Trans-Siberia

ACROSS SIBERIA &
ACROSS HUMANITY

Across 9000 miles of frozen silent beauty or deadly loneliness, depending from where you are, it is simply a piece of hostile real estate for people. What it brought to people or when people were brought over here, the results could be diametrically different. Many people of historical importance would have Siberia as punishment of choice: death or miserable death. People, in their right mind or have a choice, would have avoided it at all cost. Still there are plenty of foot prints from the past and more to come tomorrow.
The Czar sent thousands valuable undesirables, politically or legally alike, to fuel the development. Lenin and Stalin carried out the tradition with no less enthusiasm, if not more, in doing the same. The fuel cost is immense, only undesirables turned into spent fuel. There was almost unlimited supply of undesirables. The more the authority tightened the grip, the stronger the reaction ensued, hence the supply of undesirables.
For thousands of years, the usual animosity among tribal leaders and the emperor to the south, arose in the steppe region of Siberia where the Chinese emperor and his neighbours to the north treated each other’s visiting envoy to lake Baikal, unequipped of course, as show of displeasure.

Prehistoric forest and insects.
Today, You don’t have to risk your live to hear Mother Siberia’s side of the story. In fact you can still get a superficial view in a haste which means 10 or more days and nights straight and in relative comfort, where shower, in any style is considered beyond comfort zone on the trans-siberian train. All considered, it’s a small price to pay to retrace step by step, literally, the historically documented and hearsays of nature’s hostility and human miseries. What overlooked is nature’s hospitality.
Instead of minus 50’C or worst, in a stop near OMSK, I fell into an inferno when stepping off the train. And a digital display overhead assured me that it wasn’t an illusion, it was actually an inferno with 37’C. Now I finally understand the old Chinese saying, after all these years: It’s better without the book when you are to learn the truth.
Osmk was the place where action coalesced during the 1st World War. Imperial Russia was in the blink of total collapse when the imperial force was not only facing the onslaught of German forces but also resisting Lenin’s revolutionary force. United stated, Britain and western powers supported the Russia’s monarch by sending, under cover, a jointed expeditionary force to back up the Czar from the Russia east. The coalition force is a most unlikely political cocktail: U.S., Britain, Poland, China and Canada among others. The Czechs controlled most of the Trans-Siberian railway. Most Russian people nowadays don’t know about it or not taught in their schools. Only the end result of the war was praised and Russia, now, then Soviet Union moved on to influence the world, and in a diminishing dosage after 1989.

A Mosaic the size of…
If Siberia was desolate and miserable, Yekaterinburg proves the opposite: a good size city of two million people and beautiful. They have the only remaining statue of Lenin in whole Russia, a token consolation for affecionados. Siberia, by nature, supports man and his world. She welcome people to make her their home, their world, beautiful. If only political reality allowed. Omsk and Siberia at large is thousands of miles away in any direction from open seas. Air moves over thousands of miles over land and leaves behind their moisture long ago on the way before reaching Siberia. And yet there are hundreds of rivers criss-cross this land mass making sure that it gets its fair share of nourishment.

The land nourished. Nature’s generosity cradles all things which care to live, even though some proved to be of nuisance to others. Some travelers reported convoys of trucks slumbering with massive trees which I didn’t see, travelling along the inundated road. With no regrets, I missed the notorious swamp of insects too.
There are cultivated forest showed up from time to time. The trees planted are mostly birch (or aspen, if not birch), not massive as described by other traveler, but lined in an orderly way fading away as the train chugging along. And the famous Russian dolls are made from birch. A great many dolls can be made from these trees than the world can buy. So When no better thing to do, they are just sitting there to grow to massive size and getting pruned the way as shown in the James Bond movie, where the helicopter carried a humongous hair clipper dangling in mid-air while Bond racing his government-issued Ashton Martin to stay out of the way.
Other travelers, documentaries reported members of the phylum arthropod in its natural sizes with no respect for dietary constraint. When they come, reportedly, it’s orchestrated like a blanket furled over none but the brave. Again, I missed this frill which I suppose its local travel bureau would have it a more civilized image. And I’m not getting paid for not seeing the insects, nor hearing its coming.
I didn’t see any convoy of trucks slumbering with massive tree trunks. I witnessed sparsely slumbering small rickety trucks and passenger cars which helped me understand Cuba was once very vibrant by the virtue of its fleet of vintage cars still proudly running around to this day. With great gratitude I also missed the stink from the insects. Certainly there is no regret for missing the insect bites or the worst, only the hundreds of dollars in getting all the shots necessary for this trip.

All I have experienced is not to discredit other travelers or documentaries. Siberia, being so huge, if you have a wide enough lens, you can actually see the earth bent to accommodated Siberia literally. And I showed it to a catholic nun while on a trip to HK with the help of the on board online flight map. To my surprise, she agreed graciously. With her close relationship with the almighty up there, she extend her generosity saying she would pray for me. I have nothing to offer in return only my best wishing (at no cost to me) her all the blessings of the almighty.
What we, one individual to experience is actually a minute speck in a mosaic the size of Siberia. Whether Mosaic is the reason that Siberia attracts travelers, people from around the world do come with not just sightseeing but a sense of adventure. At any given moment, people from different corners of the world come to savor the awe of Siberia. They formed a mosaic of their own as each one brings a unique color. Each carries his or her very own self –a life-long journey totally different from the others’. Each one lives his or her life everyday going different places, meeting different people, by design or chance, at different times. Here we, iike a droplet in a watershed leading to a creek, a stream before emptying into a river, you just don’t know where and when you run into a petal peeled off from a flower somewhere. Bobbing along together for god knows how long, but definitely not forever, and not knowing when is the last tango. If it’s delightful, treasure every moment of it. If not, again it’s not forever. All assembled exactly as in a random draw for only a very short span of time and in a tight squeeze manner – the very carriage of the trans-Siberia train leading to a mosaic of humanity which appeared as magically as a rainbow and faded away when normalcy resumes.

This mosaic may well be more colorful than the greatness of Siberia as shown:…

The New Zealand mother and son. A well read mother and a son on hot pursuit of the ultimate…

The heavenly endowed wife from Canada with her man, not just any man,….making a live example of me.

The Canadian couple of seasoned world travel who brightened this travelling troupe….

The Swiss family, an extraordinary mother ushering her 2 teenage children into a …

An Australian father and son on a generational-defying mission showing…

Then spice it up with local flavor (no extras, real ones)…

Stay tuned

起萬步,萬步初 (Hey mumbo, mumbo rock)

著名生態學家沈德生(Eric Aanderson)羅列了一班彩色紛繽人物,也不過是過去那二百年罷了。當中一些,我們可以看出是差不多直接把嘆世界大衆化。少了他們,便不可能成事。最快也要等到下班車臻齊另一班與他們同樣造化的才可成事。
粗略的把他們串起來,他們是:
法國人,拿破倫時代,Nicephore & Claude Niepce 兄弟。
法國人,Francois Isaac de Rivaz。
美國人,Silliman, a Yale’s professor。
美國人,Rockefeller。
德國人,Karl Benz(平治) 。
美國人,George Selden。
美國人,Henry Ford(福特)

這裡把他們串起來,每人所帶的色彩果然造就一個花花世界,更重的是把這個花花世界帶到你面前。如興之所至,把你帶去也是輕而易舉之事。他們活在不同時代,不同國家文化,什麼生平抱負更互相大異其趣,不受外國勢力指使。
千千萬萬年來,要走動,翻山涉水,最可靠就是自己雙手雙腳。在拿破倫的法國時代,正是革命尚未成功,天下仍然大亂。Niepce 兄弟卻發明了一部內燃機,化燃燒為力量。裝上船來開動,乘風破浪。不知怎的,那船命名暗通中華文化中通俗情懷,名叫Le Pyreolophore「風火輪」,不錯,拿吒那架風火輪(英語系世界叫作fire-wind producing machine祇能釋出其科學一面,未能掌握意境。)這是一件影響後世翻雲覆雨的一件事物。 在里昂附近河上招搖。賣相自然古怪,老番如何接受得來,引得岸上人走避的走避,有勇敢的爭相報以亂石磚塊,唯恐愧對街坊。好不熱鬧。所用燃料有頭有面,其中一種叫作Lycopodium moss(即青苔一種) 。有如廿四味,加上碳灰,樹膠便成。最後得到國家認可,皇帝面授專利權(patent)。這對兄弟往後還對攝影技術作出貢獻。

也是法國人,差不多同時,Francois Isaac de Rivaz。他沒有發明隹釀,卻能讓氫,氧混合,加以“引爆”來推動木頭車。直接衍生了今天號稱高科技的fuel cell。還好,也獲授專利權。

講石油,不能不講美國人。耶魯大學一名教授Silliman。他與私酒經營無關。數百年來美國淹沒在私酒之下,市井上叫作Moon shine,大概以此對月暢飲,份外明,大有唐詩境界。製造私酒沒有什麼奧秘,是家庭工業,早就全球一體化。上兩代的圍頭人(即新界的鄉間人)也不假外求,自蒸自飲。米糠撈埋酒餅,發酵好後,經蒸餾便成。酒精遇熱,首先蒸發。將所得的再蒸一次,便叫孖蒸或雙蒸, 三次三蒸,作飲用的通常止於四蒸。每蒸多一次,酒精濃度便高一些。到四蒸時,濃度高至用火柴可以點着。飲到肚裏,擗瀝之情,可以想見。真可化鵪春為蛟龍。在美國,特別是東部山區,如Appalachian Mountain私酒市塲活力更為澎湃。相信今天也未完全消失。他們蒸的卻是威士己,Bourbon,高值產品。既是民間智慧,這名教授也用蒸餾法分析研究石油。蒸餾出來的火水可點燈,之後更發展成火水燈和大光燈。最重要的是蒸餾過程中分解出一種強揮發性液體,不像火水那般馴服可用來點燈,還臭味迫人。無以為名下,便叫作氣油(gasoline) 。 也就是今天全世界每個角落不可或缺的電油。其他燃油及副產品也就是在蒸餾過程中分解出來。今天的煉油廠祇是超特大的蒸餾爐而矣。

自1859石油破土衝天,石油的蠻荒時代開始。所謂新產業,新市場,即是無法無天,無法可依。有人肯買,有人肯賣便成,沒有商德道德可言。最適合拼命三郎之流打拼。大概跟今天國內差不多。但當時有一特殊情形——供過於求,大大超過。大家都知道,今天採探石油是很艱險的工程,因為容易開採的石油早已抽盡,所以才發展到今天險中取油:深海,北極海底。什麼險阻,祇要有市有價,石油工業便樂於迎難而上,政府也帶頭鼓勵,從傍恊助。喝頭啖湯,人所欲也。在先到先得精神下,大小個體戶也就如雨後春筍,鑽油台遍地開花。商場上你爭我奪,各出奇謀,各人的商德,道德標準也大異,說是蠻荒時代就差不多了。在這樣一塲爭奪戰中,死的死,傷的傷,也有被吞并的。能站住腳的是少數中的少數。洛克菲勒(Rockefeller )卻能脫穎而出。他的成功不在探採豐富,而是洞燭先機並針對石油業的全盤運作關鍵: 開採,儲存,運載,提煉,銷售等等。把各環節整合,收編。更把對手吞併或催毀。在1870至1890短短廿年間他的標準石油公司囊括了九成市場。成為人類史上最富有的人。他致勝的經營手法:合併,上下環節收編掌控之下,也就是今天的學院名詞merge & acquisition,vertical integration。他對世界的影響不是他的錢,而是開創人類前所未有的能源工業:鑽探,開採,運輸,提煉,銷售等等。今天每一瓣都是工商專才較量之所。任何一瓣失靈,都足以影響社會民生,經濟,國家安全,國際秩序。

平治汽車(Benz),港人至愛。汽油的出現,加上內燃機。二者配合起來,人類流動的步伐也就真的如箭在絃,祇欠那人出力拉弓。汽油所夾帶的高能量正好用着。終於1886平治拿到了四衝程引擎的專利權。「四衝程」也就是汽車燃燒汽油時發力推動的過程。他駕駛自己的第一部車上街也不過是一部三輪車。乃閉門造車的實例,怪模怪樣的三腳雞在街上亂跑,街坊大驚,爭相走避。走得快,好世界。各樣問題之中,最駭人的還有擺馱很靠不住。1888年,經短短二年間的改良,他以老婆仔女證明這是一部Benz。在沒有今天的德國高速公路下,在Bavaria(也即是寶馬的故鄉) 省的鄉間跑了一百公里。人們還不知新時代已到。

本來也是一名普通的一名典形人物。他之所以特別,就在於中文給他譯作福特。本來單單有福便可叱吒風雲,他卻福特雙全。美國立國以來,這類福特雙全的人比比皆是,很是普通。Henry Ford(福特)被稱作汽車大王。其實也是一名山寨王,機器佬闖出世界。香港大把。香港五十年代開始,六十七十年代而大成。他把建造汽車繁複的工作以分工合作式串連起來。就是今天人人掛在嘴邊的所謂流水作業,生產線。汽車大量生產從此面世。他不祇自己高薪,還把高薪推己及人,分期付款。伙記個個買得起。如此生產,如此銷售,還表現出一點社會責任,誰人想到。把公司叫作福特,所造的車也就叫福特。把汽車帶進人類文化,開創新紀元。我們香港的山寨王當中也有不少福特之士並及時在我國進入新紀元之際帶頭獻出一分力。

WHEN MARGINAL UTILITY APPROACHES ZERO …2

When you have one last bottle of water in an endless desert, or when you are about getting drown, what water means.

Many people stick to the practice of ‘an apple a day keeps the doctors away’.  Some may even have two.  After 3 or 4, there would be hardly anyone care for more and its value reduces to nothing.  Many rich people spring into euphoria when they make their first million.  Many more, after making 100 millions remain equally enthusiastic about making more millions.

When people, the world over, awaken by the French revolution and oblige the birth right of Equality to life, the quality of life rises.  The industrial revolution certainly helps with the supply side while the american psyche of ‘pursuit of happiness’ completes the demand side of the equation. and voila! the world of consumption is born.

We all have a few pairs of shoes, may be ten.  How about a hundred pairs?  will we stop buying more.  Back in the 60’s, my parent bought a pair of rubber shoes (all purpose, the only kind available on the market) because the existing pair was already fully depleted, or worn out.  So, I had a new pair, but didn’t want to start the new pair just yet.   I repaired the old pair using my childhood ingenuity.  I did a couple of cardboard cutouts for the sole.  Voila!  I can extend my possession of the new pair a little longer until I start using it.  My new pair of all-purpose rubber shoes delivered extremely high marginal utility.

Time moves on and fast.  Nowaday, people don’t wait for needs in order to buy.  people found new reasons.  Human’s senses have expanded.  there are serious considerations too.  one such consideration is call ‘instant gratification’.  They don’t need any consideration when they use this consideration.

I am worried.  Since Adam Smith’s invention of the thought of ‘wealth’  and the subsequent evolution of economic thoughts and theories, less and less people employ rational consideration, more and more people enjoy the ‘consideration’ of no consideration in their life.  And marginal utility depart from people’s life.

Marginal utility may not see the end of its life.  Getting to zero is running its course of life in a natural way, which is a no no way in this state of world.  Marginal utility may well destined to be a rare species.  I just hope that people won’t render it into an endangered species like we did to so many other species.

….2

SECRET OF SPECIES, A CONVENIENT ISLAND

Resident of Galapagos Research Centre

Resident of Galapagos Research Centre

Finally, it turns out to be a convenient island, albeit half way of the world from where I came from.  Many people, mostly fisherman from Europe stumbled on these archipelagos long before me and even Charles Darwin.  And it wasn’t convenient.  He was simply on a round the world survey on Her Majesty’s Service (just like James Bond. no secret though) in 1835.  He was on board the Beagle and stopped over the islands for just a few weeks.  Not knowing that it harbors the secret of the “Origin  Of Species”, so the tiny islands and its native residents have just been there waiting to be discovered and honored.

Ask yourself, how many times you have stumbled on new things — places, people and phenomenon.  and we allow them just slip pass us without feeling awed, bewildered, or even noticed.   To make sense of merely something stumbled on, even a gem, takes an endeavour of a Homo Sapien scale.   No wonder, out the human history and prehistory there is only one Charles Darwin.  Or the Galapagos Island is just an island of convenience.

 

BOOK HOPPING — 遊讀記趣之「今生今世」

胡蘭成的「今生今世」確是好書。論者之多,曾一時成風。

好書受到器重絕不為奇。他生逢民國初年,學貫中西,博通古今,不足為奇。奇就奇在作者的身份,行徑。他是份量不輕的漢奸,此奇一。連續結婚八次(其實是貪新忘舊),此奇二。有地位的漢奸:秦檜謀私,謀權;吳三桂為色為情都給比下去。

書中聚事行文常常慢得如分如秒。但他就是這樣細述民初景象,社會倫常,人物氣色。而他自己就切切實實活在其中,大概也不假的。他的當上漢奸,婚姻態度卻文辭華麗,精煉。可知日本侵華,廣植漢奸,用心之精煉,深得其人。

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萬語千言從頭起 — MORE THAN ONE CAN SAY

兒女私情,縱是千言萬語,心照不宣也可傳千里。 Private love, one on one mindfully readable, however long lasting.

Public love, …
世界共同之情,當然也是千言萬語。很多人不吐不快。但更多人雖然不快,也不敢吐。或等人先吐。吐痰是犯法的。但吐談還是可以罷。他日吐談也犯法,那是後話了。這裡與朋友街坊吐談,而且是少量的(就在 MY BOOK 頁內),應該更無問題。若能引至大家,你一言我一句,增進街坊情誼之餘,說不定還可解決天大的問題未定。

Energy, Resources & We

We, people on the street and the scientific community up in the ivory tower, have been talking about the root cause of climate change.  Carbon dioxide from carbon based fuel has been found guilty of the crime–heating up the planet. The blame is misdirected. Carbon is the mother of all fossil fuels which provide energy.  A colorful world for mankind is made possible only because of carbon.

It powers the progress of human civilization since the beginning of time through industrial revolution and on-going.  In less than 200,000 years of its existence, Homo Sapien changes the world and hence the planet earth.  If we condense it into a year, the industrial revolution started on the very last day of the year and only hours before the new year.

With the planet earth being so resourceful, it laid the stage of a world for man to enjoy. Energy only turns resources into our enjoyment. Enjoy, we certainly do in a big way. It is the earthly resources that make the world colorful. But Can we make it last?!. Is there still a new year, or tomorrow at least.

A world out of the Earth

1) Obviously, the world is flat.
Scientifically, the earth is round.
Naturally, Galileo uncovers that it is round, in a world of Christianity, deserved condemnation.
Repeatedly, mistaken again? Is it.

2) 昨天,我們走向世界。

今天,我們創造世界。
…挨世界 — 人之初也。
…大世界 — 大把機會。
…新世界 — 有您機會。
…撈世界 — 遍尋機會。
…好世界 — 撈到世界。
…嘆世界 — 修成”正果”。

明天,人類走出世界,放眼地球。

Limited supply, make it last — 細水長流

Now that I am retired, I found my resources are so limited. Nevertheless, It supported me in the past and more so in the remaining years of my life. It is limited and It really sink in now.
The world is a bundle of resources, all in limited supply too: Energy, in various forms; Minerals, in fact, in various stages of its primal forms; Water; Air, a mixture of various gases. Matter, no matter what matter, cannot be created or destroyed. That is the natural law. Nevertheless, It supported all life forms, man included, indiscriminately since the beginning of time.
Only man can discriminate other life forms, even among his own species. But he does one thing indiscriminately — using up all forms of earthly resources as soon as technology affords them.
Like many other retired people, I conserved while using my resources. Very rich people conserve even more. Very few super-rich people use up all their resources when they die. They spend very little comparing with their holding. We ordinary retirees, live on fixed resources, as we finally realized.
Not so for the economy when it comes to the world’s resources.
Somehow, consuming the world’s resources becomes a global sport. People exert their best effort to outspend each other. What they spend can only come from one mother earth, no other place. Something really goes wrong! Or mankind hasn’t grown old enough to learn.

WHAT A WORLD! — 世界如此多驕!

1)        Obviously, the world is flat.

          Scientifically, the earth is round.

          Naturally, Galileo uncovered that it is round, in a world of   Christianity,  deserved condemnation.

          Repeatedly, same thing is happening again.  The world is round after all.

 

2)        昨天,我們走向世界。

 

          今天,我們創造世界。

…大世界  —  大把機會。

…新世界  —  全新機會。

…好世界  —  撈到世界。

…嘆世界  —  衆望所歸。

…挨世界  —  尤來久矣。

 

          明天,人類走出世界,放眼地球。