July 2004 Archives

Blue Moon


There's a
blue moon
on Saturday.

High Desert Showdown


Road and Track compares 7 fast FWD cars
. Guess which came out in 1st place? Yep. My car, the The Toyota Celica GT-S. "The TRD Celica GT-S looks, drives and feels like a genuine sports car." The modifications they made is pretty much the same as what I have installed on my vehicle, the things I'm missing are the 18" tires and the Action Package bodykit. Those things are basically more for looks than for performance. If I get a bodykit and bigger tires, it'll be after I move out of my present place as the driveway scratches up my front bumper already everytime i pull in.

Having the Celica back I'm really happy with all the things I didn't have with the Prius, and now that I've driven the Celica for three years, I've gotten used to having leather seats, the gps system, good gas mileage and awesome handling such that I'm afraid that my next car will likely pale in comparison. When they returned the car to me, they washed and waxed it, and it looks shiny and brand new like it came fresh off the lot. They repaired some of the rock chips on my hood as well.

Biometric Passports


Cat first mentioned to me how foreign travelers to the U.S. now are fingerprinted before entry is allowed a few weeks ago, but I didn't hear until today that the U.S. will begin issuing biometric passports which will contain your fingerprint and photograph.


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Someone spammed me with over 2500 comments today. Thankfully they were all to the same URL and MT-Blacklist was able to successfully catch all of them. Now comes the more tedious part of cleaning my inbox of the spam comments.

Toyota Prius: Final Day


Over the past five days, I feel like I've driven enough of the Prius to really know the vehicle. I've clocked almost 500 miles on the Prius and I've yet to fill the gas tank. (Final MPG: 490 miles on 9.89 gallons equating to 49.9 miles per gallon)

I've been asked more times than I care to count this week, what I think about the car.

The short answer is: The Prius is thrifty on gas, but isn't the car for me.

If you are looking for a vehicle to get you from point A to point B that is reliable, that is easy on the pocketbook, that can carry 5 people and have room in the back for groceries, this may be the car for you. If you're looking for something sporty or luxury, keep looking, the Prius is neither of those.

iWait no more


Apparently, shortly after I posted about the wait until October, Amazon began shipping my iPod Mini. I received it today, about a week after I ordered it. (I might have received it sooner had I opted for the non-free shipping option).

Loading it up with songs was easy, It copied my iTunes library of 840 songs in about 10 minutes via the included firewire cable.

My friend with the 4G iPod has reported that he has a bad iPod, and it crashes within 5-20 songs.

Edit: The iPod was exchanged for a new one, and that one works perfectly. Symptoms of the bad iPod: hard drive whining after between 5-12 songs. Pressing Play, Pause or Fast forward after this point will cause the iPod to become unresponsive. Menu screen will be frozen.

Prius: Day Three: Trip to the Apple Store


It feels very odd pulling up to the Apple Store and parking right in front of it with a Prius. My friend bought an 4G iPod there and I was hoping they had them displayed so I could play with it. They didn't, but I did get to play with the new 4G iPod when we left their store. He bought a 20GB 4G iPod. It's smaller, thinner and lighter than the previous generation, and it's very close in form factor to the iPod mini. If someone had told me that was a white iPod mini, I probably would have believed them.

As we were getting out of the Prius, one of the men sitting at the table sipping coffee at the cafe next to the Apple store asked me how I felt about the Prius. I told him it's not that powerful, but it gets great gas mileage, it's great for those stop and go commutes, carries people comfortably and has good trunk space. It's also a good conversation starter. I think, that being a loaner, it gives me a more detached view of the Prius than owners of the car -- I mean, if you're plunking down 20 to 30 grand for a car, shouldn't it already be something you love to drive?

Authentic in name only


The Olive Garden uses in its advertising "When you're here you're family!". Their commercial usually has some contrived story about family relatives visiting from Italy and taking them to an Olive Garden chain restaurant. A recent USAToday article with an Italian Food Expert at the Olive Garden reveals why if you're looking to impress your Italian relatives, this may not be such a good idea.

Toyota Prius: Day Two and Three


Day Two consisted of commutes in the slow lane of traffic during the hours of 9am and 630pm average speed was about 60 mph. There were instances of stop and go traffic, so it was a pretty typical commute down 101. My average MPG according to the Prius' computer was 55mpg. I also made a trip to the grocery store and loaded up with food, the trunk space seems about comparable to my Celica. The Prius features fold-down seats to make extra space if necessary.

Day Three will consist of commutes in the fast lane of traffic during my normal commuting hours of 9:30am and 7:00pm. The average speed in these lanes routinely is at least 10 mph over the limit if not more.

Morning Commute: 49mpg
with an average speed of 75mph.
Evening Commute:

Toyota Prius: 8 Freeway Miles


The Prius has a little onboard computer that calculates what your current mpg is and displays it on the touchscreen. It also has a little graphical representation of your current estimated MPG.

During lunch today, I had to run an errand. It was the perfect excuse for me to take the Prius up on the highway and see if I could get EPA's estimated 55 mpg on the highway. I got 64.3 mpg. The trick is to use the electric battery and coast. Tap the accelerator give it gas to get it up to speed, coast a little, give the car a little gas, coast, give the car a little gas, etc. If you keep the speed at about 55, you can easily do 60mpg. Most California freeways are 65, so doing the accelerate-coast method can't be done unless you're in the slow lane. If you can keep it under about 35 mph, you can also just use primarily the electric motor. The car sips gas, so we'll see how much of a fuel up I'll need at the end of the week.

Toyota Prius: Day One


I have a 2004 Toyota Prius!

I had driven the previous generation Prius back in '99, but this Prius is completely new. Whereas the old Prius was a compact sedan, the 2004 is a completely redesigned full-size sedan.



1700 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303

Dimsum: 3.5/5

Website: http://www.mings.com

Located in Palo Alto, just off 101 at Embarcadero, Ming's caters to a largely non-Chinese clientele. There's no need to bring a chinese speaker with you, as the servers all know the chinese name as well as how to describe each of the treats in English. It's the only dim sum place I've been to in the Bay Area where they set out a fork along with a napkin and a pair of chopsticks. There is ample parking (although the parking lot is not as well thought out as it could be).

Plugging 99 and movabletypo.net


Lately I've noticed that the majority of what I post on the blog is links to other pages, and I've decided to move the majority of link cataloging to 99 blog. This blog will now mostly contain (what I hope) will be more personal writings. I should also point out that my posts here also appear on the movabletypo.net community blog as well.

How about Survivor in a car?


How far would you go for a '96 Geo Metro?

Reading this article brought back memories of seeing one of the film shorts in last year's Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival called "Last Hand Standing" where in order to win a car, contestants would stand with their hands on the car until there was only one winner. Yes, Geo Metros can be uncomfortable, and being crammed into one you might have no sense of personal space, but at least you are inside. I kind of have to wonder though, after knowing what the car's been through, would the winner really enjoy driving it?

I expect a reality tv show any day now having stupid contests like this.

The fastest car on Mars


I had thought that the Mars Rover missions had ended sometime ago, but apparently 180 sols in the mission, the rovers still live! If only there was an NASA RSS feed...

Test Driving the Mars Rover

For Autoweek, this is a pretty entertaining article, looking at the driving the Rover from within JPL. It's definitely not your typical car magazine article.

Download Maestro, a program which simulates driving the Rover.

Spiderman Lego Movie


It's red snapper, or is it?

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DNA tests expose fishy labels for red snapper

Apparently 75% of the fish in the US labeled as "red snapper" is actually other species of fish. I find this particularly interesting, because, living in the U.S., we pretty much don't really think about the process that gets our food onto the kitchen table. Unlike the old days where you went out and caught the animal yourself, these days we just sort of trust that the USDA and the FDA are doing their jobs to make sure the food supply is safe. Kind of makes you wonder what it is we are really eating.

Is it chicken or a foot? Just some tampering.

The iWait


This morning I placed an order for an iPod mini. From my understanding, the iPod Mini goes on sale worldwide in two weeks. Everywhere is saying a 4-week wait, and I figure if they've got the supply to do a worldwide release, then surely that must mean that the lapse in time for shipping is shrinking.

I placed an order with Amazon, expecting a ship date of August 12th or so. When I placed the order, the expected ship date for the iPod Mini is October 7th. That's about 12 weeks. I think I'll cancel the order. 3 months is a tad bit long.

Hot and Lazy Afternoon thoughts

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I feel like a nap. It's probably just the food coma setting in after a wonderful dim sum, but nevertheless, the urge to sleep does call to me.

I want to revise my buggy layout on this blog too.

Maybe after a nap.



Today was the first time in a long time where I've had to sit in traffic during my commute to work. Apparently, a southbound truck flipped over onto the northbound lanes, blocking two of the the lanes.

This whole week, due to the holiday, I've been operating one day behind, but somehow, Friday comes along, and something in my mind just says "Yes! It's Friday." Judging from the behaviours of my co-workers, they all feel the same way. Some fun links to get your Friday started:

A Blindfolded man playing Super Mario Brothers 3 theme music on the piano

Whenever people think silent films, they think Keystone Cops or Charlie Chapman movies, but the world of silent film is actually much larger than that, and
The 9th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival does a pretty good job of representing the variety within the genre.

If you have an hour or so to kill, you can take a look at the 2004 Star Wars Fan Film Finalists.
The majority of these are rather good. I particularly liked A Fan Letter, Pink Five Strikes Back, Recruitment, and
The Wizard, Oz.

I was listening to NPR on the ride home yesterday, and they had an interview with one of the writers of the movie The Anchorman. I love the SNL skits but I wonder if they have enough to make it as a full-length movie. However, at least the SF Chronicle gave it a sitting up man, rather than the sleeping man they gave King Arthur. Also on SF Gate is an interesting article about South Korean Films.

Although I no longer need to memorize vast pieces of information, this site which lists some memorization techniques may be useful in the future.

Hareios Poter


A translator describes the challenges of translating Harry Potter into ancient Greek.

What I found particularly fascinating was the process translating of names and modern day objects with no ancient Greek translation. I am reminded of how difficult it is to translate sounds and colours, and as often is the case in translation, you are not only dealing with translation of language, but translation of culture and customs as well.

More Asian Cinema Watched


I just finished watching both Flying Dagger (1993) and A Moment of Romance (1990).

Flying Dagger is one of those fantastic wire-fu movies where seriousness is thrown aside for the sake of entertainment. The plot is really light in this movie, but it revolves areound two sets of bounty hunters trying to bring a criminal to justice. Sword-fighting and martial arts antics ensue.

A Moment of Romance was released in 1990.It feels strange to see Andy Lau 14 years younger, and a lot of the cinematography, background music, action stunts and so forth reflect the tail end of the eighties. For instance, in the first ten minutes, there is a very A-Team/Dukes of Hazard stunt where a car flies through the air after hitting another car). There's also a few inconsistencies (like objects disappearing and reappering later) There's also other 80s things in here: big hair, big sunglasses and miami vice style clothing to name a few. This movie is apparently one of those classics of HK cinema, with a notoriety similar to that of the western classic Casablanca. The ending of this movie is parodied a bit in the movie "Needing You" (which also stars Andy Lau, albeit much older).


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If I just showed you this picture above online, you'd probably think this was something dropped through a filter in Photoshop. This is, unfortunately, what the photos from my cameraphone look like. I have a feeling the settings need to be modified a bit to increase the clarity of the picture, but it is definitely not a replacement for a real digital camera.

The Resolution is 352x288.

I can now do moblogging (to a somewhat limited extent) via Flickr. The nice thing is that Flickr can post straight to your blog via e-mail. The problem I have is my phone doesn't allow me to do attachments and compose an email. I can do one or the other, but not both.

Movies and Video Games


Creating games based on movies is always a spin on the roulette table. If the timing is right, if the game uses the movie material well, the game is a hit, otherwise, word of the game spreads, and it finds itself relegated to the bargain bin, a mere three months later. Usually what happens during the production of these games it that so much is spent on the license for the material, that little money is left for the construction of the game itself. These days, the budget for games is huge, and so games aren't built unless there's a good indication they can at least make the development cost back.

The worst game based on movie of all-time is probably the Atari 2600 version of ET. As the story goes, Atari had predicted, based on the success of the movie that an E.T. game would do tremendously well and set about securing the rights for an E.T. game. Within two weeks, a game was made, and sent to be mass-produced. The game was a disaster. Atari had overpredicted the sales of the game: the decided that not only would they make enough cartidges to sell one to every one who owned an Atari 2600, but they thought the game could sell their consoles too -- so they made twice the number of catridges than Atari 2600 consoles sold. I hear that somewhere in Mexico is a landfill full of E.T. cartridges.

Konami, the people who brought you DDR and Metal Gear Solid are creating a King Arthur game, based on the movie, which opens today. Instead of tying the game to the movie's release however, Konami has tied the release date to that of the DVD. I find this decision interesting, only because, to my knowledge, no one has ever tried this before. The theory, I am guessing is that when you go into the store to purchase King Arhur on DVD, you also pick up King Arthur the game. This is, in my mind, a stupid decision -- $20 for the DVD, $50 for the game -- no one is going to spend $70 in one trip on King Arthur merchandise.

Spider-Man 2, a movie which took in all kinds of money this holiday weekend, has just Spider-Man shipped 2 Million units of their video game. They've taken the approach of timing their release with the movie, in an effort to ride a bit of the media frenzy the movie has generated. The gamble might pay off. It's hard to say, the game "The Hulk" based on the movie of the same name did pathetic (but the movie wasn't much better). While you have games like Chronicles of Riddick do well as a game and horrible at the box office.

This weekend, I found myself engaged in numerous game-related discussions -- this always happens once people realize that I work in the games industry (which always comes up because people always ask what I do, and I have not yet come up with a better answer than to state my occupation). I had an opportunity to share my thoughts and knowledge on the demise of graphical adventure games and the rise of the MMOG. There are some game types now that are ripe for a return -- puzzle games and side scrollers have recently made a return via flash and I expect that graphical adventure games will be next to become flash games. The reason is simple -- this is the natural evolutionary cycle of games. As games fall away from the mainstream commercial path, they are revived (typically by fans) on the internet.

Swiss Army Knife Memories


3-Day Weekend


I hope everyone had a Happy Fourth of July holiday.

I spent my Saturday helping Ken and Will move into their new house, and then spent July 4th at Hans and Betina's barbecue. Hans and Betina had more food than I've ever seen at a barbecue hosted by friends -- Amongst the leftovers were probably at least 20 chicken sausages and ridiculous amounts of potato salad, fruit salad, brownies, chips, cookies, salad and everything else.

On Monday, I replaced the dead batteries in my 850i. That's right. Batteries. Plural. The 850 has two of them (most cars only have one), and they need to be replaced at the same time. This took much longer than it should have, but it was a good learning experience. After that, the 850 started right up, and I was able to enjoy a little joyride through the peninsula.

You too can be Picasso


Nokia 6820: Week One


It's now been about a week since I received my 6820. Over this past week, I have done the following:

  • used the phone to make outgoing calls
  • used the mMode function a total of three times
  • dropped the phone on a hardwood floor from a height of about 3 feet and had it slide about 2 feet.
  • used the camera 4 times
  • charged the phone 3 times
  • discovered the auto-keyguard function
  • added 4 contacts (phone numbers)
  • used the notes functions to take down memes of books.

After a week, I can honestly say that I have no buyer's remorse at all about this phone, though I do wish it came with some features that other cell phones have, such as ability to use mp3s as ringtones, or being able to set a specific ringtone to a specific person (rather than an entire group). It's not a full powered smartphone, but the size and weight of the 6820 sort of ensure that it won't be mistaken for anything other than a phone.