bullet trains.  This site has a slew of paper cutout Japanese bullet trains. I guess we’ll make our way to paper planes soon enough.  ]]>

Corrupt Chinese railway official has a mansion in Los Angeles

The Chinese media has been digging into the finances of  Zhang Shuguang (张曙光), the engineer once dubbed “the grand designer of China’s high-speed rail.” Following the crash of two bullet trains that killed dozens in China, issues of railway corruption have been covered pretty heavily in some of the media in China.  This report actually did some digging into US property and tax records to discover that while he was working for $2,200 RMB a month (about $300 USD) he was able to buy an $860,000 USD house, paying cash. You can read the original article in Chinese from or read a translated version from the China Media Project in Hong Kong.  ]]>

London's new Routemaster bus runs out of gas

For those who don’t follow me on Google+, I’ve talked recently about the new buses that are to be introduced in London based on the iconic Routemaster designs.  These new buses, built in Northern Ireland, will be placed into service over the new few months years and will bring a hint of the old style with a liberal dash of the new design.  Personally I think it’s a beautiful looking bus. The first bus was “introduced” to London the other day with Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, gallivanting all over town with it.  Then they decided to take it back to the HQ and it ran out of gas. I’m not mocking the new bus or the rollout, but bringing this up as an example of even the best laid plans sometimes fall apart. So many in the tech industry see a new product get launched and then go absolutely bat crazy bonkers when something doesn’t work immediately, on day one, the way it should work after three years of beta-testing.  I’ve had to deal with this as well when creating some new product or site and having little bugs pop up unexpectedly that we didn’t have the time, money or staff to debug properly. That’s kind of why whenever I see a major site like Google or Yahoo or CNN go “down” I take a screen capture of the page.  Even they have problems now and then such that my own foibles don’t seem quite as bad. Anyway, can’t wait to get to London and try out this new bus. ]]>

The 12 books I read in 2011.

I guess I should feel lucky I had time for even these 12. Basically these are the 12 books I read this year, in no particular order.

  1. Steve Jobs biography
  2. Arsene Wenger biography
  3. The Quants (Wall Street Math guys)
  4. Deadly Choices (about the vaccine / autism debate)
  5. Defence of the Realm (MI-5 History tome)
  6. The World According to Clarkson
  7. Delivering Happiness (history of Zappos)
  8. Cold Steel (the battle of steel industry giants)
  9. The Black Swan (the effect, not the ballerinas)
  10. Too Big to Fail (Lehman Brothers, the US government bailout of AIG, et al)
  11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (I was sick one day and re-read it)
  12. The Facebook Effect (history of the Facebook)
Finding time to read is harder and harder.  I managed to get a few of these in digital form rather than paper, since buying them over here in Hong Kong is such a pain in the butt.  I don’t really have a review of most of them.  They were all kind of well, interesting enough for me to buy or get them but not necessarily things that changed my life.  Delivering Happiness is something I recommend to others, and the Facebook Effect for those who want to know more than the move.
Next year I have a bunch of classics (read — past their copyright and free) e-books already loaded on to the iPad.  I’m reading some of the history of World War I, something I don’t know enough about.  I’m also going to try and read some more spy novels.  I have a Wallander book or two lying around that is about half done which I should eventually finish.  This was also the first year my science-based reading went down a bit.  Guess I didn’t have enough time to focus.

Original MTV VJ J.J. Jackson passed away

It happened quite awhile ago, actually. J.J. Jackson, one of the original three VJ’s on MTV, passed away about seven years ago from a heart attack.  I didn’t know but it is still very sad. MTV for me, like many of my age, was an eye-opening and world expanding experience.  Now it just sucks, as most anyone will tell you. But in case you want a bit of a flashback, here are the first ten minutes of MTV captured on Youtube. Watch it quickly before the dickless pinheads that run MTV today have their lawyers take it down. Rest in peace Triple J, and thanks for showing me there was more to music than that which I heard of my radio in a tiny corner of the world. ]]>

Elephant Walk in South Korea aimed not only at the North, but all of Asia

    Over the past few years, we’ve seen the US play a more active role in Asia, primarily as a counter to China.  On July 4, 2010, the South China Morning Post, in a likely ‘leaked’ story wrote about three US Ohio-class submarines simultaneously appearing at ports throughout Asia.  In the last year the US has also decided to play a role in the South China sea / island disputes, and recently signed a new treaty with Australia on the positioning of US Marines down under. Is this just a coincidence this photo is out and on the net and getting talked about?  Possibly, but even if it is the case that this is just random, I don’t think the policy makers mind too much the connection of this photo with the other actions going in Asia today. Here is the full pic from Flickr: