2005 Archives

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at the airport, they confiscated my hex key (aka allen wrench). note to self: tools are not allowed on planes anymore.

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i've been meaning to write about interesting talks i've been to, specifically
- ingressive speech
- gene doubling, bird songs, and human language
- epidemics

but the last two weeks have been way too busy. i spent the entire weekend on tibetan homework (except for lunch for grandma's birthday).

relatively unimportantly, i discovered that someone named ashley is using my picture of Monkey in Hong Kong as their myspace background picture. maybe it should irk me that there's no credit given...

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while reading up on Tibetan, i came across a disturbing entry in the dictionary: 暫 (the book's in Chinese). Apparently, the pronuncation in China is zàn, but in Taiwan it's zhàn. Not too big of a deal, but it's one more thing to remember when looking things up in the dictionary, which is annoying.

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i've been cleaning up/packing, and i came across my old keychain. It's this round rectangle of white plastic that used to have an hp logo on it (i think), but i haven't used it for years. at least five, i'd imagine. now it seems to have this layer of plastic "sweat". i'm not sure exactly what it is, though, but i wonder.

not everyone thinks this way, though. some people would just be like, gross, and throw it away. I remember senior year of college, i noticed that my bike seat would collect a layer of dew at night. The peculiar thing is, the water would collect only on the upward facing surface, not on the sides or bottoms. I imagine this has to do with gravity, and water droplets condensing then falling straight down, but maybe it has to do with heat radiating at certain angles and the sky and stuff. Anyway, I started hypothesizing while talking to Chester in his room, and he got all impatient and was all, Why do you care? I was shocked--why _wouldn't_ anyone care?

I guess that was my rude awakening to the non-scientific mind.

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Yesterday i had to do a drive by oatmeal run with my dad, so here i was with the carton at the checkout lines, and i see these self-checkout stations. I'm like, self-checkout is a novelty even at the _library_, and here's Albertsons all nonchalant going blah, bag your own groceries. I think, no way I have time for this, so I walk to the lines. The lines! Three counters open, each with like 7 people with 20 items each. Defeated, I ran back to the self checkout, which actually worked quite well. I think I'm converted now. Who needs checkout clerks?

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Here's a fun pillow problem:

Given

a/b = c/d

Prove or disprove

(a+c)/(b+d) is equal to the above two ratios.

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I just finished my Chinese translation of the Phoenix Slides help file. It bothered me that there's a German one now, but no Chinese, so I just sat down and did it. Of course, I started yesterday, and I've deleted large swath of the original English without translating, but the important parts are there. It's good practice, just the writing, and also the typing in Cangjie.

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wow... i finally watched Fahrenheit 9/11 (dvd from the library). i am both angry and sad at the same time. anger at certain people, sadness for the dead and wounded, and frustration that the people with the power and the money can lie and cheat and kill their way to get, what, more power and money? and what can be done about it? i wonder, is the world--will the world always be like this? in spite of our medical, dental, technological advances, are we really no better than we were five thousand years ago?

i can think of several methods to approach this question: one is the cycle. perhaps history is an endless cycle of bloodshed and then relative quietude. this would fall under the world-is-always-the-same theory. or maybe we should look at it quantitatively. maybe the percentage of people being brutally murdered has varied over time and has decreased over the past several millenia. that would be an encouraging sign. or perhaps we shouldn't be so negative, and we should look at all the good things that people do.

meanwhile i'll just muddle along best i can.

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So my sister got married yesterday. I got all choked up when she was walking down the aisle, but I fixed that in time to do the second reading. Love is patient, love is kind, yadda yadda. And people only pointed out to me about a DOZEN TIMES that I was next and when are _you_ getting married, Dominic? I suppose I can forgive them for being clueless. I just watched this episode of CSI where this college kid has IM histories showing that he's in a serious sort of relationship with someone, and I just assumed it was some random chick (sorry Kathy), when it turns out it was a guy. Oh well, can't be on top of everything all the time.

Fr. John said he doesn't remember anyone ever using the house on rock gospel reading for a wedding. He gave a great homily, though. It reminds me of how good church can be, versus the mediocre-ness we get at holy name. Huh. I guess I'm a church elitist, too.

So the ceremony went really well, but the banquet had some problems. Lateness being the main thing. Note to self: it's best to assign lots of people to small, easily-managed tasks. If I knew better, I would have gotten someone specifically to distribute the chocolates (for example). There were too many things going on all at once to remember everything.

So dad's older sister is here for a couple days. I had hopes that maybe having his big sister here would shut him up, that he would listen to someone for a change. My hopes were shattered today. See, my dad believes there is only one correct way of looking at the world. There is no such thing as "discussion" in his world. The word exists, but it means talking until you decide you were wrong and agree with him, or not talking and listening to him tell you how wrong you were and how right he is, or some progression thereof.

The communists are evil in his mind. I do not deny that they are and/or were evil in real life, but in his mind they are unequivocally, legendarily evil. The exchange rate was 1,000 rmb to a dollar, one can assert. No, it was 10,000 to a dollar, he will insist--for half an hour. People were supposed to, and some did, receive their personal belongings back after the labor camps, one asserts. No, that is impossible, he will insist. And on and on.

It's easy to believe him when he's the only one talking. Surely he knows what he's talking about, he's lived it. But then you remember that he's equally insistent on things that you know are completely wrong. People were incarcerated on Angel Island for months, sometimes years. No, no, that is impossible, this is the United States, it couldn't have been more than a couple weeks. No, it's true, you insist. No! Who told you that? Leftists? You can't believe everything you hear, you know. Lies, they are lying. You tell him: it's historical fact! You can check the records. No! Wrong! Then you tell him nothing, because by then you've given up.

It happened with 姑媽, too. First day she gets here, he starts talking about his dead brother. He was stupid, he says. Not only was he stupid, he refused to listen and learn. I'm afraid my father's come to the same conclusion about my aunt, because she won't listen and learn from his One True Experience. I've been impressed by her performance, though. They've been yelling at, i mean with, each other on and off since lunchtime. Of course, she gets to leave on Wednesday.

I don't understand it. Is my father crazy? Will I have mental problems some day? Or is he just some kind of woman-hater? Or is it all simply the product of a traditional chinese education?

I can write about this here on the World Wide Web because these people will never ever read this blog, and even if they do, we're talking about events that happened 50+ years ago. Like my grandpa, who's dead, so naturally he can't refute anything that any of his chlidren say about him. My dad says that his dad's top priority was the welfare of his children--仁至義盡, as he put it. And the evidence for this? When he was in his second year of high school (高中), his father sent someone to him to urge him to skip school and go to Hong Kong. Similarly, he tried to arrange for my aunt to move off to the US. This meant that his father _knew_ about the forthcoming calamity that was to befall mainland china (the human-induced famine of the 60s) and tried to get his children out of harm's way. Whether or not his children listened to him was a different matter.

This, of course, tells me less about my grandfather (he was psychic?) than it does about what my father thinks about fatherhood. How much is he projecting from himself onto his own father? He's said to me on more than one occasion how hard he's tried to be a good father and make us do the Right Thing (things like owning our own businesses and investing money, but that's beside the point). I'm sure he actually believes he's tried with all his might and done all that he can to be a good father, but for me it falls short. It reminds me of when we read Story of the Stone in class and we talked about the traditional Confucian father (like Bao-yu's father), distant and strict and somehow vaguely in charge of the child's moral uprightness. Is that all it takes to be a model father? Give lots of lectures and then when they're grown up complain about how you bust your ass for a bunch of ungrateful little--

What really gets me is how his logic and arguments never apply to himself. A year or two ago, he came up with a new argument (which he probably read in the newspaper somewhere): one of the most harmful ideas in history is that of nationalism, or love of country. The Communists used it to destroy China, etc. But he seems completely oblivious to that _exact_ _same_ _thing_ happening in our own country. After the 9/11 attack, he stuck a (cheap) US flag out the window of his car. There's still a flag stuck into the alarm box on the front side of the house. Or he always complains about how people always go off on tangents during "discussions" with him, and then he'll spend five minutes telling you why you shouldn't compare apples and oranges and why such comparison is bad, illustrating by picking up actual examples of said fruits or other conveniently placed round objects and explaining in great detail that what you just did was take an apple (shows you his right hand) and compare it to an orange (shows you his left hand), which is certainly not something you should do.

So anyway, my point is... Not even my aunt can talk sense into him, which leads me to conclude that no one can. OK, I'm done now.

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I don't post often enough, but now I'm wired from all the tea I drank today.

The tea was a gift from David W., a type of Oolong (黃金桂). I've probably kept it longer than a tea purist says you should, but everyone liked it. Last time we had 普洱, which supposedly goes better with Cantonese food.

I forgot wish Chris happy birthday. I will send an email now.

Programming is kind of addictive, as Eugene says. And I keep going even though I know I'm injuring my arms more. Thank goodness for AntiRSI though (mac program).

We should donate for free software we use.

I sprained my wrist when I fell off my skateboard last week. This time I was going at like 1mph, just lost my balance. It's healed fast, though. Maybe it's the taichi. Christian was like, how old are you? the first time. But dude, it's fun. Everyone should skate. Having a skateboard makes living out in the Sunset less annoying. Before, it was just a huge isolated grid of streets removed from the interesting parts of town. Now I realize it's a huge isolated grid of smooth concrete at all the right gradients and low traffic.

I don't do the taichi often enough. I just realized it takes like 15 minutes a day, so I just need to get my ass moving.

My sister's getting married soon, and I've been assigned to do the program, among other things.

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After months of secret hard work, I've finally released version 1.0 of Phoenix Slides, a fast full-screen slideshow program/image browser. If you're on a mac (10.3+) try it out in all its multithreaded goodness. i've made the source code available too, since that's the nice thing to do.

http://blyt.net/

the icon kinda sucks (the fire is the best part), but i like my logo.

versiontracker says it's got 175 downloads already and has two positive feedbacks. Someone even sent me a nice email thanking me for the program. And it's been linked to on a Japanese site (mac.egoism.jp) and applelinks.com.

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large banner posted at Montgomery BART:

UP WITH FREEDOM!

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The guy who made my longboard actually lives in the Sunset, and I accidentally passed by his house last Friday just as he was going out to get a burger. Here I was, rolling by, and this guy comes out of the house tugging a bicycle along. He says hi, I say hi. Nice skateboard, he says. Thanks, I say. That's my skateboard, he says, I made it. And I'm like, cool, I was wondering if I'd ever run into you randomly.

Here's his web site:

http://www.greenbrew.com/

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Oh look, I haven't posted since January. I guess I was busy with work and stuff.

As far as work goes, I was fired from my CAR (Customer Assistance Rep.) at Blue and Gold Fleet on Feb 25. They didn't really give me a good reason, either. "The company doesn't think you're a fit." "You're not really part of the team." Then again, they didn't need a reason to fire me, since I was still on permittee status. Oh well. And I just got my 90-shift raise, too.

I was annoyed that they fired me so abruptly, but I'm rather glad to be rid of that horrible company. I will say this for the record, Blue and Gold Fleet is a horrible company. It's large and unfriendly and filled with clueless people. I'm also glad I got to leave before they changed the job title to GAR (Guest Assistance), which, apparently, is how they do things at Disneyland.

The next day, I bought a skateboard. Actually, a longboard. I've been preoccupied with it ever since. I can go straight now, but I'm still trying to get the hang of turning.

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i used to think javascript was kind of evil, but gmail's converted me. you can actually do a lot of cool stuff with it (much of it, incidentally, having to do with {display:none} in your stylesheet). anyway, so i got the idea that i could javascriptize the roots database, where clicking on some checkboxes would magically cause the pinyin to appear or disappear next to the chinese. simple enough, but i've spent about a week on it now, since it's more complicated than it looks:

first, i had to figure out that checkboxes trigger scripts through the onclick handler (not onchange). that's the correct way (and the way Safari does it).

but the main problem was changing the stylesheet on the fly, which apparently is hard to do. most people just sprinkle ID tags on their html objects, and change their styles kind of brute force. but i found out that was slow. it turns out the only way to do this is to reference the style rules by number, backwards.

http://www.quirksmode.org/dom/changess.html

quirksmode is a great site, by the way.

then, i thought i was done, when i realized that the popup menu had pinyin in it which needed to be shown/hidden too. so i tried setting the menu's options[n].text, but the html entities weren't being converted. as it turns out, you need to stick in the octal or unicode values into the javascript string to get it to show up properly.

all i can say is, thank gosh for google.

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last night i went to a showing of this movie called The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream. It's this documentary about how we're running out of oil and natural gas, and pretty soon supply won't be able to keep up with demand, which means an end to the modern system of sprawl, where we live far away from where we work, every trip requires a car, and everything we use and even the food we eat comes from thousands of miles away. they cited some pretty shocking facts, like: every calorie of food we eat requires 10 calories of energy to produce, and that's not including the energy needed to transport the food to its destination.

http://www.endofsuburbia.com/

the phenomenon is called "peak oil", because oil won't actually run out completely; instead, oil production follows a sort of bell curve with time, so it'll increase, then peak or plateau, and then go down after that. so 200 years from now, it'll still be possible to extract oil from the ground, but it'll take a lot more effort for a lot less oil. then the question is when the peak will happen. U.S. production of oil peaked in the early 70s. Worldwide, the peak should be happening, oh, about now. Say, 2010 or 2020. of course, we won't really know until after it happens.

essentially, there won't be enough energy to go around to satisfy our consumption. no amount of solar or wind will make up for what we fall short on in oil. so we'll be forced to live in walkable communities, buy things that aren't made on the other side of the globe, etc. but before that happens, people might get violent. most people don't even know this is happening. when gas prices go sky high, and people don't realize that this is a permanent state of affairs, they'll look for things to blame. "people will elect maniacs," the documentary says, who will sell them the quick fix, rather than long-term solutions.

i think of the war in iraq and condi rice getting voted in as the secretary of state. condoleezza's not stupid. i remember reading the transcript of her argument with barbara boxer. she said that possible WMD's were just one of the reasons we went to war in Iraq. The U.S. went to war in Iraq to protect our interests in that region, she said. Our entire way of life is based on having access to cheap energy, and lots of it. The Persian Gulf is the last major source of that. Plain and simple. It's kind of disturbing to think about, but it makes so much sense.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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