a book about how bayes’ rule cracked the enigma code & other exploits

bayesian theory applicationsthe theory that would not die (2011) by sharon bertsch mcgrayne is about the 200 year history of bayes rule which was marked by obscurity, secrecy, derision & finally glory but not before dividing the statistics community for many years <bayesians vs. frequentists | the fissure likely still exists & will continue to exist, it’s a philosophical almost religious difference> / computational resources now being both magnitudes more powerful & cheap, bayesian statistics is considered by some as the analytic tool of the 21st century

this is the most fascinating & engaging book i have read so far this year! / not only because we use bayes theory in our work but also discovering its breadth of applications such as:  cracking the enigma code which helped the allies win the war | searching for the debris of air france flight 447 & navy searches <submarines, downed weapon-carrying b52s> | setting compensation insurance | more accurate probabilities of rare events which led to increased safety measures <warned but not heeded:  three mile island, challenger space shuttle> | predicting election results, the first being kennedy vs. nixon <until the media resorted to exit polls | though nate silver famously predicted correctly state outcomes in 2008 using hierarchical bayes> | identifying the linkage between lung cancer & cigarette smoking | identifying the risk factors for cardiovascular disease <both with far reaching public health implications> | powering the google search engine | microsoft windows os & spam filtering | helping stanley the driverless car win the darpa challenge in 2005 <as well as driving google’s driverless car> | recommendation engines for movies, books, etc. | uncovering the authorship of 12 federalist papers

importantly too, many analytic techniques were developed to facilitate the application of bayes theory, among them: asymptotic approximations \ sequential analysis / gibbs sampling \  markov chain monte carlo <MCMC> simulation \ hidden markov models / kalman filter <though kalman denies that bayes rule had anything to do with his invention, it was proven mathematically by aoki that it can be derived from bayes rule>

at the very basic level, bayes rule is intuitive | one might even say, this is how we naturally think & make decisions: “initial beliefs + recent objective data = a new & improved belief” / after reading the drama surrounding bayes theory, it is alluring to declare sole allegiance to bayes \ i resist that because a good analyst will use the tool that is most appropriate to the problem at hand / knowing how to apply both bayesian & classical statistical techniques is the best position to take \ i highly recommend this book to anyone involved in data analysis | and to those who are not, enjoy the awesomeness of probability & statistics!

i learned about this book in the ny times


related current events:  bayes theory will not work in the case of the missing malaysian plane because the prior is incorrect <an oil slick that was incorrectly thought to have been caused by the plane>



eat at your own risk | mochi


the warning labels on packages of asian foods can be quite amusing / the warnings are polite, emphatic & very precise and sometimes can be funnily dire <will feature in future posts, the chestnuts one are good>\ here it is for mochi – traditionally for the japanese new year but eaten year-round as well \ it is made of glutinous rice & is chewy | gummy when eaten <so chew slowly! & supervise old people | can glue to dental appliances!> / above are the mochi sweets | stuffed with sweetened red or black bean paste or peanut jam \ variations are mochi coated with sesame seeds <favorite!> or with a light peanut or sugar coating / love this fun <but potentially hazardous> food! 🙂

a book about traffic & why we drive the way we do

traffic different placestraffic (2008) by tom vanderbilt is about the psychology of driving & how traffic engineers accommodate human nature & perception <and its limits> when designing roads & highways, controlling traffic flow, relieving congestion, increasing driving safety & minimizing accidents

driving is an everyday task & skill that most of us take for granted / though as the book explains it is possibly the most complex task that some of us will ever undertake \ in split seconds and in high speed with no eye contact with our fellow drivers, we “communicate” by our actions & signals what our intent is on the road / but do we interpret actions & signals the same way?*

i found the work of hans monderman <dutch traffic engineer who disliked traffic signs> the most interesting & is an application of psychology & sociology / it also takes from the architecture toolkit | the use of space \ his work revolved around the idea that there are two kinds of space: the traffic world & the social world \ the traffic world, exemplified by the highway, is the realm of the car and is all about speed, efficiency & homogeneity / the social world, such as a village, is place where the car is just a guest and behavior is governed by local customs & interpersonal contact <the analogy is you behave differently when you’re in the living room as when you’re in the kitchen or bathroom>

monderman applied an innovative street design in oudehaske, a small village in the netherlands / the problem was that cars coming from the highway were speeding as they go through oudehaske & the villagers were understandably not happy about it \ his street design did away with traffic signs and instead provided subtle cues that cars had to share space with pedestrians & cyclists / the streets were redesigned to look more villagelike \ the width of the road was six meters <two cars cannot pass each other & share with a bicycle> | the curb was low which means that there was no separation between vehicles & people / in essence, this street design forced cars, pedestrians, cyclists to interact with each other \ the effect was that drivers slowed down and were more cautious / this came to be known as “psychological traffic calming” \ alternatively, physical traffic calming devices could have been employed <such as speed bumps or humps, chokers, diagonal inverters and forced turn-islands> but would have cost more & may not have been as effective

another one of monderman’s interesting work was the “squareabout” <a traditional village square with a roundabout> in drachten pictured above / the problem was that the four-way intersection of laweiplein in the city of drachten had a high traffic volume of cars <20k a day>, cyclists & pedestrians and was increasingly congested \ the roundabout did away with signs, traffic lights, zebra crossings & raised curbs | and solved the problem / the traffic flowed, with drivers & cyclists slowing down but not stopping

the seeming paradoxes are that the more a road or highway is made “dangerous” or “unsafe,” drivers behaved more cautiously and therefore made the road or highway safer \ and slowing down made traffic go faster & reduced congestion / interesting read | but it just reinforces what i already know and that is driving is dangerous & i really do not enjoy it

*the yinzer practice of the “pittsburgh left” is mentioned in the book | this is bolting left as soon as the light turns green / the car with the right-of-way accedes to this if they’re yinzers but upsets those who are not

thanks to my favorite curmudgeon for suggesting this book

illustration friday | twisted

twisted baby1izzy in watercolor | 29 sep 2012


a book about the financial history of the world

ascent of money1the ascent of money (2008) by british historian niall ferguson was published as the economies of the western world was unraveling in what came to be known as the “great recession” \ describes financial instruments & innovations from the simple clay tablets of mesopotamia <not a promissory note but a statement that bearer will pay X goods at a specified time> to the complex derivatives of today <i still don’t have an understanding of it>

we typically think of “innovation” as those emanating from the fields of science, technology and the creative fields / the book describes the innovations in finance <money|currency ->  loans|credit ->  bonds -> insurance -> stocks -> derivatives | hedge funds -> increasingly complex financial instruments>   against the backdrop around which these innovations came to be <spice trade, empire building, wars, calvinism, rise of the welfare state, risk management, the principles of statistics  (yeah!), democratized home ownership, globalization>

even without an economic crisis and more importantly, because we can likely expect to experience at least one more in our lifetime, this book is worth reading / but perhaps after first understanding “everyday” financial facts such as compound interest | how inflation impacts your take home pay or your savings <if you have one> | your credit card’s interest rate <& why you should pay off your monthly credit card bill> | the pros & cons of ARM vs. fixed rate | when to place a large or small down payment for a car | 3-year or 5-year loan? | mutual fund or demand deposit account? | rent or own a home? | etc

it is ironic that most of us are not equipped with the knowledge needed to make sound decisions about our hard-earned money / it is important to have such knowledge because how we handle our finances has an impact on our lives in the short- & long-term \ and for some of us, it impacts not just us individually but also those who depend on us such as our children

now more than ever knowledge is power & we have the tool – the internet – to gather information that can help us make sound financial decisions \ the great recession was the result of many factors that are woven in complexity that ordinary consumers would have difficulty comprehending, much less understanding how they were players in it  /  just as science, technology, art & music over the past hundred years have had a profound impact on our lives, so has the financial system \ a basic knowledge of finance and its history is almost imperative in this age / this book was written by a historian <rather than an economist> which makes it more readable & easier to understand

*very interesting:  the afterword shows the evolution parallels between the natural & financial worlds, p. 352 in the paperback edition


foodie nostalgia2 | oldest chinese restaurants in manila: est. 1945–1967

manila chinese restos part2

this second list consist of chinese restaurants established “after the war” as my father would say / aside from authentic chinese food, the offerings now included tsinoy* <lumpiang sariwa, rellenong hipon> & filipino dishes <lechon kawali, crispy pata>, homestyle food <fried chicken, fried pork chops>  as well as spanish-influenced dishes <lengua, torta con grejo> \ possibly too, two new noodle dishes – sotanghon & misua <not mentioned in the fare of pre-war restaurants>

as an immigrant and long-time resident of this country, i sometimes pine for the foods of my native country \ and sometimes i get lucky | it appears that chinese restaurants have what my favorite curmudgeon calls the “secret chinese menu”  <authentic chinese food | chinese food for chinese people> / it helps to have a chinese friend inquiring about the “secret chinese menu” and more importantly, translating it \ we recently got our hands on the SCM of the chinese restaurant on wood street in downtown pittsburgh / we were told that if we wanted to order from their SCM, we had to do so the day before \ it’s that special <& secret>

*combination of intsik <tagalog for chinese>+ pinoy  <colloquial for filipino>


2nd of two parts of the list of the oldest chinese restaurants in manila reprinted from anson yu’s article in coconuts|manila

source: http://manila.coconuts.co/2014/01/24/part-2-14-oldest-chinese-restaurants-metro-manila-1866-onwards

8. SaLido Restaurant
Since 1945 

This coffee shop was opened in the aftermath of World War II by Benjamin King aka King Sy Dyak on Tomas Alonzo Street. It was named Lido, the Hokkien term for “the beautiful capital city”. What made it different from other eateries in Binondo was that it was like a gentleman’s club, where businessmen from around the area socialized and discussed business over cups of its famous brewed coffee. When the original location was demolished and the restaurant moved its current location on Ongpin Street, the name was changed to SaLido. To woo back the regulars, it started making them personalized coffee mugs. Former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim is among those who are fond of this restaurant.

Must try: Aside from the coffee (PHP65), try the oven-roasted pork asado (PHP235 for one-fourth kilo). Unlike other asado dishes, SaLido’s has a pinkish tender meat, good layer of fat and golden brown skin as it doesn’t use food coloring. There’s also the three cups chicken (chicken cooked in sesame oil, ginger and rice wine, PHP285), chami (fried thick noodles, PHP190) and steamed fish fillet (Php280).

Hot foodie tip: They are also popular for their breakfast, which includes everything from omelets, pancakes, Filipino breakfast meals and dimsums (only until 9:30am). The kitchen here has been known to accommodate the requests of guests such as using small chili peppers instead of bell pepper in the omelet.

Get here: 839 Ongpin Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila; +63 2 5213333,  +63 2 5595491. Daily 6am to 9pm.

9. The Original Savory Escolta
Since 1950 

Brothers Mariano, Vicente, Tony and Jose Ting started this restaurant on Escolta Street. Their golden crispy fried chicken drew in the crowd and made them famous. They then expanded the menu to include other panciteria favorites such as sweet and sour fish and miki bihon. Years later, the brothers moved the restaurant to its current location on Plaza Moraga, at the foot of Jones Bridge. By then public figures such as Ninoy Aquino would be seen regularly dining here. Even if Savory has expanded in malls, the family will not close down the place that started it all.

Must try: Many of their original recipes are still available such as the fried chicken (PHP174 for half order), pancit canton (PHP195), pata tim (braised pork, PHP480) and fried rice (PHP130). As for the rest of the menu, it is the same mix of Filipino and Chinese favorites you will find in most other panciteria such as lengua (braised pigs tongue, PHP350), bihon guisado (fried bihon, PHP195) and camaron rebosado (stuffed shrimp, PHP280).

Hot foodie tip: They are probably the only panciteria that serves roast turkey (PHP3,500 for 5kg). If you want to try it, you need to tell them three to five days in advance.

Get here: 201 Escolta Street, Binondo, Manila; +63 2 2418782, +63 2 2421443. Daily 9am-12mn.

10. Sun Wah
Since 1955 

In order to open his own restaurant, Benjamin Leung first worked as a waiter at Panciteria Antigua and learn the ins and outs of managing a restaurant. When he was confident enough, he left Antigua to open Sun Wah on Florentino Torres Street. Since it was located near a number of publishing houses, his initial customers were news reporters. They helped spread the word about Sun Wah. In 1996 the restaurant caught fire. It was so serious that four of Sun Wah’s cooks sustained third degree burns. Even so, Mr. Leung made the decision to reopen within a month, lest people think that they had closed down permanently. In an attempt to keep away further misfortune, they renamed the restaurant Wah Sun. But tragedy struck again when Mr. Leung was fatally shot in front of his restaurant in 2000 in an attempted robbery. This led his daughter Kathy to succeed him as head of the restaurant. Among the changes she has initiated has been to expand the air-conditioned dining area on the second floor. As an added attraction, she has installed a mini-zoo on the second floor to show off her collection of exotic animals such as a monitor lizard and a Burmese python. She has also recently made a move to go back to the restaurant original name Sun Wah.

Must try: As with any panciteria, it still has all-time favorites such as pinsec frito (fried wonton skins, PHP188), isda sarsa blanca (fish in white sauce, PHP228), and pancit canton (PHP167). They also have dishes unique to them such as chuleta de gallinas (chicken fillet steak, PHP158) and torta con grejo (crab omelet, PHP268).

Hot foodie tip: Food writer Claude Tayag also noted that there are number of Cantonese dishes that have been indigenized but we have accepted as Chinese. Among them is the chow patzing (stir-fried vegetables and mushrooms with sea cucumber, PHP139), fried milk bihon (dry toasted bihon with milk sauce, PHP258) and pat mi ha (batter fried shrimp in spicy sauce, PHP478). Prices may be expensive, but Kathy insists on keeping it that way to maintain quality. She says customers will know it when the restaurant start cutting corners.

Get there: 747 Florentino Torres St, Sta Cruz, Manila; +63 2 7336718, +63 2 7341160. Daily 7:30am to 11pm.

11. Sincerity
Since 1956 

It was the dream of Uy Mo Koan and Uy Lim Bee to open a restaurant in Manila that specializes in cuisine from the city of Xiamen. They were able to open one with only PHP600 as capital. They chose a small location along Carvajal Street in Binondo and named their restaurant Sincerity. After a fire destroyed their first branch, they moved to their current location over at Nueva Street (now known as Yuchengco). They became known for their inexpensive but tasty Hokkien dishes such as oyster cake and ngo hiong (kikiam). They also became known for their daily selection of home-style dishes such as spinach stir fried with pork, fried hasa hasa and fried pork chop. In recent years, management has been taking steps to upgrade and streamline their operations. Like a few other panciterias, they have now begun opening branches in malls.

Must try: They are most famous for their fried chicken (PHP150 for a half order), but many also come here for their generously stuffed oyster omelet (PHP140). The late food writer Doreen Fernandez also sang praises for their kekiam (meat roll wrapped in leaf lard, PHP50/roll). She says it is set apart with its large bits of chopped pork and accompanied by pickled radish and a spicy sauce.

Hot foodie tip: She also enjoyed the duck misua which has fine noodle, chunks of tender duck meat and a xibut flavored broth.

Get here: 497 Yuchengco St, Binondo, Manila; +63 2 2419991, +63 2 2419992. Mon–Sat 9am-9pm, Sun 9am-2pm

12. Marquina aka Lam Dynasty
Since the 1950s 

This restaurant used to be located on Marquina Street in Binondo (which was how it got its name). It was unique for two reasons: First, the restaurant built its reputation on a dish created here in the Philippines instead of something brought over from China. It was the owner’s crab rice that drew people to his restaurant and eventually the joint developed a reputation for fine seafood. Second, the decor was unique. Instead of the typical red and gold Chinese restaurant interiors popular at that time, the owner stuck to a nautical theme, complete with wood paneling and brass lanterns. The restaurant was sold to another group in the mid-1960s and expanded to Makati. By the 1980s the original Marquina closed down. Four years ago, one of the sons of the original Marquina founder started a new restaurant called Lam Dynasty. He seems intent to introduce to a new generation his father’s original recipes.

Must try: The current owner admits that the dishes he is offering is a mix of Chinese Filipino dishes rather than authentic Chinese. That is certainly the case with dishes like salmon steak (PHP350), lechon kawali (PHP220) and crispy pata (PHP450). Try the original crab rice (PHP200) or crab meat lomi (PHP200) and crab meat soup (PHP200).

Hot foodie tip: There are also Lam’s special crab, crab sotanghon and crab steamed with ginger and onion (prices vary according to season). They also offer a wide array of seafood dish such as chili shrimp (PHP240), fish fillet ampalaya (PHP220) and sting ray fish tausi (PHP200).

Get here: M/L Pacific Center, 460 Quintin Paredes St, Binondo, Manila; +63 2 3537404. Daily 9am-9pm.

13. Shantung Restaurant
Since the 1958 

Shantung was started by Joseph Chang Men-Chi who, with his friend, fled Shandong, China, because of the Chinese revolution. Their first venture was a three-table eatery along Benavidez Street in Binondo. When business prospered, Shantung expanded to a bigger space on Echague (Carlos Palanca Street today) in Quiapo. Because of its proximity to Malacañang Palace,  a lot of famous political personalities were guests, among them President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos. After a fire hit the Quiapo branch, they moved to its current location along West Avenue in Quezon City.

Must try: Regulars swear by their signature fried crispy chicken (PHP200) and the dumplings (steamed, PHP130). They also offer their own take on panciteria classics such as pata tim (PHP490), beef ampalaya (PHP165) and pancit canton (PHP150).

Hot foodie tip: They offer a selection of dishes that are not available elsewhere, like shredded pork with bamboo shoots (PHP145), pork in pechay sauce (PHP145) and sea cucumber in brown sauce (PHP210).

Get here: 96 West Ave, Bgy Philam Homes, Quezon City; +63 2 9284409, +63 2 9261957. Daily 10am-2pm, 5pm-10pm.

14. Quik Snack
Since 1967

Originally from Cebu, Pilar Lim was already in her 60s when her son-in-law persuaded her to open a restaurant in Manila. Taking on the challenge she started by offering classic Tsinoy fares like fresh lumpia, oyster cake and kiampong. Married to an Indonesian, William Tijoe, she then started to add dishes like the Indonesian Tauhu. When she began introducing her own satay sauce to dishes such as fried noodles and stir-fried kangkong, people really began taking notice of this small eatery. By the 1980s, though, Mrs Lim began turning over the management of the restaurant to her grandson Edwin. She has also imparted to the kitchen staff many of her recipes including her satay sauce. Regulars swears that the food still taste as if she had prepared it herself.

Must try: Even if the name of the restaurant implies that Quik Snack might be a fast food, diners will be happy to know that everything is cooked to order here. Their bestseller is the fresh lumpia (PHP45). According to writer Chona Trinidad, the secret is the use of hoti or dried powdered seaweed to give an altogether different taste. Other classic Tsinoy fare that are popular here are the oyster cake (PHP180) and rellenong hipon (PHP80).

Hot foodie tip: Since Lim was a devout Buddhist, you can find a few vegetarian friendly dish such as vege lomi (PHP110). As for her satay sauce? You can find it in dishes like sate beef kangkong (PHP85) and sate mi guisado (PHP 135). To end your meal, you might want to try the iced coffee with coffee jelly (PHP85).

Get here: 637–639 Carvajal St, Binondo, Manila; +63 2 2429572, +63 2 2429589. Mon-Sat 9am-6:30pm.