February 2004 Archives

Headlines for today


It's still raining here in the Bay Area, although the rain has been punctuated with brief moments of sunshine. I clicked a photo of a rainbow as I was making my way across the 85-101 interchange this morning. I may post it up later when I get the chance.

Aquaculture uses more fish than it produces

Woman dies during screening of the Passion of the Christ

SF Chronicle's story on yesterday's flood.

Elmore Leonard on writing

Fish on Prozac

Homebrewed Animation


, an animated short utilizing the Quake III game engine and using the Machinimation toolset. It was showcased at the Machinima Film Festival 2003.

At 55 MBs, it's a hefty download for anyone without high-speed internet, but it's a good sampling of what could be done without expensive hardware and software.

Rainy Day Events


On the way to get my haircut this afternoon, I saw the recent aftermath of a car accident.

The officers were just arriving on scene to divert traffic. The slickness of the road probably contributed, although it was not raining at the time (nor had it been raining for several hours). One SUV had spun out and crashed into the road divider, while pieces of the colliding SUV was scattered across 3 lanes of traffic. While on a highway this would not be a rare occurance, it was on a residential surface street.

After the haircut as I was driving back to work, I saw a police pull over a Mercedes for speeding along Marine Parkway. The cops have been surveiling that stretch of road for a few weeks now -- this makes the 4th or 5th citation in the last couple of weeks.

Melts in your mouth, not in Iraq

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Another Storm


We're in the middle of a storm in the Bay Area -- complete with heavy rain, and gusty winds. It's supposed to last until the end of the week. It's one of the worst ones ever, San Francisco is flooded in some major intersections, and there's some with over 2 feet of standing water. Some streets are now rivers. One of my co-workers retold the tale how he and his carpool mate decided to try and forge one of these urban waterways, and how their car, in the middle, choked and went dead, and how they floated through the remainder of the intersection, stalled until the engine miraculously came back to life.

The Passion of the Christ


Last night, I went with Betina and Hans to see a sneak preview of The Passion of the Christ. The cinematography is excellent. The acting is top-notch, the costumes are realistic. However, the movie is very graphically violent. Some familiarity with the parables is required, and all the dialogue is in Aramaic or Latin with subtitles. The film is entirely self-funded by Mel Gibson, who went with an independent distributor.

Yet despite all the great qualities of the film, I would not recommend it. Perhaps if you're already a believer in Christ, you'll gain a greater understanding of what it means to suffer, and the wrongs done to him. But for everyone else, it's a painful movie to watch, not for the film itself, but rather for the fact that I felt like I was getting beat over the head with "Can you see? This is Jesus, suffering for you." Then they'd cut to a parable before Jesus' capture, only to return back to the beating of Jesus with more "Look at Jesus suffer at the hands of the Jews and the Romans!" The violent scenes go on too long -- not only do they show it from different angles, in slow-mo, in closeups, from a distance, it just shows how cruel and evil human beings can be toward their fellow man. I know that certain scenes are supposed to manipulate and ellicit a certain response from the audience. The movie is a blood and gore fest... and that's about it. For those who want to see the movie, wait until DVD, when you can fast-forward through the violence, and you'll be left with about 30 minutes of footage.

I can see churches using showings of this movie as a conversion tool, and an effective one it could be. However, one must keep in mind that the movie is simply just that, a movie -- it is a man's vision of the stories told in the Bible which is another man's retelling of events which may or may not have happened 40 years later. There's no physical evidence or archaeological proof that such a person ever existed or did the things that are claimed in the Bible, which is where they ask you to believe and have faith in Christ.

People have commented before on my self-assurance in life -- that I seem to know where I am going or what I am doing, but the answer to that does not come from looking to a saviour from outside, or from reading the Bible, or from an external source. It comes from within, from the heart. It comes from making mistakes, and not making the same mistakes again. It comes from accepting the world as it is, and making the decisions one must make to make life worth living.

A more historical view on the film

The marketing of the Passion

One of the things that Buddhism teaches is that one needs to protect oneself from poisons entering the body -- this refers to not just being careful of what one eats, but also in what we are exposed to.

Save yourself from being exposed to poison. Don't see this movie.

Earth 2.0?

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Preserving the Mother Tongue


German Language Experts bemoan the rise of Denglish

Despite the reputation of Germany being able to understand English, only about 10 percent of the population speak and understand English really well. Most of them don't understand the English one-liner slogans that advertising is fond of.

In this article, they also say that Mitsubishi's slogan "Driving Alive" is often mistranslated as "survive the drive in our car".

Their movement calls to try and preserve German from being free of English catchphrases and vocabulary, and sticking to the German translation of the words.

I feel it is impossible to stop the external encroachment of words, or phrases or ideas of other countries from filtering in and changing the native language. We can see in other languages today the absorption of foreign words into native tongue. Japanese, for instance, uses a secondary set of characters to denote foreign origin: Car is kuruma. Chinese uses a phonetic partiality of the foreign word: English (the language) becomes Yingyu (Ying is the phonetic, yu meaning speech). These languages manage to keep their identity by making it known which words are foreign.

A language dies out every couple of weeks, mainly because a regional language has been replaced by a global language. As children grow up, they find little utility or practice using their regional languages, and within a few generations it is gone forever as the elders pass away.

Breaking into the Market


Gamespot just did an article on MMOGs in China, which many percieve as the next big market for U.S. manufactured entertainment goods. The problem comes, as IDC senior analyst Jun-Fwu Chin says:

"For an American-based or English-language-based game to successfully enter the market, the criteria is not based in language, it is based on content. Chinese gamers want something close to their culture."

This statement, I find a bit humourous... not because I don't believe there is a cultural divide between North America and Asia (which there most certainly is), but because he believes that he knows what gamers want and that the gamers themselves know what they want.

When people have choices in the games they are allowed to play, (rather than games being approved through cultural ministries), I think we will find that at the core, North American and Asian gamers want one thing from their games: fun. This is irregardless of any factor, historical or cultural -- last year, when EA's Medal of Honor: Rising Sun came out in Japan, many thought the game which featured the re-enactment of the WWII conflict would sink the game in Japan. Japanese players wouldn't want to play an American soldier killing Japanese soldiers... but to the surprise of the media, the game did extrodinarily well. In this case, the subject matter did not make a difference, simply having great gameplay made it a success.

Arnold wants to be President


This morning at brunch, the topic of discussion was California politics. Someone joked that the Republican's next big push would probably be a bill that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, and made naturalized citizens from Austria eligible for Presidency. I will no longer joke about politics like that again, because it has a way of becoming frighteningly real -- their push is for foreign-born naturalized citizens to seek presidency.

If this isn't the lie of the year, I don't know what is:

Schwarzenegger said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he has been too busy with California's problems to contemplate a future run for the White House. "I have no idea, I haven't thought about that at all," he said.

No word on the definition of marriage thing yet.

Gunpowder Use #456789: Gameboy becomes Gamebomb

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Student arrested for bringing Gameboy Bomb to school

I find this story scary on a couple of counts: First of all, that it's a junior high student who did this -- shouldn't he be out playing with his friends instead of hollowing out a (probably perfectly good) Gameboy and filling it with gunpowder? Secondly, how does a junior high student get access to enough gunpowder to fill a Gameboy?

I think this story also has the potential of growing into an urban legend -- sort of like the teenager who built a nuclear bomb.

25 Steps to being an Author


I was looking at the Learn Writing with Uncle Jim message forum on ezboard, when I ran across this humorous post made by him:

There are twenty-five simple steps to becoming a published author.

Here are the steps:

1. Black ink on white paper.

2. Place your name and address in the top left-hand corner of the first page.

3. Place the title and byline, centered, half-way down the first page.

4. Put a running head (your name, the title, and a page number) in the top right hand corner of every page.

5. Your pages should have one-inch margins.

6. Doublespace your text.

7. Use Courier 10 or Courier 12 only.

8. Type on one side of the paper only.

9. Continue until you reach "The End."

10. Rewrite.

11. Rewrite.

12.....21. Revise

22. Obtain the guidelines for a market that accepts material similar to what you have finished.

23. Follow the guidelines scrupulously when you submit your material.

24. While you are waiting for your rejection slip, start again back at step 1 for your next work.

25. When the rejection slip arrives, send the manuscript to the next market on your list, that same day.

Watt-Evans' Law: There is no idea so brilliant that a sufficiently ham-handed writer can't make an unreadable story out of it.

Feist's Corollary to Watt-Evans' Law: There is no idea so stupid that a sufficiently talented writer can't make a readable story out of it.

Yog's Law: Money flows toward the writer

Bad Traffic


Bottlenecks choking U.S. Roadways

There's an interactive map which lists the 24 worst spots.
Five spots in LA are listed (4 of which are in the top 10), and one in the Bay Area (101 to 880). I know whenever I drive down to LA, most of the time spent on the 405 is pretty much stop and go the entire way. The 880 here is bad, but 405 is almost 5 times worse (in terms of time wasted).

I commute about 35 miles each way, which takes me about 40 minutes if there's traffic... that same stretch in L.A. would take about 2 hours, if not more.

Site Redesign soon, maybe


The MovableType template-ness of these pages are starting to irritate me, so expect that I may tweak a few bits and pieces of the design over the next coming days/weeks/months/years.

President's Day


It's a cold rainy day here in the Bay Area. I'm one of those poor unfortunate souls who has to work today. I also had to go to class this morning. My body is hating me right now, and it wants to sleep.

I've been thinking about non-centric thought processes as of late, about how cultural bias affects our viewpoints and the choices we make, and the outcomes we recieve.

A friend of mine last week expressed amazement that ancient astromers in Mayan times were able to create an accurate calendar, using their knowledge of the stars and asked why the Europeans at the time were not as advanced in those sciences at the time. The answer I gave him was that they had been culturally indoctrinated to believe that the earth was the center of the universe, and everything in the universe revolved around them. While it's not the only factor -- I'm sure being burned at the stake as a heretic for claiming otherwise probably had something to do with it too -- I think that time in history was really a dark period, in which their closedmindedness really worked against them. However, it is now several hundred years later, and singular viewpoints still exist .

I think that many Americans are ignorant of the world outside their cultural bubble. I remember going to Japan with three of my friends two years ago. I learned Japanese in high school, and I, amazingly enough, still managed to retain enough to be able to read signs and menus and so forth. Of my three friends, only one of them (Lin) knew Japanese, which made the two of us translators. For me, part of the joy of travelling is experience the culture and the food. I like visiting traditional stuff, as well as going to places that are different that what I'm used to. Lin and I had no problems adjusting to life in Tokyo, but one of our two travelling companions, for most of the trip, refused to eat Japanese food. In general, the trip wasn't bad, and it opened my eyes in more ways than one. Personally, I think Mr. I-won't-eat-Japanese-food really missed out on the best food that Japan had to offer. I never made it to the Tokyo Fish Market -- where you can eat the sushi early from the morning haul right on the docks. There's always next time.

Cat told me a similar story today about Bill Gates -- when he went to Taiwan, Bill Gates refused to eat anything but McDonald's. Think about it -- one of the richest men in the world, in a country where he can have the best food prepared by the best chefs in the country... and the man only ate McDonald's the entire trip there.

Valentine's Day

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Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!

Of Chocolate and Books

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After work today, I made a quick stop at the bookstore. I know, I know... they're the bane of my wallet -- I cannot stop inside and not end up buying at least one book. As soon as I stepped in, the warm scent of chocolate filled my nostrils.

I ended up picking up a book on Chinese poetry. The really cool thing about it is that it prints the poem in Chinese characters, then has a character by character translation of the poem, as well as a english translation. I love bilingual books. Even though my reading and writing skills in Chinese are still at a beginner's level, I hold out the hope that given enough time, and enough practice, I'll be able to read this book. Even though I only had 2 years of formal education in Japanese, I still find myself able to read hiragana and katakana. My Kanji (Chinese characters) is limited mostly to those that I learned during high school and used often -- such as iki, nan, ji, gatsu.

Recently, alot of my friends have been talking about being a quirkyalone. I remember reading about quirkyalones a few months ago and wondered whether I was one or not. They even have a quiz on their site.

Friday the Thirteenth

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I heard the buzzing of the alarm. I forced my eyes open, only to see red tinted sunlight coming through the windows... a blood red dawn to this day. Odd, I thought. I don't usually see anything but pale sunlight at this hour. The moon was oddly shaped last night, as if someone had decided to cleave it in half diagonally.

As I look outside right now, the gray skies, and the trees blown about tell me that we're due for some rain.

I don't really believe in being superstitious about Friday the Thirteenth, but...

Today, I have already:

  • Gone to sleep at 3am, only to wake at 630am.
  • Scratched my car by being careless.
  • Stood in line for 30 minutes to register for my class.
  • Recieved a parking ticket (Parking Ticket was given out only a few minutes before I had returned to my car).
  • Arrived late to work.
  • Worked through lunch.
  • Left my laptop on at home.

On the plus side of things... found out today that
Jet Li will be in SF promoting his new video game. I love Jet Li's movies, and he's my hero (forgive me for the horrible pun), but I hate video game promo events... and video game promo events with signings are especially bad... even moreso at the Metreon.

Speaking of Hero, I was in my co-worker's office yesterday and saw the DVD case on his desk... I never get tired of that movie. He bought it off Ebay for 5 bucks. In hindsight, I probably should have looked for it when I went to the city last week for the New Year's Parade. Ah well.

Amanda posted a recipe for
Mayan Hot Chocolate today, and I'm really tempted to make some. The weather looks questionable, and there's nothing quite like having a cup of hot chocolate while reading a good book during a cold or rainy night.



When people are happy and contented, they often take life for granted. It is only when life gets difficult, when they begin to suffer, do they look for an answer to their pain. Action and reaction, this is how the universe is... because our actions sets events into motion, one needs to learn to make a concious effort to give thought to actions, and not just simply react or act upon whim or desire. Smile, and the world smiles back...

I might be a quiet person, but I'm also generally happy (unless you get me started on politics, and then my truly bitter cynical side comes out) . I'm something of a hopeless romantic when it comes to love. I like doing all the things for a girl a good boyfriend does -- listening to her problems, sending her flowers, remembering anniversaries and birthdays, helping her out, sending little notes or phone calls to remind her how much I genuinely care about her. But a relationship is more than just holding hands or kissing, or doing any of the actions I mentioned -- it's about making that connection between two people who can relate to each other and be able to have meaningful conversations. It's about caring for the other person's happiness. It's about discovering their personality and finding qualities in them that you find endearing and special.

I guess the thing is, if you already know what's important to you... then you know what to look for, and you can recognize it when you see it.

University Rankings

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My friend Cat posted about a recent ranking of Universities worldwide. UC Berkeley is ranked number 4 in the world. I looked at their ranking criteria... and guess what... 80% of the criteria is based on researchers and their research.

All this ranking means to me then, is that UC Berkeley is a great research institution. It tells me nothing about the University other than they have a faculty that is very much concentrated on research. In my experience, these researchers don't often make the best professors. Some of these professors are so brilliant in their field of expertise that just trying to keep up with their thought process is next to impossible, and their exam questions involve making intuitive leaps to solve.

As much as the research ability of universities are touted, that's not the reason most students attend university -- they go there to learn, and that message is all too often lost amidst finding out who they really are, in between the parties, the raves, the part-time jobs, joining a frat or a sorority, the never-ending soap opera of dormitory life... It's only a small amount of students that participate in research at any university, so for most of the student body, these rankings hold little signifigance in their life.

Berkeley again... but not.


I think this might be a new record number of posts from me in a single day. I'm going to make this post and then start on my homework.

I went to an information seminar for UC Berkeley Haas Business School today. It was held in the only hotel in Foster City. It's pretty interesting though, I had no idea that Haas was entirely self funded without any state support. Tuition is amazingly high, but they do provide a lot of student support services -- they even include the costs of books and materials in the tuition, so you go to class, and they give you the books. They have a shuttle from the Peninsula over to Berkeley too.

On a stranger note, i got invited to two raves in the past two days...

I have some more thoughts I wanted to share, but ... I really need to get started on my homework. Perhaps more later.

Seven Samurai 20XX


I'm not sure Kurosawa would approve: First I read a Gamespot Article and then went to the Official Site.

A long time ago

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in a galaxy fairly close by, a group of fans waited for a particular set of DVDs. After almost a seven year wait, Star Wars will be on DVD. It won't be the original cut, but rather the digitally-enhanced special edition. I have no problem with that, since I have the original cut on LaserDisc. (Well, I shouldn't say original cut, because the real Star Wars geeks have determined that it's only VHS tapes before 1980 are original cuts -- since the original cut didn't have the "Episode IV: A New Hope" as part of the opening screen crawl. I've only ever watched the Special Edition once, but I've seen the films probably dozens of times now, but I guess I've grown up a little... maybe doing critical analysis of the all the films and their story structures has killed the magic of Star Wars for me. In Gr. 10, I wrote a paper for my English class finding parallels between the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and how it related to conflict and the ideas of good and evil. (for example: both Luke and Frodo are reluctant heros, they both have a mentor figure who makes a sacrifice so they can escape, they are both tempted by evil -- Luke through the dark side, Frodo through the Ring, etc). After watching LOTR on the screen, I couldn't help myself imagining the cast of Star Wars in LOTR or vice versa.

Of course, once you can see certain patterns, you can further apply it to other western-influenced movies... this is probably why I enjoy watching foriegn and independent films, because they aren't always restrained by the same rules of plot... or at least the method for storytelling is different enough that I can't predict things as much as I can with a Hollywood film.



I got my California Vehicle License Fee refund check today. Basically, in order to make up for the monies lost during the California Energy Crisis, the previous governor Gray Davis decided to triple the Vehicle License Fee. Before the tripling of the tax, all the monies generated by the California VLF went to the cities and counties. The VLF is approximately 0.65 percent of a car's value, meaning if you have a new car, you probably pay much more than an older car. Gray Davis raised it to 2 percent, more than triple that value. The reason I felt this was wrong is because you were essentially taxing those with the newest cars -- and newer cars tend to be cleaner on the environment. Having this go into effect basically rewarded people who drive older, polluting fuel inefficient cars so I'm really thankful for the rescinding of this fee. It's not the money it's the principle.

SF Chinese New Year Festival


I just returned from San Francisco, where I watched the Chinese New Year Parade. While the theme of the parade is still very much centered on Chinese traditions, in some ways it felt like more of a city parade due to the number of politicians and political figures riding about. At one point of the parade, someone in the crowd rudely shouted out "Politicians suck! What do we need you for? Why don't you get a real job?". Culturally the parade wasn't limited to just Chinese organizations, but all groups within the community -- there was a group of Indian Dancers (It felt like that dance scene from Bend It Like Beckham), as well as the typical corporate sponsorship floats. Something about Ronald McDonald standing on a float with the golden arches and a money tree just seemed a bit ironic to me.

The grossest misuse of public funds I've ever seen however is the new H2 Hummer for the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Maybe they got a discount from the Governor's dealer, but honestly, does the CHP need a H2 Hummer? I've seen CHP trucks, cars, camaros, motorcycles, and they all have their uses... but a Hummer has very little practical application, particularly on the California Highways.

They also ran a cultural fair before the parade (the streets were closed anyways) where lots of vendors set up little booths and tents to peddle their wares. They also had an aisle of carnival games as well.

Yet another reason to move to Canada


Only 15% of Canadians would vote for Bush.
If this isn't proof that Canadians are smarter than Americans, I don't know what is. I've said in passing more than once that I'd rather live in Canada than America right now. I think a lot of this is that I see the problems that exist in America as a problem of culture and lack of group social principles. While I admit that every nation has their share of politics and social problems, what I've seen within the borders of Canada agrees with me socially and politically more than the somewhat more right-wing, environmentally insane politics of the current presidency.

I liked Clinton and Gore, and I'll tell you why -- they valued two things I really cared about -- education and the environment. They focused more on domestic issues rather than international ones. Bush and Cheney only seem to care about military muscle. Their environmental policies seeks to destroy any hope of wildlife preservation. I've always felt that the President should be looking out for his country, but Bush's actions are entirely contrary to that. As the biggest political ambassador to the world, he's presented himself as a paranoid, war-mongering tyrant -- rather than a friend to all nations.

When I went for my IRS audit a few months ago, the auditor pulled out what I could only assume was my Patriot Act file -- over 50 pages of inaccurate connections and associations. It's almost the same data as what's in credit reports, but with all sorts of other information too, such as possible family relatives, their addresses, your neighbors, their neighbors, etc. It's a crude Friendster-like social network profile. Unlike Friendster, there's no permissions, no confirmations that the person they're linking you to is associated to you in any way.

Yesterday on Orkut, I was asked to be added as a friend by someone I didn't know. This is not the first time it's happened to me, and I've been mistaken for other people before. My name, even with the S as the middle initial, is super common.

Storytelling in Games


I just returned from a storytelling conference at Stanford. Overall, I thought it was pretty interesting seeing the intersection between gamers and academics. In an ideal world, I could see myself studying the interactions between people and games and the social structures, and the folklore that gets passed around from the events that happen in games. The conference ran all day, so expect a much better write up from me later on, after I gather my notes.

Graduate School


Today, after work, I went to the Grad School Open House at the University of San Francisco. I wasn't sure what to expect. I've been thinking about grad school for the last couple of months -- ever since I started going back to school. Basically, my thought is that as long as I am accomplishing something, I'm moving toward something. Since I'm going to school now, I figure I might as well be working towards a degree as well. Going to the open house answered a lot of the questions I've been having about grad school, and really asked me some very hard questions about why I should go to grad school.

At the open house, I sat down with the director of the program, and we talked for about an hour. We talked about my life, my goals, my education, what I wanted out of the program, and what the program was like.

After speaking with the director at length about the program and the various facets about the program, I've decided to apply. The director really took a big interest in me (there were 2 other potential candidates with me talking to him). I think part of it may have been the array of languages I can speak, and my goals and motivations are very much in tune with the program. I'm going to apply there and see how it works out. Oh, and the best part? Applying will be free for me -- He's sending me an application fee voucher just for going to the open house and talking to him.

I'm looking at other grad schools too -- Stanford and Haas offer MBAs that I might be interested in, and I'll check around to see if there are other places I'd be interested in going too.



I am not going to E3 this year. The main reason is due to school. School is pretty important to me, and that week just happens to be the week prior to finals. (meaning the material being covered will be the last chapters)

I've been trying to go to sleep earlier these days since my class is at an ungodly early hour. The class has definitely been thinning out. First day of class, we had pretty close to 20 students, of which, perhaps 10 of them were my classmates from the previous semester. We had one exercise in class where we needed to write the following day, and those 10 dropped to 6. I counted today. 6 people from my previous class, with a total of 13 people (the professor counted this morning). Today was homework day too, so you know if they didn't show up, they also didn't turn in their homework.

Groundhog Day

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The rain has been off and on all day. We'll get heavy rain, followed by bright sunshine. Weird, weird weather today. The groundhog saw his shadow today, so we're in for 6 more weeks of winter.

Driving to work today was painful -- in the heavy rain, and some people didn't even bother to turn on their lights. Gray cars just fade into the rain if the lights aren't on.

What if Lord of the Rings had been written by someone else?

Most of these are absolutely brilliant. You kind of have to know and recognize the author's works and the author's style for a couple of them, but here's one that everyone can enjoy: Green Eggs and Lembas, in the style of Dr. Seuss.