The Lantern Festival


Today is the Lantern Festival day.

On every fifteenth of the first month of the lunar year, right after the Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, people usher in the first full moon of the New Year with a traditional Chinese holiday, the Lantern Festival. Eating Yuanxiao (元宵, glutinous rice balls), and enjoying lanterns and the lion dance are traditional activities that people won’t want to miss.

There is an old saying that the “food is the paramount necessity of the people”. When talking about the Lantern Festival, the tradition of eating Yuanxiao can’t be missed. Yuanxiao is a type of dessert made of glutinous rice with or without filling. It can be filled with black sesame, bean paste, sugar, hawthorn, and so on. There are various ways to make Yuanxiao, including boiling, sautéing, deep-frying, and steaming. In addition, glutinous rice balls are called Yuanxiao in the North, while in the South, they are called Tangyuan (汤圆). There are slight differences in making Yuanxiao and Tangyuan. YaoYuanXiaoIn Beijing, Yuanxiao is best characterized by its filling. People first prepare the dough with the filling and then put it in a machine. The machine gradually shapes the dough into a ball and it’s a little bit like making a snowball.


However, in the south, making Tangyuan is quite similar to making dumplings, because they are both molded and shaped by hand. Making good Tangyuan requires glutinous rice flour that is of high quality, because it is not easy to keep them fresh.

Besides eating, there is also playing of course. Popular traditional activities of the Lantern Festival include going to the fair, lighting lanterns, and guessing riddles. WushiThe fair is an open market held near a temple or in a park. There are traditional snacks to taste and various folk performances to enjoy. As the name suggests, lighting lanterns involves lighting and hanging various types of beautiful lanterns. Guessing riddles also originated from lighting lanterns. DengMiPeople write riddles on the lanterns and passersby can attempt to guess the answer. At the fair, the first person who successfully solves the riddle may receive a prize.

During the Lantern Festival, not only can you eat delicious Yuanxiao, but you can also enjoy the lion dances. The lion dance is a traditional Chinese dance. Dancers hide themselves in a lion costume, then roll up and down and move left and right to imitate a lion, which is very interesting to see.

This year the Lantern Festival meets Valentine’s Day on the 14th of February. It is said that in ancient times, the Lantern Festival played a similar role to “the Valentine” as well. In ancient times, young girls in China were usually not allowed to go outdoors, but the Lantern Festival was an exception. It was a great opportunity for single young people to meet each other.

Does the Lantern Festival sound more interesting now? Would you like to buy some Yuanxiao or Tangyuan in your local Chinese grocery stores?


(Attribute to the great course contents of


Year of the Horse

Horse is one of Chinese favorite animals. Horse provides people quick transportation before automobiles, so people can quickly reach their destinations. Horse even can help people to win the battle. Therefore Horse is a symbol of traveling, competition, and victory. That’s why Horse is connected to speedy success in China.

Horses like to compete with others. They pursue for their freedom, passion, and leadership. That implies that people will have busy schedule for their goals in the year of Horse. Horse hour of Chinese Horoscopes is from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. Sunshine generates lots of heat during the Horse hour. Therefore, horse is connected to heat, fire, and red. Horses like social activities, because horses like to show off themselves. Since horse is a social animal and red is also connected to love, therefore horse is treated as a Romantic Star in Chinese Horoscope.

It is believed that Year of the Horse will bring health and prosperity.

One of the most popular greetings for Year of the Horse is 马到成功, which means wishing you every success, be accomplished instantly, or carry out your mission quickly.

Today is the first day of Year of the Horse. I hope everyone has a prosperous and healthy New Year!



Happy Year of the Horse! 马到成功!


Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve, the last day of Year of the Snake. Happy New Year – Year of the Horse!

骏马做伴, 一马当先, 恭祝朋友们马年大吉大利!

The first day of the 2014 Chinese New Year is on January 31, 2014 in China’s time zone. This day is a new moon day, and is the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system.

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is known as “Spring Festival,” the literal translation of the Chinese name 春节 (Pinyin: Chūn Jié), since the spring season in Chinese calendar starts with lichun, the first solar term in a Chinese calendar year. It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western carnival. The festival begins on the first day of the first month (Chinese: 正月) in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. Chinese New Year’s Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chú Xī (除夕) or “Eve of the Passing Year.” Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the “Lunar New Year“.

A reunion dinner is held on New Year’s Eve where members of the family gather for the celebration. The venue will usually be in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year’s Eve dinner is very sumptuous and traditionally includes chicken and fish. In some areas, fish (Chinese: 鱼) is included, but not eaten completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase “may there be surpluses every year” (Chinese: 年年有余) sounds the same as “may there be fish every year.”

Dumplings (Chinese: 饺子), eaten traditionally in northern China because the preparation is similar to packaging luck inside the dumpling.

Sticky Rice Cake, Niangao or Chinese New Year cake (Chinese: 年糕), most popular in eastern China because its pronunciation is a homophone for “a more prosperous year (年高 lit year high)”.Image

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian (Chinese: 年). Nian would come on the first day of New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nian became Hongjun Laozu’s mount.


This picture brings back a lot of memory from many years ago. It’s how exactly we placed 饺子 (dumplings) on 盖帘 (a disk-shaped apparatus made of stalks of broomcorn which is used to hold food or cover a vat or a basin).

What Do You Love About Writing Code?

Dr. Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College, sharing her viewpoint:

“I love abstract problems, but I also love working on problems that might change people’s lives. I think computer science technology is one of the most inter-disciplinary fields there is. It’s a way of parsing the universe around you, and it’s a way of actually contributing to creating new things in the universe.

One of the things I hate about the current state of things is people think of technology as something you use, but not something you create. And one of the things we’ve convinced our students at Mudd is: If you want to make a difference in the world, and if you want to be creative, and you want to solve puzzles, what could be better than computer science?”

Data-driven Design through A/B Testing

A/B testing is a simple way to test changes to a webpage against the current design and determine which ones produce positive results. Often, seemingly small tweaks to a product yield hugely different outcomes. Ask the Obama campaign, who received more than six times more donations by varying email subjects — and the office pool guessed wrong! When intuition falters, A/B testing allows you to try different variants and measure users’ responses. It takes the guesswork out of website optimization and enables data-backed decisions that shift business conversations from “we think” to “we know”.

During Data-driven Design through A/B Testing panel session, the panelists discussed the design of both basic and sophisticated A/B testing frameworks and their experiences on running the tests.

There are popular A/B testing tools, such as Google Analytics Content Experiments, which is a free tool and can test up to five full versions of a single page, each delivered to visitors from a separate URL. You can compare how different web pages perform using a random sample of your visitors.

Andrea Burbank from Pinterest talked about their customized A/B experimentation framework, which includes the ability assigning users to different experiences. The post-hoc analysis is performed segmentally. Jen Dolson from Facebook talked about using Google Analytics and her experiences on measuring the impact of UI, data, and search ranking changes on user engagement. Leslie Nguyen from Box talked about her experience implementing A/B tests on mobile apps, an area new to the A/B testing space due to the lengthy approval process and difficulty of real-time updates. Mona Gandh from AirBnB talked about designing and implementing frameworks that enable rapid testing and iteration of marketing messages, landing pages & conversion funnels. She also talked about building tracking and reporting infrastructure to measure the effectiveness of these A/B tests.

Things need to bear in mind when doing A/B testing

  • The smaller the change is, the more data is needed to be sure that the conclusion is statistically significant
  • Sample size should be set beforehand, and commit to not stop the test until the sample size has been exceeded
  • A better confidence metric to use is the G-test

 A/B testing requires some knowledge to perform properly.

PhD Forum on Mobile Experiences

As mobile touch screen devices become increasingly ubiquitous, they are also becoming more accessible to people with visual impairments. Both Apple and Google have developed screen readers that are pre-installed on their devices, but Apple’s iPhone seems to be the most popular touch screen phone among blind people. The downfall with an iPhone with VoiceOver is that it is very slow, as the user averages about 1.5 words per minute typing this way. Washington University CS Ph.D. candidate Shiri Azenkot developed Perkinput, a nonvisual text entry method that uses the 6-bit Braille character encoding.

Perkinput is aimed to enable blind people to use mainstream mobile devices as efficiently and effectively as sighted people. It is based on Perkins Brailer, a mechanical device that uses 3×2 keys to represent each alphabet character and allows users simultaneously press the keys to enter a character. Perkinput allows the user tapping out braille characters using one tap with two hands on a larger screen such as a tablet mobile screen or two taps per character on a mobile phone.


Figure 1 Perkins Brailler and Perkinput. Braille encoding for ‘r’ is the binary string “111010”.

Shiri had participants use VoiceOver, which is what is currently used with smart phones, as well as Perkinput to compare the typing speed. Her results showed that not only did participants immediately enter more words a minute using Perkinput initially, but after multiple trials saw more improvement. The error rate was also lower using Perkinput. Here is a live demo:

InTRApreneurship: How Your Entrepreneurial Spirit Thrives in Corporate America

Here are some notes from Cheryl Porro (

Her company started Opportunity Open Market Program in which employees could move to a different team rather than to another company.

Three times a year, they had a major release; at that time, they held a job fair, providing an opportunity to move to another team at each release.

There was a group of engineers in disparate groups who were interested in pursuing an idea that was not a high priority for the company – less attention-getting. But they were interested in the technology and formed that team & worked on it for three months. At the time, there was an idea that was expected to be the attention-getter and everyone had planned to be the “big announcement” at the Company release; however, in the end, it did not meet the expectations.

But the team that had taken on the lower-priority idea did complete it in the 3 months and it became the focus of innovation at the major presentation.

By making room for a little bit of disruptions this Team had achieved the Dream-force announcement in 3 months.

All due to grassroots participation & energy!

Click here to read more GHC notes on InTRApreneurship.