December 2004 Archives

Tsunami Stories


Diver Underwater when Tsunami hit

"At the airport in Bangkok, other governments had set up booths to greet nationals who had been affected and to help repatriate them, she said.

That was not the case with the U.S. government, Wachs told her mother. It took the couple three hours, she said, to find the officials from the American consulate, who were in the VIP lounge.

Because they had lost all their possessions, including their documentation, they had to have new passports issued.

But the U.S. officials demanded payment to take the passport pictures, Helen Wachs said.

The couple had managed to hold on to their ATM card, so they paid for the photos and helped other Americans who did not have any money get their pictures taken and buy food, Helen Wachs said."

Tsunami death toll continues to rise: now at more than 80,000

"The dramatic rise of the death toll came after officials were finally able to reach remote regions -- like Indonesia's Aceh province, India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Maldives.

More than half of the total deaths so far were in Indonesia, the nearest land mass to Sunday's undersea earthquake that triggered the deadly waves and flooding in about a dozen countries, from Thailand to East Africa.

The United Nations' Jan Egeland said one in every four people in some parts of Aceh had been killed. "

Swedish boy found alone after tsunami reunited with dad

Sleeper Games


Wired: Best Games You Haven't Played, an article on the sleeper games of 2004.

They named Katamari Damacy the No.1 Sleeper Hit, which I can kind of agree with -- not much fanfare, the first run of copies sold out quickly, but a solid game in terms of innovation and gameplay.

Coffee, Books and Games

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I visited the Catalina Coffee Company for the first time this afternoon -- it's a nice cozy place, with large soft armchairs, a fireplace, and a large oversize chessboard. They also have bookshelves filled with books that line the walls, and if I lived closer, it would likely be a cafe I would frequent for its quiet atmosphere (and because I like to read in cafes, and due to this, I usually wind up purchasing a book before entering -- and this is why Kepler's next to Cafe Barone is not a good combination for my pocketbook).

I also finally played and purchased Settlers of Catan today. (I've been wanting to learn how to play this for a while -- it's quite fun.)

Rainstorm II


Welcome to LA's newest river: Highway 110.


The recent rains have brought flash flooding to a variety of places, including the Harbor Freeway. This of course is nothing compared to what honeyfields crossed.



I didn't fall asleep until 6am this morning. Maybe it was the sound of the heavy rain falling, maybe it was all the caffeine from the tea I drank that evening, maybe it was all the thoughts running through my mind. It was 5am when I came downstairs to get a cup of water, when I heard what I thought was a radio playing a song against the background of the rain. It seemed to have voice, it seemed to have melody. As I searched for this radio that I had thought someone had left on by accident, I listened more carefully at the sound. It wasn't a radio at all, but the sounds of the raindrops hitting the objects that my parents had in the backyard, a slow and melancholy song of the things forgotten and left behind in the rain. I sat in the darkness and listened to the rhythm of the falling rain until it lulled me to sleep.

Skipping Christmas - John Grisham


When I had found out that my parents had gone to Taiwan this holiday season, I had suggested to my sisters that we postpone Christmas -- just delay it until after they had returned from their travels abroad. Instead of a postponement, we will now have two Christmases (not sure if that's the right pluralization -- perhaps Christmasi?) one on the proper day, and another when they return. But because of my suggestion, they decided to give me for Christmas John Grisham's Skipping Christmas, which has been adapted to a movie called "Christmas with the Kranks" which I haven't seen, but stars Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis (which definitely influenced the way I imagined the characters).

Grisham usually writes law-thrillers, and I guess he wanted to try something a bit lighter. This book is short. 227 pages to be exact. In large print. About two hours from start to finish. Just a sacharine sweet sentimental tale about a accountant and his wife who decide to skip Christmas because their only daughter is away in Peru serving the Peace Corps. This book isn't any great piece of modern literature, but it does serve as a modern-day commentary on the commercialization and rituals of the holiday.

Although it was published in November of 2001, I'm surprised that Grisham didn't re-edit some of his scenes before publication to reflect 9-11's new airport security -- during the time between 9-11 and this books initial publication, I had flown and the new security procedures were already in place.

Next Ten Days



Looks like rain. Los Angeles' forecast is about the same. Who says it never rains in Southern California?

Boxing Day


What kind of Parking Person are you?


A little late, but it might help for those Boxing Day sales: How to find a parking space at the mall. I'm a "see it and take it" kind of guy.

Christmas in San Diego



Yes, that's a Christmas Tree on the Beach.

Holiday Wishes

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Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope everyone is out there celebrating with their family and friends this holiday weekend.

The Dark Winter Journey


My sister and I drove down from San Jose to L.A. last night. It was probably one of the most tiring drives ever. Part of it is due to the environment of the drive -- dark and desolate farmlands, a thick layer of fog, and brake lights as far as the eye can see. These factors all led to my brain disengaging and driving on auto-pilot, only waking up when a chance to play Frogger appeared in front of me.

It should come as no surprise then, that as soon as I arrived at my parent's home I went straight to my bedroom and collapsed into bed, where I slept for nearly 10 hours.

It's strange to come home and find my parents not here. My mother set aside some things before she left, some notes on the table and messages on the machine.

I'm driving down to San Diego today to spend Christmas at my sister's. (We traditionally have Christmas dinner on the night before Christmas)

On Wireless


Morpheus: "Unfortunately, no one can be told what the matrix is. You have to see it for yourself."

Neo: "I can't go back, can I?"

Morpheus: "No, but if you could, would you really want to?"

- The Matrix

My sister and I were talking last night about how her life has changed with a laptop. She bought a Powerbook G4 Aluminum a few months ago, and she commented on how in a way it's like caring for a child: you have a bag of things you need to carry wherever you go, and you begin making choices of where to go based on available facilities.

This is something that I discovered a few weeks ago, while I was doing some internet cafe hopping in downtown Mountain View. Dana Street has great atmosphere but no power, while Red Rock has power, but isn't as great. Verde Tea has wireless, but is too noisy and too packed with tweens and has no power.

Video Games

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Since everyone seems to be home for the holidays, here's some things to keep you occupied:

A group of fans updated the original Maniac Mansion into
Maniac Mansion Deluxe.

Kings Quest I and II VGA remake

These are classic adventure games, and and I spent a good chunk of my youth playing graphic adventure games. It's amazing that a group of fans can remake a game like this.

And of course, I can't end this without a mention of this story of a man who has played Galaxian for 2 hours a night since 1980.

DSL resolved

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Last night, after watching Return of the King Part 2 and Kill Bill Vol. 2, I went home and finally figured out what was wrong with my DSL. It turns out that my AirPort Extreme no longer uses PPPoE. Whether this was due to their latest firmware update or a reconfiguration on SBC's side I'll never know, but I'm glad that we now have wireless in the house again.

Now comes the process of setting up and unpacking.

Ghibli Goodness


Trailers for the three upcoming DVDs:

Patrick Stewart as Yupa, Uma Thurman as Kushana, Michael Keaton as Porco, and Cary Elwes as The Baron.

Personally, I think Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman and Cary Elwes are good choices. Not really thrilled about Michael Keaton as Porco (he'll always be Beetlejuice). I think George Clooney would have made a good Porco "I only fly for myself." (Of course, Clooney may have been seeded in my mind, since he suceeded Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer as Batman)

Man of The Year


Time: 2004 Person of the Year: George W. Bush

Time: 1938 Person of the Year: Adolf Hitler

Time: 1939 Person of the Year: Joseph Stalin

Time: 1942 Person of the Year: Joseph Stalin

Time: 1979 Person of the Year: Ayatollah Khomeini

Time: 1986 Person of the Year: Corazon Aquino

Of course, it seems being president of the United States automatically puts you as the Person of the Year, since they named Bush Person of the Year in 2000 as well, and he hadn't done anything yet.



Ken on Moving and Buddhism: Moving teaches you that posessions cause suffering.

Things I've mentioned in conversation this week:

Color and words: The Stroop Color Word Test
A recording of 5 year old Sofia Coppola
What if Lord of the Rings was written by someone else?

Holiday Goody

R2D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Revolutionary Architecture


Reading this story on
Revolving Buildings in Brazil
makes me reflect about the application of technology in architecture.

We do lots of things in architecture that involves new technology, but usually the technology is first introduced in businesses or civil structures before it winds up in home living space.

The problem with technology, in my mind, is that it becomes outdated. It doesn't hold up well as time passes, and while we may already have all-weather stadiums or revolving buildings, how will these buildings be a hundred years from now? The technology becomes anachronistic of the period it came from, and technology, at least in the modern day, is a disposable item, discarded as soon as the new revision is released.

I suspect that this building will break at some point, and it will be fixed. And it will break again, and they will fix it again. At some point in this break-fix cycle, someone will decide that the novelty of revolution is not worth fixing, and then this building will be like all the other buildings.

My Game of the Year Awards

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SpikeTV had their Video Game Awards last night, and awarded
GTA: San Andreas Game of the Year
. Nothing against the guys at Rockstar who made the game, but San Andreas just wasn't game of the year material. That's not to say that the viewers of SpikeTV don't know games, but their list of games is on the overyhyped-what just came out last week side of things. I figure my list is just as valid as their list (and you don't need to watch an asinine 2 hour wannabe-MTV-style presentation to enjoy my picks). Gamespot is also doing a Best and Worst of 2004 and includes some categories I don't even dare come close to touching, like Flat-Out Worst Game and Worst Disappointment.

Best Driving Game: Burnout 3

This game feels like a driving game designed by Jerry Bruckheimer. Lots of adrenaline pumping action, no plot to speak of, and it's just fun to send cars flying every which way as you ram and run cars off the road.

Best Novelty Game: Donkey Konga

You have to hand it to Nintendo, it was ingenious of them to create a fun game and then link it to a pre-existing license.

Best Movie-Affiliated Game: Chronicles of Riddick

Movie based games always suck, but this year, there were two serious contenders: Spider-Man 2 and Riddick. Riddick won my vote, partially because they had Vin Diesel reprise his role in the game, and also because I couldn't remember which version of Spider-Man was the good one (they released different versions and in one port you can swing from the skyscrapers like Spidey, and in the other one you can't).

Best Weird Game: Katamari Damacy

That's how weird this game is. It transcends categories. You roll a spiky ball to stick everything to it. Towards the end of the game, you're a little tiny guy rolling skyscrapers and islands into this ball.

Best Massively Multiplayer Online Game: World of Warcraft

City of Heroes, Everquest II and Final Fantasy XI just all sucked. Add in the fact that WoW sim-shipped for Mac and PC at the same time, and you've got a winner. Diablo was RPG-gameplay on crack, WoW is MMOG on crack. Another hands-down winner for Blizzard.

Worst TV-Affiliated Game: Alias

Wow, this game was a stinker. While they did get the cast to do voice-overs, the animations look stiff and wooden, and it has none of the intensity of the tv show.

Disabling Terrorist Technology


Bush Prepares for GPS shutdown

Brilliant! If terrorists are in the country, let's shut off GPS so that they get lost. Of course, I hope someone pointed out to our president that while potentially causing millions of dollars in potential revenue loss and associated costs (bringing the system down, bringing it up, repairing the parts that didn't get brought up or down correctly) can all be foiled by a two dollar map, just as the initial terrorist caused billions of dollars in damages with a couple of box cutters from Home Depot. If I was a terrorist, I wouldn't even try to leave the country right away, leaving and showing up in a new place too shortly after the attack would arouse too much suspicion. Getting away from the scene of the crime would be fairly easy with the ensuing chaos.

Gotta Love Apple


Received in my email:

Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 20:15:39 -0600 (CST)

Subject: Status of Dispatch XXXXXXXX: PB G4 800MHZ/512MB/40GB/COMBO/MDM/AIRPORT/15.2 XGA

Dear Customer

Your product has been delivered to the Apple Retail Store and is ready for pick up. Check for store hours at

Check your repair status at


Of course, I picked it up almost a month ago...


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First it was on, then it was off. DSL seems to be dead in the apartment again. This probably means another night of troubleshooting. I hate dialup.

It Lives!

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After what seemed like way too long without a high-speed internet connection, it seems like SBC finally got around to plugging it in. My sister says they still haven't shipped out the DSL kit, but luckily I still have my stuff from the old apartment and it works, so it'll tide us over until then.

Of Mice and Keyboards

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As much as I dislike Microsoft, I like their
Trackball Optical Mouse
, and I bought a new one last week, and ordered a new
Natural Multimedia Keyboard
at the same time. I didn't realize that unlike the
Natural Pro
, it's not a USB keyboard, nor does it include USB ports. It actually comes with a PS/2 cable connector. They must think it is still 1998.

My old Natural Pro picked up a bit of dirt, so I spent some time this morning washing and cleaning it (the keys are still drying). It looks almost brand new now. There's a couple things that never seem to flat-out die on a computer. Every mouse that I've ever owned still works, as does every keyboard.

It irks me that Microsoft redesigned the Natural line of Keyboards a few years ago, and in the process munged the set of keys that I used the most: the arrow keys and the "Insert" key. The Mac has broken my habit of the Insert Key, but I still can't stand those itty-bitt arrow keys. The Natural Elite (which was the successor to the Natural Pro), they laid out the arrow keys and the home keys in a new configuration, which was not usuable by gamers. Their latest designs features a super large "DELETE" key, which I'd really like to ask the layout designer why he thought it'd be a good idea to make it easier for people to accidently press the key, especially since my brain has already mentally mapped the Insert Key being where the Delete key is.

I suppose I'm just being curmudgeonly, like Frank Navasky except waxing sentimental on a keyboard instead of a typewriter.

Infernal Holiday Affairs


I went to the UPS station today to pick up a package. I've been there so often to pick up packages the woman at receiving knows me and my street now. For the first time since I've started living in San Jose, the queue for shipping was longer than the one for receiving. I commented on how busy the place seemed, and was reminded that there is a little less than 2 weeks before Xmas.

Shopping online without high-speed internet access is not fun. So, I've been browsing the web a little at work, thinking of gift ideas. The hardest persons to shop for are always my parents. So I was thinking of my Dad, and that maybe I'd get him Hero or Infernal Affairs, both of which have recently been released on DVD. I was browsing Amazon, when I noticed the DVD box art for Infernal Affairs.

DVD Jacket (U.S.A) DVD Jacket (Hong Kong) Movie Poster (U.S.A) Movie Poster (International)

I had thought they were going to use the American movie poster, but it seems they decided to use a completely different design.

First question I have about this new design: Who the hell is this woman standing between Andy Lau and Tony Leung? This woman isn't even in the movie! It's like the box designer didn't even watch the movie, he just found some picture of an asian woman holding a gun and stuck her in between. If he had watched the movie and really felt like there needed to be a woman in the box, he could have inserted Kelly Chen or Sammi Cheng, both of who have minor roles within the movie.

Second question, do you really need 3 totally different fonts on the box cover? Or blurbs? Don't blurbs usually wind up on the back of the box? It works for the U.K. movie poster, but for a DVD cover, I don't think it's necessary.

U.K. Movie Poster

For color choice, I'm sure that the damn eurocentric designer probably thought: Infernal -> Inferno -> Hell -> Red and Yellow. The flame-inspired design for the cover is overdone and cheesy, and not at all representative of the awesome visuals in the film.

I shudder at the thought of what the DVD menus on the disc may look like.

Despite the bad cover, it's not at all representative of the film, and Infernal Affairs is definitely a movie worth watching.

Games and Wireless


Working in the games industry, I get asked game-related questions all the time, like "What have you heard about [insert title of latest game here]" or "I have a five year old nephew, what do you think he might like?" So, not only am I tech support, but I'm also game reviewer. On the debut weekend of the Nintendo DS, I had a chance to look at the game platform. It is currently the "must-have" toy of the holiday season. The really big feature of the Nintendo DS is it's capability to have handheld wireless gaming, but my general assessment is that I would rather play with my Gameboy Advance SP. Why? The Gameboy Advance SP doesn't have wireless.

You see, for me, not having wireless on a Gameboy is a benefit. I find that 9 out of 10 times I'm using a Gameboy, it's because I have no wireless access. Otherwise, I'd be pulling out the old PowerBook. And maybe that's the other thing. Maybe the Nintendo DS isn't made for people like me. Maybe it's made for the kids so they can play their games wirelessly at recess, or in soccer mom's minivan. Those situations would make wireless a boon. But for the business traveller, the one who has to drive himself, I think I'd rather wait until I got home to play on a bigger TV.

However, with wireless capabilities on the DS, I'm curious as to whether it will be allowed on airplanes. For years the FAA has been prohibiting electronic usage on planes, most notably cellphones. They've brainwashed the public into thinking that cellphones will crash planes. I'm still waiting for Hollywood to do a movie where a terrorist on an airplane pulls out his cellphone and threatens to turn it on. Prohibiting cellphone usage on planes poses little threat to the passengers within the airplane, in fact, most of the danger of cellphone usage on planes lies with the cellphone towers in the flightpath of the plane rather than the danger to navigational instruments causing interference. This is why it ought to be interesting if flight attendents suddenly changes the disclaimer at the beginning to say: "Cellphones and Nintendo DS' must stay off the entire flight". With wireless becoming more commonplace, it should be interesting to see how the flight industry adapts and changes. In fact, next week, the FCC will begin discussions on use within airplanes.

Who needs London?


There is a thick layer of fog outside my office. It usually doesn't get this thick, and my overactive imagination wants to imagine the outside as being the setting for a horror film. Any moment now, some beast will emerge from the layers of fog and snatch people away. It didn't seem this thick when I drove into work this morning, so it must have rolled in after I arrived.

The iPod-Killer


I feel that anytime you label something as a "such-and-such-Killer" you've already lost the fight. Instead of advertising your item, what you are doing is expanding the awareness of your competition. What you need to do if you want to win the war against the competition is allude to the competition, but never address it directly. Never call youself an iPod-Killer, because all people will remember is "iPod" and not your product, which is the the flavor of the month MP3 player (or in the case of Sony, not MP3 but proprietary ATRAC format). Sony is now intent on using the PSP to attack Apple's iPod. The Forbes article has at least one inaccuracy, in claiming that the iPod mini holds 5 gigabytes worth of songs when it actually holds 4 gigabytes. Or maybe Forbes knows about something we don't.

Reading the Police Blotter

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Sometimes I chance upon one of those small community papers, you know the ones they set outside supermarkets and along the street in those free newspaper displays, and I usually read the police blotter. The police blotter reports all the little happenings going on within the community that require calls to the police -- such as domestic disturbances, burglaries and the like. Today, I ran across a "Grand Theft" in the police blotter. A Toyota Sienna minivan was broken into before 9am, and what was stolen was a laptop worth $2,000, a $400 DVD Player and 2 Cellphones. Perhaps it was the way the story was written, or perhaps it was my inner cynic getting out, but I thought the story sounded a lot like insurance fraud material.

My reasoning for suspicion is in the two cellphones that were stolen. Most people I know carry their cellphones with them all the time, either in their hands, pockets or purses. And while it might be an occassional day where you leave your cell phone in your vehicle, it's not often that you leave 2 cell phones in your vehicle, and certainly not two cellphones in a vehicle overnight. You also don't tend to leave $2,000 computers or $400 DVD players in your vehicle overnight either.

Then again, it could just be an unfortunate event.

Mmm... Meatballs...


Yahoo: 'Black Widow' Wins Meatball-Eating Contest

That crazy Sonya Thomas did it again, winning yet another food competition. 6 lbs of meatballs sounds pretty doable though.

Chilly Day

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I'm sitting here in my old apartment right now, and apparently my furniture and light usage made a huge difference in the heating of the apartment. Having spent the last night in the new apartment, the current temperature in the old apartment is 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Since I've walked in and started using my laptop here, the temperature has gone up 0.4 degrees. No wonder the computers in the Matrix wanted to use us for batteries!

One of the most annoying things about moving is that after I move I can't find anything. It's not the labelling or packing of boxes, which I have no problem doing, it's the finding of the boxes after the move. I have so many boxes that searching the stacks of them becomes a logistical nightmare. Hopefully within the next couple of days, boxes will be come unpacked, furniture will be arranged, and I can actually move around in the apartment. I'm actually very impressed with the space of the apartment, everything fit, and the sparseness of some areas make me want to shop for more stuff. Horrible thing, Consumerism.

The new apartment


I'm hoping that I can be completely moved into my apartment by the end of this weekend. Without internet inside my apartment though, I find myself going out to a lot more to various hotspots so that I can be connected.

So far, things I like about my new living space:

  • It's a loft-style apartment
  • Lots of space.
  • Vaulted Ceilings
  • A large kitchen
  • Modern plumbing and heating
  • A driveway that I don't scrape my car on.

Things that I don't like:

  • I'm totally not unpacked, and there's just way too many boxes in the diningroom.
  • No internet until Wednesday
  • My furniture feels out of place in this new apartment.

Okay, battery is running out. More later.

Semi-Virtual Life


I was reading a Wired article titled Her So-Called Digital Life, and I was struck by how digital some people have become, and how I'm in that in-between state -- semi-virtual, I suppose. I do much online, but I'm still rather old fashioned about doing some things.

With the release of World of Warcraft, I am now a wireless gamer too. As long as I can find an internet connection, I can play WoW on my PowerBook, which I think is pretty nifty. One of the more interesting experiences I had during the beta was playing WoW at the auto dealership while waiting for my oil change.

Real Chocolate Covered Sugarbombs


A cereal restaurant called Cereality recently
opened up in Philidelphia
, which I think is pure genius. It sounds a lot like Coldstone Creamery except for Cereal instead of ice cream.