1983年北京市的面票

觉得挺有意思的。怎么找到的?是在处理些家事儿时,如换灯泡之类的,在抽屉里翻出来的。

六零后人跟我说粮食当时只能用粮票买,用人民币都不卖给你,粮票和肉票需要拿着户口本去领,每个人好像一个月半斤肉,粮票肉票一直用到八十年代底。

我问

那运动员不可能吃那么点肉吧,游泳的,田径的,打篮球的,以身材肌肉为竞争力的。

得到的回答是

他们不一样,他们在体校,有特殊的政策。

这让我想起读过一个英文版的关于姚明的书,里面好像说当时上海体育官员在他和王治郅俩专业篮球队员父母的孩子还没有出生时就已经为他们做了准备了。如果我没记错,那里也写了由于某体育官员对姚的母亲的文革毛左活动有仇,姚明却失去了一些他应当得到的优越的营养,不过尽管如此,他比预期长的还高,表现的比预期还好,不知是真是假。好像那本书也提到了上海体育官员有一次到他们家拜访时给了姚明家一些粮票,将此形容为中国当时正在改革的计划经济制度的象征之一。

一看到粮票,我也就更能理解为什么当时那么多人把美国视为天堂并对中国的制度更加质疑了,物质条件上的确是天壤之别。反过来,尽管有粮票,中国依然八十年代却出了那个破过当时世界纪录的跳高疯子朱建华,他好像也是上海的,也许或很可能如果他出生在农村而非上海,他就不会被发现而得到适当的专业运动员的培养,也就没有他了。这让我想到如何那本姚明书也说了姚明的祖父是上海最高的人之一,可是五十年代被发现时就已经二十多了,来不及培养了。

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游了游泳

昨天去附近的一个健身房和游泳馆看了看,跟我谈的那个人就说能看出我的身体状态不太好,体型有点变形,尤其肩膀太往前,有点驼背,其实这个问题我早就知道,几年前也有健身教练跟我说过,可以一忙就顾不上这个,只会问题加重,因为我知道我的姿势经常是挺糟糕的。这个跟我做码农有关,但也跟我自己这方面自然就差有关。当然,那人由于想让我在他们那儿花钱,肯定也把问题夸张了。

我上次进游泳池是半年前,也没游太多。我游的也很一般,游的自由泳肯定有姿势技巧不良的地方,蛙泳腿的动作基本肯定也算错的,可是游是绝对没问题的,并游了两个小时,中间的停顿休息也相当少。

我记得五岁时上了游泳课,班里有不到十个人吧,包括一个当时十岁以上的邻居。记得有一个教练把我推进了两米多深的水里,我自己当时看到了深度高于两米,想以此为借口,但依然教练说了个没事儿,然后也确实没事儿。最后一天,有了那儿的所有游泳班级的“展示”或“表演”,我在的当然是最初级的班,然后我所展示的却是勉强并扶了几次墙游到底。我妈妈对我的这些表现当然是相当生气。

在美国上小学三年级,有一位女生过生日请了班里所有人去游泳,记得那次一进水怎么扒拉扒拉都会不得不沉下去,最终不得不戴上救生衣游,感到好尴尬啊。不过,之后那个夏天我却学到了游起来没问题的地步。

记得在美国长大时有个华裔孩子通过我们父母互相之间是朋友认识,他一直搞游泳比赛,小学初中时成绩好像不错。可是他爸长得较矮,低于一米七吧,他也偏矮,我妈觉得他游泳最终很难有啥希望。说的没错。高中时,有一位比我小两年级的华裔也在游泳队,他好像还比出些名堂来,进了什么junior nationals,我问了他我之前熟悉的那个人如何,他却说他算游的比较慢的,这毫无疑问跟他的个子。但那个人依然算比较athletic,之后也练出了不少肌肉。衡量一个人是否athletic其实更多看人的整体身材素质,个子偏矮只会影响某些身体不够大物理上不得不限制竞争力的运动,如游泳,如篮球,如田径的某些项目。这让我想起,普京也很矮,才一米六五,但他毫无疑问是个比较athletic的alpha男,我看过他带领一帮俄罗斯青年人滑雪的视频,也知道他即打过老虎,又驾驶过战斗机。当然,更关键的是他的领导地位与他的形象加姿态的混合。斯大林好像更矮,腿还有点残疾,但他更给人一种alpha男的形象,更令西方白人畏惧。在俄语里,钢铁用英文字母念为stal,所以Stalin恰好被称为“钢铁男人”(человек из стали),与他的形象和作为特别符合。钢铁象征着工业化,而且是在他的领导下,苏联实现了即快速又高含量的工业化。

美国有些人特别爱说什么alpha男,beta男,并亚裔男在他们眼中大多是身材小,nerdy,顺从性的beta男,中国人倒没有什么太类似的,当然也可以说潜意识也有。这让我想到那个徐物理教授在他博客上还会偶尔炫耀他的体育成绩,很可能为了表示自己与典型的美国亚裔beta男恰恰相反。可是alpha还是beta不光是看身材和体育,也看性格和整体形象,也看种族。比如,在美国Jeremy Lin依然被犹太人金钱控制的NBA和媒体所歧视,这跟他是个美国华裔很有关系,因为在美国,在英语文化里,黄种人本质上不可能成为真正的alpha男。相反,姚明和易建联有中国背后的支持。在中国,由于是香蕉人加上台湾背景和公开的基督教信仰,Jeremy Lin也没有那么受欢迎。徐的能力,成就,和对自己的展示能让他在美国有较高的地位,显得相对比较alpha,但他依然受到取决于他的种族的局限。在中国,媒体可以很容易把他打成与美帝国主义合作的买办亡国奴,彻底毁掉他在中国人眼中的形象。所以一个男人alpha还是beta不光看客观能力和个人性格和姿态,很关键是背后的宏观媒体势力所塑造的标准。

所以一个人要当alpha男不一定需要体育好或身材大,更重要的人所在的环境如何看待他,他与环境的关系。简而言之,有能力很重要,但进入配合并支持自己的背景和能力的环境可以说更有决定性。当一个真正的alpha男必须自己非长自然就被人视为alpha,如果需要勉强,如果氛围默认要求你证明自己,那就不是真正的alpha男。而且一个真正的alpha男,若标准高一些,必须具有一种影响并推动主流氛围的角色。如果主导媒体主导文化的人与你本质对立,那你当真正的alpha男是绝对不可能的。一个需要求别人接受的人也绝对不可能当alpha男,最终被接受了本质上还是个beta男。换一个角度考虑,真正的alpha男的alpha作为和气魄牛到他的短板,他的失误被视为无关,甚至被赞扬为使他alpha个性更加神奇的特点。

什么是alpha的,什么是beta的经常是非常主观的。人无论多么理性都有自己的品味,自己的主观看法。可见影响人们的主观感觉的势力是多么具有决定性的。

Role models for Chinese who grow up in America

Now that I am older with some time out of that shitty American education system, I can better appreciate how racist and emotionally destructive it is at its core for Chinese. Of course, I sort of knew all along that the “Asian” portrayals and stereotypes within the US school system and media bears little resemblance to the real one based in China. I mostly did what I could to ignore that and learn the real Chinese culture instead. For that, much thanks to Baidu and CCTV.

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Oleg

Oleg is one of my ubermensch Soviet (and also part Jewish) friends. He has placed at (or at least near) the top on the most elite of math contests. He is now a math PhD student with an advisor even crazier than he is, who he says sometimes makes him feel bad, because he has done too little math research wise. However, this persona alone is not that rare. Oleg’s sheer impressiveness largely stems from that on top of this, he is a terrific athlete, extremely buff and coordinated, enough that he can do handstand pushups, to the extent that he regards such as routine. Yes, it is routine for a guy contending for a spot on a legit gymnastics team, but you wouldn’t expect this from a math nerd huh?

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冬奥会

今天网上搜奖牌榜预测,从而得知了Lindsay Vonn,因为那里的视频竟然有这位美国滑雪运动员为禁俄罗斯之决定张正嘴。好奇这种运动员的背景的我扫了扫此维基百科页,看到这位挪威裔姑娘出生于冬天满雪盖地的Minnesota,两岁就开始滑雪,并且在这方面有曾经赢过junior title的父亲的强烈鞭策。不用说,滑雪是有钱人的运动,所需要的设施是必可避免的昂贵,加上又有受伤的风险,想起前几年赛车手Michael Schumacher滑雪时头撞上了石头,导致达到长期不省人事的重伤,现在基本处于永久脑损伤状态。就是在美国,也有人笑话加以藐视的把冬奥会当做一个rich white person的聚会。

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More on Asian stereotypes

I just stumbled upon this wonderful essay by Gwydion Madawc Williams on why the Ming voyages led by Zheng He (郑和) led to nothing. The quote of it particularly memorable to me was this:

The separation of craft and education as represented by China’s illiterate shipwrights was indeed a genuine weakness in the Chinese system.  Christian Europe always remembered that St Peter had been a fisherman and St Paul a tent-maker, and it was quite acceptable for learned people to also be involved in manufacturing.  The weakness of Confucianism was not so much that it rated agriculture and craft above merchant trade, but that it insisted on the educated being a learned caste distanced from all of these matters.

Again, it’s the Asian stereotype of being a study hard grind lacking in practical, hands-on skills and “well-roundedness” and “social skills” and all that that admissions officers use to justify denying Asian applicants. I’ll say that from what I know, that is still very limited, Confucianism was very much like that. The quote that epitomized this was: 劳心者治人,劳力者治于人, which translates to roughly “the worker of the mind governs, the physical worker is governed.” The whole imperial examination system essentially created an upper class of bookworms for whom any form of hands on labor was beneath. To be a true 君子, gentlemen, you were supposed to study the classics and write poetry and engage in all that Confucian bull shit. I myself don’t have a very high opinion of Confucianism. It’s too conservative for me, with all the emphasis on ritual and filial piety. It discouraged any form of innovation outside the system, outside what was already there, which is partly why China could not make the giant leaps in science that the West did. I’ve read some of the Analects of Confucius and know some of the quotes, and I don’t think Confucius was a deep philosopher at all; there is little actual substance in what he said. On the other hand, Mo Tzu was a much further reaching, more scientific, and surprisingly modern thinker, and had China followed his path instead of banishing his school of thought into obscurity, the world would be completely different now, with China likely having made many more leaps of progress than it had actually done. I’ll say that the West was able to escape the shackles of Christianity, but China could not by itself escape those of Confucianism, until its dire situation, with reached its nadir in 1900, forced it too.

Apparently, the elite college admissions officers aren’t terribly good at filtering out the real Asian grinds either, as I know one who went to Princeton, who I found ridiculous. He said that all he did in college was study, and even though he majored in math, he hardly knew any. Like, he didn’t know what a topological space is. When I went ice skating with him and some others, he was near the edge the whole time, and he characterized my skating backwards (not well at all) as “scary.” I told him I’m not very athletic and wasn’t even any good, unlike the girl he was dating at that time, who could do spins among other fancy “figure skating” things she was trying out. I did show him the video taken of this 360 somersault I did off a 15 feet cliff in Hawaii, into the water, which was the first time I had done anything like that. He was like: “that’s so scary.” I honestly didn’t know what to say. To justify himself, he was like: “Chinese parents only want their kids to study.” I told him that in China, there are some very athletic people who attend special sports schools. On that, he was like: “but those aren’t normal people.” I also remember when we went camping once, everybody else got drunk, so I got to drive that kid’s BMW back. He had told us that his father does business in Beijing, which might explain why he drives that kind of car. He came to US at age 4. His Chinese is absolutely awful though, and he doesn’t realize it. He will of course say: “I already know enough. Some people can’t even speak it.” 怎么说那,不仅是个书呆子,而且是个书都读不好的书呆子,连这样的sb还都被Princeton录取了。I’ve talked with one of my very smart Asian friends about this, and he was like: “but he’s socially normal, unlike us.” And more recently: “Maybe they do accept Asian grinds, just not the ones with bad social skills.”

From what I’ve seen, there are plenty of super conformist Asian grinds like him, but there are also many who aren’t, who are actually smart and interesting, like myself (or at least I hope). I think what he said about Chinese parents is somewhat true actually; after all, I saw many growing up. They do see academics as a way to get ahead more so than others, largely because in China, to get out of your rural village and/or not be stuck with a working class job, you had to do sufficiently well on the gaokao to get into a good major at a good university. It’s funny that I’ve actually seen a ton of ignorant, narrow-minded, and risk-averse uncool tiger Chinese parents. And I have also seen some extremely impressive ones, not just academically. There is again quite a wide range and variety.

There is a phenomenon I’ve witnessed, which is that if a person is extremely strong at X and merely above average at Y, then that person will seem weak at Y, even compared to another person about as good at Y but less lopsided. It seems a natural human cognitive bias to think this way. This is in fact applied rather perversely to Asians in stereotyping. For example, Asian students are perceived as weak at language and humanities because they are generally stronger at STEM. We all know that in fact math IQ and verbal IQ (which we can use crudely as proxies for STEM ability and humanities ability respectively) are highly correlated, which makes it highly unlikely that a STEM star is actually legitimately weak at humanities. He might not be interested in reading novels and such but that’s rather different. There is also that humanities is more cultural exposure loaded with a much higher subjective element to it, with much less of a uniform metric. It actually seems to me based on personal experience that is by no means representative that in terms of precise use of language and the learning of foreign languages, mathematicians and theoretical physicists are at or near the top in terms of ability. On this, I will give an opposing perspective that I identify with somewhat, which is that even if you’re very strong at Y, having an X that you are significantly more talented at is a weakness for Y, because engaging in Y deprives the joy derived from engaging in the X, which often leads to loss of interest over time. Maybe this is why employers shy from hiring people who they deem “overqualified?” On this, I have thought of how possibly the lopsided cognitive profile in East Asians (with what is likely at least 2/3 SD differential between math/visuo-spatial and verbal, normalizing on white European scores) predisposed the thinking of the elite (assuming that lopsidedness is preserved at the far tail) as well as the development of that society at large in certain ways, some of which may have been not the most conducive for, say, the development of theoretical science. This is of course very speculative, and I would actually hypothesize that the far tail cognitive elite among East Asians is more balanced in terms of the math/visuo-spatial and verbal split, given the great extent to which the imperial examination system, which tested almost exclusively literary things, selected for V at the tail instead of for M.

On the aforementioned bias, I’ll give another illustrative example. I once said to this friend of mine, a math PhD student, not Asian, how there’s the impression that people who are weaker academically tend to be better at certain practical things, like starting restaurants and businesses. We sure all know there are plenty who weren’t good at school but were very shrewd and successful at business, at practical things. That guy responded with reference to Berkson’s paradox. He said something like: “That’s because you are unlikely to see those who are bad at both. They tend to be in prison or in the lower classes.” I could only agree.

I’ll conclude with another more dramatic example. I used to, when I knew nothing about the subject, think that people who were really at math were weirdos and socially awkward. For one, there was this kid in my high school who was way better than me at math at the time, who was incredibly autistic. Also, summer after 10th grade, I saw Beautiful Mind, which depicts the mathematician as mentally crazy. Now I would bet the incidence of schizophrenia among the mathematically gifted is lower than it is in the whole population. It just happens that certain combinations of extreme traits are vastly more noticeable or exposed by the media to the public (a mathematician or physicist may think of this as weighing those with such combinations with a delta function, or something along that direction at least). I wasn’t quite aware of that at that time though. Only later, after meeting more math people did I realize that math people are not actually that socially out of it in general, far from it, at least once they’re past a certain age, by which they will have had the chance to interact with more people like them and form their own peer group.

It is my hope that people can be more cognizant of these biases described in this blog post.

 

The Asian penalty

We all know that elite schools in the US discriminate against Asian applicants, essentially imposing a penalty for being Asian. And they have been rather pathetically pretending that such is not the case in spite of all the statistical evidence to the contrary. On this, people have said things like: where is affirmative action for Asians in the NBA/NFL? Well, today one of my colleagues who is a keen baseball fan, and probably also an NBA one, was talking about how there is even an Asian penalty in the NBA. Like, Asians are typically under-drafted, which means their number or rank in the draft is under commensurate with their actual ability and value at basketball. He says it’s due to the negative perception being Asian is for basketball in terms of how good one is yada yada yada. I haven’t paid attention to basketball for a long time, but I do remember the Linsanity several years ago, and when I was a kid, one who was a keen NBA fan, all the talk about Yao Ming. Last I checked Asians account for 0.2% of the NBA players, which means just a few names. Well, there is the height disadvantage after all. This was actually somewhat surprising to me, perhaps influenced by the fact that Yao Ming seemed to be overvalued due to the money he would bring from all the Chinese fans. So not only is there not affirmative action for Asians in the NBA, there is the same discrimination, the same penalty, the same stereotypes against Asians as in college admissions. Now that really sucks!

Now to something else that saddens me greatly that is a consequence of the current discriminatory policies against Asians in college admissions. Some Asian-Americans are afraid to check Asian and even afraid to engage in activities/pursuits they have gift and passion for, or at least some intrinsic interest in, under the fear that those are too Asian. Some are even afraid to show their Asian heritage and even reject their roots, which is quite sad, as you are who you are, in terms of your cultural background and denying it mostly makes you look quite pathetic. At least based on what I experienced growing up Asian in the states, many if not most Asian kids, even smart ones, try to distance themselves from their parents’ culture and are reluctant to learn or speak their parents’ native language, under social pressures osmosed in them by the whole American public school experience. Chinese culture is a pretty fucking cool and rich culture, with a beautiful language of artistic virtue that comes with a rich history. It is a pity that it is so misunderstood and that the American education system pressures against it in those from that cultural background. This is anti-intellectual in fact too, ironic as it is instigated partly by elite educational institutions, as reading multiple languages makes one’s mental world and whole spiritual existence a hell of a lot more interesting, an inevitable product of access of more diverse information.

To sum it up, it looks like all across the board America treats Asians as second class citizens. Yes, Asians are mostly new immigrants, but this is in fact overstated. As early as in the 19th century, Chinese in America were made to do much of the most dangerous work building the Transcontinental Railroad only to suffer the Chinese Exclusion Act. In the 20th century especially later on, Chinese as well as Indians, in addition to Japanese, Koreans, and Vietnamese, have created tremendous wealth for America, largely in science and engineering fields. Asians in America have mostly been busy working, busy creating, and some in hard menial labor in wretched conditions, with such being a major contributor to Asians, as a group, being seen as passive and apolitical, creating a self-pertuating stereotype. On this, Steve Hsu has expressed on his blog how slow the Asian community has been to organize against the double standards imposed on them in college applications, relative to the what Jewish community had done when the same had been unjustly instituted against them. Given the voluminous extent to which Asians as a group have contributed to America in terms of innovation and value creation, Asians have every right to demand that they are fairly considered for all positions, and leadership positions in particular, based on merit, which is not happening right now. On this more Asian-Americans ought to muster the courage to speak up for what is right, as Steve Hsu, Yukong Zhao, and Jian Li, among many others, have done amidst resistance.