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Hard and soft bacon

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Last week at the 14th RAISE Forum meeting in Bangkok, the hotel served breakfast every morning. Among the wonderful selection of western and eastern dishes were two choices of bacon, crispy (hard), or soft, arranged in a specially shaped Yin-Yang Taoist design plate (see picture below). As shown in the picture below, the crispy bacon looks hard and slightly burnt, whereas the soft bacon looks tender and seems delicious. Most hotels serve crispy bacon but not the soft ones as part of the breakfast buffet menu. I took two slices of each, which perhaps nullified the five kilometer run I just had early that morning. I have not taken soft bacon for quite some time now so I went for it first, thinking that it would be more delicious and an easy start, since it must be soft and tender. On first bite, I then realized that it was actually neither tender nor soft. It’s texture was rather rubbery, and kind of hard to chew. Strange. It was a bit more salty than I liked as well. Not a good experience after all. On the other hand, the crispy bacon was neither hard nor tough to eat. A soft bite and it cracked in the mouth, releasing the juiciness of the bacon, and the slight burnt was indeed fragrant. The verdict – crispy bacon was delicious.


At that moment, it reminded me of the notion of “hard” versus “soft” problems. Hard problems are such as those technical or engineering problems. They often seemed hard in the sense of difficult, or complicated, but normally can be solved if one put in the time, thinking, and efforts to work on them. On the other hand, soft problems are often not straight forward or as tender as they may sound like. Soft problems are problems relating to people, and group, the so-called “Human Activity Systems” (HAS). Every human being is different, and sees problems and challenges differently. Many personal and psychological factors could influence an individual’s decision, non-decision, action, non-action, and related behaviors, and often time a solution cannot be guaranteed. When people comes together forming groups, large or small, the problems become even “softer”, more complex to navigate, dissect and understand.

As I discussed in chapter 2 of “Responsive Security“, “information security risk management problems are considered ‘hard’ (difficult and complex) but are not ‘hard’ from a research perspective. Instead, information security risk management systems are essentially parts of human activities systems (HAS) and therefore classified as “soft” problems.” Just like the soft bacon, such problems are often harder to chew than the crispy ones, requiring more research efforts to understand the complexity and devise suitable solutions that address them. As the nature of our information environment are very much embedded and integrated with technology these days, we must also consider two other critical aspects of information risk that fall under the technical research paradigm: (a) the close relationship of information risks and information technology; and (b) the constantly changing nature of the technology, business systems, and environment. These two aspects, social-technical aspects in short, are but two of the many facets that we need to consider and address. For a more in-depth discussion on how we may approach this in the practice environment, and the issues and dilemmas that were surfaced as part of the research, check out chapter 3 of the book on “Responsive Security“.

Meanwhile, enjoy the good taste of the bacon, whichever you prefer 🙂


Written by mengchow

August 9, 2014 at 10:00 am

Local food, local foreign food, foreign food, foreign local food, foreign foreign food

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Dinning at a Vietnamese restaurant yesterday evening and it occurred to me that we (my family and I) actually didn’t try any Vietnamese food before while living in Singapore in the past few decades of our life. But now, living in Beijing, we have learnt to enjoy not just Vietnamese foods, but also foods from other countries as well.

Reflecting this, I rationalized that while in Singapore, we are well adapted to local foods, and our favorites are always easily available. Walk in to any food court, restaurant, or coffee shop, chances are we can find among the offers something that we like or used to. This eliminates the need for us to look for something else, except for special occasions, when we want to have something special (i.e., foreign).

In Beijing, and for the matter, any places that are non-Singapore or non-Malaysia, we are still foreign to the local foods in many ways. Even when we like the local foods, we don’t eat the same dishes everyday. At the same time, we don’t have the choices of Singaporean foods like in Singapore, even when we get to Singapore-style restaurants. This often makes us wonder into more foreign restaurants (for foreign foreign foods) than we used to while in our home country.

Living overseas, we therefore gain not just the food culture of where we live (outside of our home country), but also those of other cities around the world (where there are good foods to offer).

For the restaurant owners, perhaps this means that for those selling non-local cooking styles type of foods, it is always better to locate them nearer to the residential or office areas where there are more foreigners than the locals. Locals will always want local food, and also know where to find them (even if they are located farther away from where they live or work). Foreigners will get sick of the new local foods (i.e., foreign local foods) quickly, and would not mine trying new foreign foods (or foreign foreign foods), including foods from their home country, in order to have a change even without the special occasion to celebrate. This perhaps also explain why there are so many foreign foods restaurants around where we live and work in Beijing. This is not a new idea indeed.

Interestingly, the pattern of malware infections in China, as reported in the latest Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report (SIR), version 5, reflects something quite similar. The top 25 local malware and spyware were found to attack mostly local applications and web tools, like locals going for local restaurants, but not in the top 25 of the worldwide list; only one foreign malware (Win32/RJump Trojan) in the worldwide top 10 list, was popular in local context—like Coke being a more popular drink in China than many local drinks, but most of the other top drinks are occupied by the local brands.

Written by mengchow

November 28, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Food and drink

Ice bar

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I was in Tokyo week before last and two colleagues there brought me to this interesting watering hole located in the Roppongi area. It was not at the center of Roppongi, and took us quite a long walk to locate it, with the help of the local police. The bar was interesting. It was all tiled with heavy blocks of ices. The temperature was freezing cold, and each of us had to wear a thick pull-over type of winter clothing issued at the entrance to the bar before entering.

According to the bartender, the ice blocks were shipped directly from Torne River in Sweden. I’m not sure if that’s true, but the mention of it makes us felt that it is a place worth visiting. Such is the power of information (or maybe mis-information), using it to build the kind of perception that they need, so that more people will visit it, and feel reasonable paying the high cover charge (of Yen 3,000 per person) for such a small bar that you couldn’t stay for more than an hour. (They don’t have a rule on the latter though; but the place didn’t really have anything else, except ice blocks, to keep you there for long.)

The drinks there were also served on tiny block shaped glasses made of ice, which melt at the edges as you sip the drink itself. If you leave the liquid in the “glass” for a long time, it may perhaps frozen and become part of the ice block. This design was therefore interesting, and again help in their business. You’re therefore “encouraged” to finish your drink more quickly, and order more glasses (since the serving was also rather small in portion.)

The place was rather small, so it couldn’t house many people as well. If you are looking for a place to meet new friends, you can perhaps forget about it. This is more of a place for taking a look, have one or two drinks, and then move on. I would think more for tourist than anyone else. And if you have been there once, you would probably won’t go there again, unless you are bringing someone to have a look next time. So I had been there once, and if you like visiting it, check it out at Roppongi — ask the policeman there, they will know where it’s located. Have fun!

Written by mengchow

August 22, 2006 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Food and drink

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