October 2004 Archives

Kung Fu Hustle

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Sony of Japan has just released their site for Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle. Or you can just click on my link to the
Trailer for Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle, which is in Cantonese with Japanese subs, and you can skip navigating through the excellently animated Flash site.

9/11: Osama says, Bush says


With the election just days away, here's my final commentary on the upcoming presidential election. Those of you who didn't watch Fahrenheit 9/11 probably didn't see the footage of what Bush was doing after the first plane hit the tower. He wasn't in command, directing people, he was sitting down in an elementary school, doing a PR event. Osama bin Laden, who has recently claimed responsibility for 9/11, had this to say: "It appeared to him (Bush) that a little girl's talk about her goat and its butting was more important than the planes and their butting of the skyscrapers. That gave us three times the required time to carry out the operations, thank God." Contrast that statement with what Bush has been touting this election season, reminding people of his leadership during 9/11. "But a president's convictions must be consistent and true," Bush said. On 9/11, Bush sat for 7 minutes, and then did a photo op for 20 minutes. If Bush is a consistent man, he is a dangerous one because of his consistency... I for one do not want a president who sits around having pictures taken while the country is under attack.

All the terrorists needed was 20 minutes. The twenty minutes that Bush spent having his pictures taken might have averted tragedy, might have made a difference. The kids would have survived a "Sorry kids, national emergency, gotta go". But instead, after the first plane had hit, he sat. While the building burned, he had his pictures taken. That isn't any way for a president of anything, much less the president of the most powerful country in the world to act.

I've already turned in my absentee ballot. My duty to vote has been completed, and hopefully next week, George W. Bush will no longer be President of the United States of America.

Hobbit Hair Found?


Hair of the 'hobbit' jolts science

I guess what I find interesting is that up until 500 years ago, they could have been co-existing with modern man. All those legends and stories about gnomes, dwarves, goblins, and other small man-like creatures that go bump in the night might just have some basis in fact.

iPod Video - not for a few years yet

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This week's announcement of the iPod Photo surprised many people. If you're going to add a color screen to an iPod, why not make it capable of playing video as well? Wouldn't the next logical step be video, not photos?

Personally, while I question the utility of the iPod Photo for storing and displaying photos, it is an intermediate step that may prove to be necessary. The iPod was a revolutionary device in one respect only: instead of being like other MP3 players that used memory cards for storing music, the iPod used a small form factor hard disk to store music, enabling it to pretty much stomp on the competition in terms of music storage. Apple came late to the MP3 party, in the Fall of 2001, while the first MP3 player was released in January of 1998.

By the time the iPod came out, everyone knew what an MP3 was, and probably had quite a number of them on their hard drives or on CDs. We've reached the point now where digital cameras are ubiquitous in our society. It feels like everyone has one, if not more than one. People are no longer shocked or impressed when I whip out my digital camera, and I do not need to explain to them what it is. It's time for the iPod Photo to act as a portable phot album. Remember in 5th grade how people used to carry around wallet sized photos and show them off to their friends? Same thing, except geekier.

An iPod Video in my mind will only happen when the following conditions are met

  • Apple has the ability to sell video

    For the iPod, Apple uses iTunes as it's storefront to sell music tracks. For the video iPod, a similar mechanism must exist (we'll call it iVideo Store), not just from a "we make 4 cents from everything sold", but when people buy gadgets that require media, they want a library of material to choose from. When people bought their first DVD players, the first thing they did was to purchase (or rent) DVDs.
  • DRM exists for Digital Video

    Basically some form of copy digital protection must exist to protect the rights of the copyright holders of the works. Legal digital distribution through the internet won't really happen without it. The new format that Apple designs could also reduce the resolution of the movie, but that might make it look bad if it was played back on the TV.
  • Network Bandwidth Pipes become larger

    One of the great things about music files, is that they aren't very big, and they transfer relatively quickly. The same can't be said about video. With the size of a DVD movie between 4 and 8 gigabytes of data, downloading a movie from the iVideo store would take about 2 to 4 hours on a 1.5 Mb DSL line.
  • Wireless access is increased

    What would make this device killer is if it could stream content via WiFi (or whatever the next couple of iterations of WiFi is), that way you could stream the video straight to your device or have it stream unattended while you aren't using it. This would certainly help the long download times just a little bit.
  • Small Form Factor Hard Drives with More Capacity become available

    This goes back to the size of a DVD movie. With each movie being 4 to 8 Gigs, a 60GB iPod then can only hold between 7 and 15 movies. Enough for a movie night or two, but not enough for carrying around your entire DVD collection. To get to that point where you can bring a variety of movies with you, I think we need to start looking at iPods that are in the 300+ GB range, which we clearly aren't there yet.

There are of course, other problems, like how unsatisfying it is to watch a movie on a tiny screen, or how competition from portable DVD players and laptops dilute this niche market. For instance, whenever I travel, I load 3 or 4 movies onto my Powerbook's Hard drive so that I can watch it at the airport, on the plane, in the hotel room, etc.

Lunar Eclipse Tonight


There will be a
total lunar eclipse tonight
, and the moon will appear reddish-orange. The next one is due in 2007.

Free Digital Prints


Target is once again offering 10 free digital prints via a
printable coupon
. The coupon expires Nov. 6 and also includes some discounts on traditional film processing.

iPod Photo


The other day I was actually contemplating purchasing a 20 GB iPod to use as basically a portable FireWire disk drive. Given that one could purchase an external firewire drive for less than the cost of an iPod, I decided against it. Today however, they announced the Apple iPod Photo, which not only acts as a portable MP3 player, but also works as a portable digital photo album.

I don't see this selling as well as their iPods... $100 is a big jump for a color screen.

Apple Store mini


My sister and I went to the new mini Apple Store that opened in San Jose this weekend (yes, we got t-shirts). I think I much prefer the full size Apple Stores. Now, to be fair, we got there on the first day, with all the staff and all the customers in there, so it was crowded and felt claustrophobic, but the Apple Store mini fails in almost all the respects that I think the Apple Store succeeds in.

  • Variety of Products

    The Apple Store mini only carries the most popular of software products. While they carry all the standard Apple branded items, the third-party items are much fewer. Some of the items they choose to carry are just odd -- for instance, they carry the world traveller adaptor kit, but don't stock the power supply for the Powerbooks. If you can't get the item you want, you're going to go elsewhere. I can also forsee problems when they run promotionals (like the one where purchasing a mac and a printer at the same time provides a sizeable rebate).
  • Product Placement

    Like the full-size Apple Store, the Apple Store Mini has their products placed on the sides of the store, with the HAL9000-looking cash registers splitting the hardware from the software. Above the hardware are pictures depicting people using Apple products. Unlike the big Apple Stores, there are no tables with items to play with in the Apple Store mini.
  • Placement of the Genius Bar

    When I walk into a store like this, I don't expect to see the Genius Bar facing outward towards me. Traditionally, cashiers are located in that position or on the sides next to the entrance. Go into a Gap. Which way are their cashiers facing? That's right. Towards the entrance. I'm not quite sure why they put the genius bar there, and I can already see people standing in line for the genius bar only to find out it's not the cashier. Part of the confusion that mounts is due to the lack of bar stools, a hallmark feature of the genius bar.
  • Not kid friendly

    Yeah, I know, kind of a strange critteria since I have no kids, but one of the most ingenious features about the full size Apple stores is that they have an area for kids to play with the eMacs. All the computers in the store are placed out of reach of small children. Small children, who can often navigate a computer better than their parents. For a company that once touted a Macintosh as being so simple a 3 year old could plug it in and get it set up in under 10 minutes, seeing the kid aspect taken out completely in a store like this suggests the Apple Store mini's target audience is not everyone, but actually the teenage mallrats.
  • I don't feel comfortable buying a computer in the store

    I know, this is a big one. The store feels small to me. Just as people don't typically buy computers from the little kiosk stands in the mall, I don't think I feel comfortable buying a computer from a mall boutique store. I worry about supply, or the perception of supply in the store.
  • Brightness

    Whereas the original Apple Store was brightly lit suggesting friendlyness and openess, the Apple Store Mini feels more like a cave than a store -- the store lacks some of the warmth of the original, even though it tries really hard with the white floor and the birch counters, it feels colder and darker. There's almost no space for advertising at all, or any area to display the peripherals that are available for purchase.
  • No Demonstration Area

    This, I think, must be one of the biggest drawbacks of having limited space. You don't have the space to do the really cool stuff that Apple stores do like give workshops or tutorials (or play their ads on a humongous screen).

Things they did right:

  • Staff seems knowledgable and friendly.
  • The store exterior is distinct and recognizable.
  • Having smaller stores allows them to spread to more places, as well as in places they might otherwise not be able to have a store. (I look forward to the Apple Stores in Airports where I can pick up an extra Powerbook battery or a travel adaptor on my way out of the airport.)

Ginger and Wasabi not included


USB Flash Drives now available in
Ikura, Uni, Tekka, Kappa and Maguro

There were two great interviews


There were two great interviews on NPR this afternoon.

An interview with Matt Stone, one of the creators of South Park, and the other with J.J. Abrams of Alias and Lost fame.

Remembering a Hero


Actor Christopher Reeve, 52, best known for his role as Superman has
passed away
. He died of a heart failure. He was involved in a horse-riding accident 9 years ago, which broke two of his neck vertabrae leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. I remember when I first heard the news of that accident, and how the doctors had doubt that he would ever be able to speak again. In recent years, we have seen him speak, and he has appeared on Smallville as Dr. Swann. Even confined to his wheelchair, he still had enormous screen presence. He's fought as a crusader for the rights of the disabled and raised awareness of spinal cord injuries. His life goal after his accident was to
to walk again
, which sadly will go uncompleted. But he never gave up hope. Never. Christopher Reeve was by all measure of men, a hero.



When I went to the Apple Store yesterday morning to return my Powerbook, one of the men who came in about ten minutes after me arrived visibly annoyed. He was carring an iPod and the box it came in. Now, the way that Apple does tech support at their store is that there's a queue, you put your name on the queue, and then you get helped. Keeping in mind that most stores dont have in-store tech support, this is a nice service that Apple does for their customers.

About ten minutes into his wait, he has an angry outburst about how disappointed his is with this store's response time, and how Apple doesn't seem to feel like the customer's time is important because he's been waiting here for 10 minutes, and how there should be more than one guy behind the counter helping out.

Genius behind the bar says it's really not up to him, and that the scheduling and placement of employees in their positions is a management decision, and that if he is not satisified with this ...

But the man cut off the genius, raising his hand and saying "Stop, that's enough. Don't even..."He was silent for about 10 seconds before asking the genius if he had kids, to which the genius responded "Yes, I do. One is 19, the other is 23". The man responded "So then, you know what it's like. When you have kids, you want to spend every moment you can with them, instead of waiting in the Apple Store."

When he said this, I wanted to scream at the man: "Dude, you need to get your priorities straightened out. If you want to spend your time with your kid, spend it with your kid, don't spend it here at the store. Which is more important, your iPod or you kid? Yes, I realize that iPods are important and you have a problem with it, but why come here on a sunny Saturday morning when you could be playing catch in the park with him? Why not come back during your lunch break during your work week? Why waste weekend time if you have something better to do?"

What annoyed me worse was that I stayed long enough to hear him explain his problem: Apparently the man owns 5 or 6 iPods and out of all of them, this is the only one that has the ability to blow out the speakers on the headphones.

Obviously I have no idea whatsoever about the circumstances of the man and his life other than the brief encounter here in the Apple store, but if I was in his shoes, and I had 5 or 6 iPods at home, there is no way in hell I would be spending my Saturday morning at the Apple store rather than spending it my kids. I've got 5 or 6 of them, and it can wait for a time when I'm not with my kids -- or better yet, f you absolutely must do the iPod thing that day why not bring them with you to the Apple store?

I just don't understand people sometimes, how they can say they want to do one thing but when given the decision to actually make, they do not choose what said they wanted to do. The power of choice, and the responsibility of choice is always entirely that person's, and it frustrates me to hear people say "I've got no choice. I have to do this." Because I believe there is always a choice. We may not always like the choices, but they are there.



I've been having a lot of computer problems lately. My Powerbook went back to Apple yesterday and the network card on this ancient dot-com-boom-era laptop decided to break yesterday, and I had forgotten that this laptop lacks a modem. As a result, for the last 24 hours I have been without computer.

However, I'm back now, thanks to a spare network card and the correct drivers.

Nintendo Gameboy DS Wireless Details


"Prime amongst these is the previously discussed concept of 'Game Sharing', which will see downloadable content being made available to users wirelessly via the 802.11b capabilities of the DS handheld. This will be used both to distribute demonstrations of forthcoming games, and to ensure that multiple consumers can take part in a multiplayer game, even if just one of them owns a copy of that particular title.

More specifically, the technology will also be used to allow free content for the Nintendo DS during Nintendo-related movies in Japan, with theaters set up so that future Pokemon films will be screened alongside wireless transmitters giving away free Pokemon-related content to owners of existing Game Boy Advance titles (which are backwards compatible with the DS hardware)."

Source: (Gamasutra)

Welcome to Agrabah!

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Disney's Aladdin came out on DVD today. The cheapest place I could find selling it was Target for 15.99, which includes a free bag of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. Costco is selling it for 18.49, which comes with a a two-song cd or 34.99 for the Special Edition. Hard to believe it's been 12 years since it first came out in theaters.

I remember that one of the concerns of the film was that unlike the previous Disney classics, Robin William's dialogue would be too modern, too tied to the early 90s, and that the new generation of kids wouldn't understand the jokes that Genie makes.

Driving Votes


Auto Channel: Politics & Cars Do Mix: Drivers of Gas Guzzling Large SUVs Support Bush, Kerry Finds Votes Among Drivers of Small Import Vehicles

Kelley Blue Book did a survey of site visitors, asking them what they drove, and who they were voting for, and the survey appears to show that people were more likely to vote for someone who drove a similar type of vehicle. Drivers of SUVs and large trucks seem to favor Bush, and those who drove imports were more likely to support Kerry.

The Great Chocolate Heist


The Ig Nobel Awards


The 14th annual Ig Nobel awards, handed out by Nobel Prize winners, recognize scientific research that "makes you laugh, then makes you think," said Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, which gives out the award.
This year's award recipients included
the combover patent, investigation of the five-second rule, the invention of karaoke, and research on how country music airtime influences suicide rate.

Two Science Stories


Wired: If You Secretly Like Michael Bolton, We'll Know

Using fMRI, scientists attempt to discover and label brain activity when looking at objects. In some ways, the article shows bad science, as the researcher sets the scale.

Nobel Prize awarded in medicine for showing how sense of smell enables people to recall, for instance, the scent of spring lilac in winter or the stench of rotten food eaten long ago.

This explains why anytime I smell stinky tofu, I am reminded of rotting garbage.

Saturday Haiku


dim sum. where to go

cupertino. phone call made.

Number is thirteen.

baked, fried, steamed

plates of food stack up

take home doggie bag

grandma and her dog

versus the french mafia

triplets of belleville

see lois lane overact

animatronic clark kent

smallville unwatchable

drive foster city

bratwurst, beer and polka music

sad oktoberfest

old inktomi home

the empty office floors

perfect paintball place

eight laps in go carts

required: helmet, license

malibu grand prix

niebaum coppolla

apple store big chin iMacs

on university ave