Saturday, December 31, 2005

Accumulated Baggage

I often bring gifts and trinkets for my relatives when I visit them in Shanghai. This is practically a tradition whose reciprocate manifests when my coffers are refilled at the end of a trip with gifts from my relatives. Gifts are great and all but they invariably lead to the check-in agent at the airport informing me that, yes, there is a limit on the size and weight of luggage one can check in and that, yes, 2187 kilograms is very much over that limit. Silly agents. Don't they realize that it's a cultural imperative that my neutron star of a samsonite suitcase be filled with odds and ends from my relatives?

But the agents are right. Too much stuff carries with it consequences. And since 2005 is ending, it's hard not to draw a parallel between that which will pull my arms out of its sockets when I try to lift it off the carousel and the metaphorical baggage in my own life. It's not bad baggage and, in fact, I realize I'm quite lucky to have life-baggage filled with an assortment of goodies in imitation of my physical baggage. Yet, unfortunately, there are only so many hours in a day and so much space in my life. Inactive hobbies, ambitions, and plans should be discarded to make active ones.

So one resolution for 2006? Start improving things. Pursue fewer interest but obsessively attack the ones I do choose to pursue. And while I'm at it, I should really choose more complementary interests. Fire, alcohol, and cars are not only expensive but just sound really stupid together. But don't think I haven't already thought about performing with fire using alcohol as fuel on top of a car for a parade >)

Happy New Year everyone and best of wishes for another arbitrary 356 days!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Catch 21

The legal drinking age in China is controlled, practically, by each individual parent though in theory it is pretty much in utero. The legal drinking age in the states is, of course, 21 years old. So drinking is always legal in China and if you're over 21, it's also legal in the states. But if you're Chinese, over 21, living in the states, and haven't fully thought through the implications of certain questions, you might run into the following problem:

Store clerk: Will this be all ma'am?

Mom: Yes.

Store clerk: Good choices ma'am. '01 was an excellent year for Napa. That'll be $68.88.

Mom: Great. Credit Card.

Store clerk: Oh I'm sorry! Can I please see your ID?

Mom: My ID?

Store clerk: Yes ma'am.

Mom: Do you know how old I am?

Store clerk: No ma'am. That's why I need to see your ID.

Mom: I'm 47! Why do you need to see my ID??

Store clerk: We need to check the ID of everyone who looks under 35.

Mom: But this is ridiculous! I have a son who is already over 21!

Store clerk: Well I'd check his ID too, ma'am.

Mom: But I'm 47!!! I'm old enough to be your mom! Why would you possibly card me?!?

Store clerk: Ma'am, isn't it a compliment that I'm asking you for your ID?

Mom: ...

So on one hand, it's convenient but you look old and on the other hand, it's inconvenient but people still think you look young...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tai Gui La

Buying things on the street in China can be a hassle since you've got to haggle and haggle a lot. It's part of the fun though and a typical exchange goes something like this:

Seller: Hey, you want this hat? It'd look good on you! It's a great hat! BUY THIS HAT!

Me: Uhm, actually, no thanks. What about that lighter though?

Seller: YES! This lighter looks great on you!

Me: I want to use it.

Seller: Yes, sure whatever, you want two?

Me: No. Just one. How much is it?

Seller: 75 yuan.

Me: That's way too expensive!

Seller: But it's a great lighter! See? *demonstrates* It can light cigarettes!

Me: And my pen dispenses controlled amounts of ink upon many surfaces when I roll one end of it over said surfaces. So what? I'm not particularly impressed. How about a bit of a discount?

Seller: How about 70 yuan then?

Me: How about 10 yuan?

Seller: Are you kidding? It costs me more than that to get it in the first place. How about 50 yuan?

Me: 50 is far too expensive! Just give it to me for 10?

Seller: 35 is the lowest I'll go, but I'll also require your first born.

Me: No deal. How about 15? Take it or leave it. And no children.

Seller: Forget it, you're crazy.

Me: Alright, *starts to walk away* I can find some other place to sell that anyway...

Seller: How about 25 then? And forget your firstborn.

Me: Well if you're already at 25 why not 15? *gets out wallet*

Seller: *drools* You're going to bankrupt me! what about 23?

Me: *takes out a 20, a 10, and a 5* How about 35 for two? I'll buy two right now.

Seller: That's 17.5 for each! I can't go that low.

Me: *Offers money to seller* come on...35 is a nice number. I'll give you 35 right now and I'll take two lighters.

Seller: uhm....

Me: *offers*

Seller: *takes money* I don't know that's still...

Me: *takes the lighters* Thanks!

Seller: *mumble grumble mumble*

Me: 1. Seller: 0.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Flushed in Singapore

There is an air of order and efficiency that pervades the Singapore airport and, as is well known, through the rest of its society as well. It's not the newest airport in the world and yet it feels better run and more advanced than many of its younger siblings. It's like the difference between a top of the line but older Mercedes sedan and a new Ford Mondeo. I'm sure the Ford can do more tricks but I'd be much happier in the Merc as I suspect would most.
This cleanliness and organization is wonderful for the most part. Except the toilets. Now maybe I just got a weird one but...

As I'm transferring between terminals F and E in Singapore, I decide to take a bathroom break. Walking in, I notice that everything is spic and span and it smells completely netural. Impressive. Everything looks new and there's even a hook on the door for your coat that HASN'T been broken off. But as I open the door, the toilet flushes.

Obviously a misfire.

Then as I sit down it flushes again.

Well, I joke to myself, the toilet is making predictions. Haha.


Wait a second. This is getting a little ridiculous.

As I reach for the toilet paper, *FLUSH*!

Now it's getting personal you copraphobic receptacle. You're a toilet! Your job is to accept poo! What kind of an existentialist crisis are you having by being a toilet that's afraid of poo!
I get up, it flushes!

OK. Now it's war.

I hurriedly pack up my things and try to stay permanently out of the way of the IR sensor. This is not easy to do but not impossible with a few contortionist tricks I learned form my old Kung Fu master. I'm Chinese. I know Kung Fu and I have Kung Fu master. I mean come on, we ALL do. So I've got my coat and a Duty Free bag in one hand and my backpack on my back and the toilet still hasn't flushed.

I win!

I pat myself on the back (contortionist tricks remember?) and walk out of the stall and let the door slowly close behind me. I had beaten the toilet and its wordless insults. My agility had defeated the overzealous IR sensor. I'm the king of the world!
As I walk over to the sink to wash my hands, the door to the stall closes.

And then the toilet flushes.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Winding Down

The era of 3 posts a day is coming to an end. The exercise started as a promised to a friend but turned into fight for content. As far I see, the content I've been able to come up with has been slowly turning from inspired (if ever it was) to perspired. Sweaty. Stinky. Still, I'm happy to have kept the experiment going for two weeks. Trying to post 3 times a day forces one to review one's life for interesting or important moments. But not only events which might be interesting to me but those which have potential to be amusing or informative for a broader audience. I'm an academic. Ergo, basically, I write for a living. In a way, this has been wonderful professional development.

3 is too much for one day though. My life is simply not interesting enough for 3 posts a day and even if it were, I do not have time to devote to 3 good posts a day. Instead, I will aim for the standard: one. If I can get out one good post a day, I will be fairly happy. And no posts like this cop-out meta-post either >)

So farewell to an intense and prolific (yet indubitably uninspired) period in the life of this blog. We now return you to your regularly scheduled laziness. Thank you.

Radio Silence

I'm about to embark upon an Asian Vacation and probably will not be back to this blog until at least the Monday after this coming one. The trip promises to be an exciting one: family reunion, meeting up with a precious friend, visiting a new country, and of course, the Eating. Been getting a bit of flab around the abs lately and I feel like I'm eating less than before. Is my trust metabolism slowing down? A marathon will fix that right up, I hope.

So radio silence until around the 19th! I hope that my travels will inspire many entries for this space here. Until then, ciao!

Flaming Serendipity

Fire Spinning (something I often indulge in) requires, fundamentally, fuel. There are other prerequisites too but fuel is an interesting variable because it controls the safety and duration of a performance. Coleman's fuel (camping fuel) is the cheapest I've found, at around $5/gallon here. The flame is almost white, and burns very hot. The only problem is that the burn time is not very long and it does not have a very high flash point.

Second on the list is Kerosene. I've not tried it but it is supposed to produce very long burn times, but a dim, smokey flame. Around $7-8/gallon (cheaper for larger sizes). Often mixed with Coleman's 50/50.

Ethanol is useful for colored flames, but produces toxic fumes and destroys wicks, supposedly. Even isopropyl alcohol (70% by volume) will light, but that produces a bluish flame, and does not burn very long.

Finally, there's lamp oil, or liquid paraffin. I've tried a 50/50 mix with Coleman's, which produced slightly longer burn times than pure Coleman's, though nothing about which to write home. Normal lamp oil is also a bit smokey and smells when burnt. Regular is about $8/gallon. Ultra-pure lamp oil has none of the odor or smoke of normal lamp oil but is also much more expensive: about $15/gallon at K-Mart and $30/gallon at Pottery Barn.

What? Pottery Barn?

Normally, I wouldn't buy ultra-pure lamp oil at Pottery Barn, what with it being twice as expensive as K-Mart. But take note, pyros, because during their holiday sale (at least when I was there today browsing), they have 22oz. bottles of ultra-pure lamp oil for $.99! That brings down the per gallon price to around $5. Very nice. I cleaned out the shelves and bought 8 >)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Whole New World

I'm going to be visiting some relatives soon and so I thought I'd do some shopping, see if there any little gifts which might be cute to bring them. I made a gift run only a few months before though so the pressure is off. As I was musing outloud, B gave me a coupon for $x off $y at Bath & Body Works. Great, I thought, maybe I could find something there.

So last night, B (a different B, a guy) and I went to browse Bath and Body Works. We were both going to attend an end-of-the-quarter dinner at a restaurant but I wanted to swing by the downtown mall before to see if I could use the coupon. B claimed threatened to just stand outside and wait while I browsed this store that would baffle even the cleverest of males (and many unsuspecting females).

"Hi, can I help you find something?"

"No, just looking around, thanks!"

Yeah right. Big fat lie from me. I didn't know what was going on in that store. There are what looks like tubes of paint with the words "aromatherapy" written on them. So are they tubes of aroma? No, it's "body lotion". Then there's a bewildering selection of massage oils, relaxing massage oils, invigorating massage oils, smoothing oils, body wash, body splash, foam wash, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum say no more say no more. And pillow mist. Pillow mist??? Is that like a pillow finely ground and then suspended in liquid only to be aerosolized? Axe claims to get you hot girls and I've seen Tag Body Spray for Sick Cats but surely my surrounding airspace doesn't need the essence of pillows in it? Ohhhhh, you spray it on the pillows. Why? The better to aid asphyxiophilia, my dear.

5-Minute Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind

Before I start, I would like to credit Shryh for the format. Though I am taking the title very literally so if I stop in the middle of a sentence after 5 minutes, oops.

The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon) is one of the more fun books I've read in recent memory. I vaguely remember a sentence somewhere within its covers mentioning that Zafon is a screenwriter and his talent for pacing action certainly shows in TSotW. The grand intrigue is introduced and set up right away but there are many small climaxes to keep your attention as you work through its ~500 pages. The language (translated, granted) is accessible and immediate. You are to enjoy the story for its story, not pore over some obscure literary resonance between an implied meter and the rhythm of the plot.

The content of the intrigue will also appeal to book lovers: it is about a book and the lives that surround it. The set up is that Daniel (boy) somehow comes across a copy of a book titled The Shadow of the Wind and is immediately taken by the author, Julian Carax. As he searches for more of Carax's works, however, he finds that somebody is destroying all the copies of Carax's works. Lots of drama and action follows. Romance, action, the police, it's all here. In a way, it's a Hollywood blockbuster of a book, but in a good way. It is fun action and intrigue, not cheap action and intrigue.

And my 5 minutes are up. Recommended if you need light but engaging reading.

Free Food

As a starving graduate student, I never pass up an opportunity for free food. Meeting with pizza served? I'm there. Free samples at the supermarket? Give me a few more samples, I want to know if I really want to buy it. Professor's invitation to dinner with the class? Yes please! And, of course, I like to maximize the free-ness of our fooding. For example, if I have control over dates, I wouldn't schedule a pizza meeting right after a reception. By gorging yourself at the reception, albeit incurring the disapproving stares of strangers, you can skip dinner, and then leave the pizza for another day!

So much to my dismay, there was a music department party (with wonderful food and drinks), a professor party, and another professor party all on the same day! And shamefully, I did not gorge myself at all three events. What good am I as a starving graduate student if I can't binge-eat enough food at a time to survive for three days? I have disgraced my ancestors.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Net Dependence

You know what I hate? I hate it when Cox breaks their own servers or something and then I can't get on the internet. So I get out their packet and it's all like "go to to get heloh wait! You can't! HAH!". So I call their number and they're all like "your area is being attacked by Mothra. Our Oompa Loompas are on it but we do not have an estimated time of resolution. Go have sexual intercourse with yourself in the meantime." Argh. This has been happening to me once per month, at least.

Yeah yeah, I'm spoiled.

Judicial Vultures

"If you or a loved one has taken Zyprexa and have experienced side effect a, side effect b, or DEATH, please call the offices of Exploitation, Extortion, and Preying Bastards."

Somebody down at the offices of Sokolove didn't copy edit the intern's work apparently. If I've taken Zyprexa and experienced death, I certainly wouldn't be calling no lawyer. And seriously, if you're going to prey on the weak, at least do it logically.

Numa Numa!

Finals time makes for short blog entries and odd things stuck in your head. I've got the numa numa song stuck in mine. You know, numa numa.

The real name of the song is Dragostea Din Tei by a Romanian band called O-Zone. Honestly, it's a pretty good song as far as dance-y pop songs go. It has decent beat, a catchy melody, not the most standard and boring harmonies in the world, and a memorable introduction (Maya hiiii!). It's fun to say numa numa iei, numa numa numa iei a lot too. The video's a bit odd, what with one guy fingering his glasses all the time, some homoerotic overtones, and an airplane with speakers for engines. But hey, numa numa iei, it's all in good fun.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fire Spinner

I'm the burn starter, lighting instigator.
I'm the flame addicted, pyro illustrated.
I'm a firespinner, twisted firespinner,
you're my firestarter, twisted firestarter.

I'm the bitch you hated, fuel infatuated.
Yeah, I'm the smoke you tasted, fell asphyxiated.
I'm a firespinner, twisted firespinner,
you're my firestarter, twisted firestarter.

I'm the self-appointed, wick detonator.
Yeah, I'm the one invented, new move innovator.
I'm a firespinner, twisted firespinner,
you're my firestarter, twisted firestarter.


I walk into Home Depot looking for lamp oil.

Me: "Excuse me, do you know where you sell lamp oil?"
Attendant #1: "Like propane?"
Me: ", like...lamp...oil."
Attendant #2: "'s probably down around the Garden outside."
Me: "OK, thanks."

I walk to the Garden center. No lamp oil. Walk outside into what seems like the Home Depot abyss: no shoppers, no attendants, almost no lights, almost no roof, just 25 ft. tall shelves of manure, hoses, and more manure. I decide to ask another attendant.

Me: "Excuse me, do you know where lamp oil is?"
Attendant: "Yeah. Aisle one. Right inside of the Garden center."
Me: "Great! Thanks!"

I walk to Aisle One. I walk through it beginning to end. Then I walk through it end to beginning. Then I do it all again. No lamp oil. Am I blind? Walk back down past the aisles looking for an attendant...none in aisle one...none in aisle two...around aisle 13, I get to some people.

Me: "Excuse me, do you know where (the freaking) lamp oil is?"
Attendant: "Hmmm...I'm not sure, but it's not at this end of the store."
Wtf? Do Home Depot attendants get assigned to the left or right side and never the twain shall meet? But let's give him the benefit of the doubt:
Me: "I checked Aisle One and the Garden Center already and didn't see anything."
Attendant: "Huh...yeah, that's where they should be. Not sure why they're not there."
Me: "OK, never mind then. Thanks."

I then roared in rage, drove my fists into the earth, and threw my head back to face the heavens. I saw gods sitting around watching and mocking me. The bastards.

What's the point of having people on the floor if none of them know anything about the store?!?! Screw you Home Depot. I'm going to OSH next time.

Intimidated by the Past

I used to compose music, back in the day. There was a time when I was a brash young musician who thought that he could just let music flow forth from within his mind and out onto the paper, that that was good enough to be called music. The styles I gravitated towards were, predictably, styles which I admired. I wanted to write with the endless melodies of Rachmaninoff, the delicate construction of Chopin, and the epic breadth of Beethoven. Instead, my limited compositional activities culminated (in some people's opinions) in a theme and variations for piano. The theme was, I'm not kidding, the title music for the Disney show Gargoyles. It was a catchy theme and I was in a whimsical mood. The end result was a bit virtuosic and fun, but not exactly good music.

Since then, I haven't composed much. The more I study the works of the masters before me, the more I realize that my writing in their styles is practically pointless. Even if they haven't said everything that could be said, whatever they did say is infinitely more elegant, profound, and beautiful than anything I could possibly even think of considering to perhaps maybe have the thought of uttering. One of these days I'll fully realize that I'm insignificant as far as Western Art Music history is concerned and that I should just write for myself because I like to do it. That day has yet to come.

Incidentally, this same problem has plagued many famous composers in the past. It's much more applicable in their case because they were very talented composers and they still measured themselves against their predecessors. This kind of historical awareness wasn't always there and was only really active in the last 300 years or so. The most famous example is Brahms and Beethoven. Beethoven wrote his incomparable 9 symphonies and afterwards, many composers were convinced that he had completely exhuasted the possiblities of the symphony. This is not an exaggeration.

Each one of Beethoven's symphonies (though mainly from the 3rd onwards) is like a musical universe unto itself. Though they are often cited as exemplars of the symphonic genre, they are anything but typical. Imagine inventing a new language for every new article you write and imagine that this new language must transcend all previous languages. It's a difficult task at best and a nearly impossible one in reality.

Many of Beethoven's succesors were intimidated, and rightly so, by The Nine that Beethoven had left behind. What else could be said after Beethoven's 9th, which not only uses a new musical language but literally creates music out of silence? Brahms was well aware of Beethoven's 830 pound shadow and avoided writing a symphony for a very long time. From conception to completiong, his first symphony took almost 20 years to complete. 20 years! But as Brahms and other composer have proven, the symphonic genre has obviously not been exahusted.

Perhaps people have not always thought this way but at least for now, for my perspective, the past is very much in the present and thus has great power over the future as well. Even so, it need not totally control the present, of course. Maybe it's just me but I'm waiting for the day when I will be able to calmly acknowledge all that has come before me instead of having to contend with it every day.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Being Abstract

Academic research in the humanities is often all about seeing the abstract picture and making abstract connections. It takes quite a bit of thinking and faith before one can convince themselves that a lot of these thoughts aren't just mad ramblings. Most people's intuition would be to reject some of the abstractions that we study as ridiculous, and that wouldn't be too far off. But as far as I'm concerned, even the most far-fetched ideas (provided that nothing is factually or methodologically wrong with the idea) deserve at least 15 minutes' worth of deep, rigorous thought.

Take for example the following scenario: There are two things called A and B. Then we describe an attribute we can ascribe to these things and call it Q. Now we have one of many directions to take. We can analyze how either A or B is Q or not Q. Then we can say how A and B put together is Q. Notice that this is already a couple levels of abstraction beyond the normal. Let's say Q is "exciting". We're not saying A is exciting and we're not saying B is exciting. We're saying that the A and B put together (not C, just A and B as a group) is exciting. OK, now let's ascend further up the abstraction ladder. We can then talk about the relationship itself bewteen A and B (or some aspect thereof) as being Q. Of course Q may be a quality that only arises out of two other things and so the relationship between A and B as an entity may have to interact with something else outside the world of A and B in order to realize this quality Q.

So this is what us academics do all day long. Think craaaazy thoughts like what I just delineated. But as silly as all that sounded, there are ways to apply it fruitfully in order to produce worthy paths of study. Being an academic isn't thinking up silly abstractions. It's exploring all kinds of abstractions and being able to discover the profound thoughts that lurk behind certain abstractions, even if they seem silly and overwrought at the beginning.

Sounds that Make You Go "Eeeaaaggghhh...."

Some rather horrific noises one might have to deal with:
  • Place your cellular phone close to any speaker that is turned on. Wait for somebody to send you a text message or call you. You'll get a loud intermittent (at the beginning, and then constant) buzz on the speakers from electromagnetic interference. Eeaaagghh level: 4/5.
  • The sound of a fax machine doing its high-pitched thing. Push that start button as soon as you can or get a better fax machine. Eeaaagghh level: 3/5.
  • The sound of a modem making a connection with your internet service provider. The prevalence of the sound and the fact that it had some sort of a structure to it (BEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeee khhhhhhhhhhhhhh DINGdonnng DINGdonnng DINGeep khhhhhhhhh KHHHHHHHHHHHH) made it almost musical. Except that it was a horrible abomination of a noise that many of us had to listen to at one point or another. Eeaaagghh level: 3/5.
  • Take one(1) piece of styrofoam. Take one(1) knife. Mutilate styrofoam with knife vigorously. Allow ensuing sound to rape your ears. Eeaaagghh level: 5/5.

Rulers of the Net

There was a push by the EU to move control of the internet away from US hands a while ago. But out comes Condoleezza Rice swingin', bitch slapping the EU with a letter about internet governance and thus the control of the internet is still in US hands. And now, that letter she wrote has been published. As the article notes, it's pretty stern language for a diplomatic letter and was instrumental in defusing debates about inter-governmental control of the internet. The delegates from the EU were reported as being somewhat miffed to be handed such a slap and, on the other hand, glad that at least they walked away with a box of Rice a Roni, the San Francisco Treat. So thank the Lord and Condoleezza the internet is still in control by the Land of the Free. Amen.

Or wait. Is the Land of the Free, which houses ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ), without its own influences? It was proposed that a .xxx domain be made available for all sites providing pr0nography (euphemistically "adult content") and for a while, it seemed like it was going to happen. With all porn sites restricted to this domain, average users of the internet would much less likely run into a p0rn site accidentally (remember anyone?) and could easily block out all the pr0n spam. Seems like a great idea right?

But then ICANN delayed the plans because the Bush administration opposed it. It's fine to be conservative and to want to protect your kids from the pervasive smut out there but isn't that what .xxx helps us do? How does an argument like "n0rp shouldn't have its own domain. That would be like glorifying it." make sense when faced with, oh I don't know, REALITY. So ICANN is in the land of the free but not free from crazy puritanical influences.

And apparently not free from pride either: ICANN again dropped the plan beginning of this December, supposedly because they didn't want to portray the addition of a .xxx domain as a flaw in the existing internet architecture, which would look bad in front of the EU who does want to get control away from the Americans.

Of course, relatively speaking, the US is a pretty darn good place of governance for a decentralized entity such as the internet and yet it is obviously not without its flaws. It's fine to get on the moral and philosophical high ground to berate others in order to maintain control (it's politics after all), but perhaps such criticism should be applied to ourselves at some point in the near future.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Wax Scottish

I've got a thing for Scotch. Not the Scotch, mind you, but their brews. Oh the heady aromas and complex taste of a good Scotch Whisky is, if not to die for, to spend lots of money for. It's not a taste for everyone but it certainly is one for me. Everything from the sweet smell wafting up from the fermented concotion, to the tingling sting in your nostrils when you take a deep sniff, to the unique flavors dancing on your's enough to drive a man (who likes his scotch) to stupid grins.

And while Scotch Whisky may taste like Scottish Whiskey, some exploration will quickly reveal drastic differences in taste characteristics between the regions. Single Malt Scotch is separated into regions (similar to categorizing wine characteristics by regions) and each region of course has their own taste. I'm currently in love with Islay (pronounced eye-la) scotches, though can only recall the tastes of Laphroaig 10 yr. and Lagavulin 16yr.. Both highly recommended. Heavy peat bog smells and warm, savory smells and tastes. The other region I'm somewhat familiar with is Highland, which tends to be palatable to a broader audience because the flavors are usually less sharp and more smooth. Oban 14 yr., Glenlivet 18 yr., and Glenmorangie 12yr. all offer wonderful experiences. Don't know much about Speyside (have tried Balvenie Doublewood 12 yr. but can't comment on comparison to others) or Lowland yet but getting there.

So next time you have chance to try a scotch, get one of the better ones available, sit back, and really enjoy all that the glass has to offer from the color, to the smell, to the taste, and even beyond. A glass of scotch is a complex thing. Be creative and let it stimulate all your senses.

Source of Ebola Found

Origins of Ebola Found!

Research traced the Ebola, a viral hemorrhagic fever, to fruit bats. Fruit bats! Apparently people in the region are used to catching fruit bats for food and this is how the first outbreaks probably came about. This isn't a cure by any means but it's a significant breakthrough nonetheless. Since Ebola can have a fatality rate as high as 90% and acts very quickly, it's a scary thing indeed. Symptoms are rather grotesque as well (at least I think so. Victims don't squirt blood or anything but something that kills you by inernal bleeding or necrosis of the organs is plenty scary, thank you). Outbreaks, if they happen, still need to be controlled and a cure would be ideal but with this new discovery, perhaps most outbreaks could be prevented.

Different Kinds of Pain

Article 2, Section 4, Paragraph 3, Sentence 5, Word 13, Syllable 1, Letter 2 of the Handbook for Men declares proudly "o". That's right. That "o" is part of a bigger word "good" which is in part of a larger concept: "Working out is good." Yes indeed, all men enjoy working out. We all secretly want to be buff enuff for...looking good naked. Because really guys, admit it, that's the main reason for working out isn't it.

Though of course, like any activity, shaping up the body comes with its own set of parameters and rules. The pithy "no pain no gain" rule is surprisingly true but like all overachieving adages, it misses out on the subtleties entirely and always raises a hand for every damn question the teacher asks! Teacher's pet. For one thing, there are different kinds of pain as there are different kinds of gain. Call me a masochist if you will but I like the pain associated with a good workout, whether through weight lifting or running, aerobic or anaerobic. But the pains differ.

Imagine you haven't worked out for a long time (not very hard for me) and decide to get back to the gym. You go through your by-now-abnormal weight lifting routine and feel good. Next day, you walk around with your arms practically akimbo because everything is sore. Now imagine that you played tennis for 2 hours after a similarly long period of inactivity. The next day, you are also sore, but in a different way than the weight-lifting sore. Each carries with it its own feeling and benefits. This isn't news to most of you, probably, but I'm sitting here relishing my own soreness and felt like talking about it and you can't stop me!

Thursday, December 01, 2005


There are a lot of creative people out there. Case in point: Altoid's "Tin Million Uses" contest where contestants compete for the title of the most creative use of an Altoid's tin as something other than an Altoid's tin. The winner (Jon Lennon!) made a Theremin out of an Altoid. Well, close anyway.

Altoid's website is correct in saying that Lennon made a light-based theremin, an instrument whose pitch is determined by the amount of light it detects.'s article about Lennon's creation misses the crucial "light-based" modifier and instead asserts that a theremin is an instrument whose pitch is determined by light.


Let's get a real theremin in here.

There we go. A theremin (wikiwiki!) is an instrument invented by Léon Theremin that accepts two types of inputs: the right hand (typically) controls the pitch by moving up or down and the left hand controls volume by moving closer and farther away from the second loopy antenna. It's not used very often and theremin masters are few (if any) and far in between. What Lennon has created, then, is an instrument that is somewhat like a theremin in that it is an electronic device that produces a pitch based on an external input. Then again, the same can be said of a turntable or an electronic keyboard. The similarities are easy to see but a light-based theremin is not equal to's assertion that a theremin is an instrument that is based on light. Poor Leon isn't very famous anyway so the least we could do is to not reduce his instrument down to an Altoid tin and get its parameters wrong. Besides, his instrument had pitch and volume, with vibrato and tremolo possiblities using smaller finger gestures.

Yeah I'm a nitpicky music nerd and I'm bitching about Kudos to Lennon for winning the Tin Millions contest with a musical device though.

PS You know the original Star Trek theme? That's a theremin. (And Hellboy used it too!!!...???)

Do you want a chipset with that?

I've been helping my friend B look for a good laptop replacement recently. B needs a thin-and-light laptop that has to be sturdy and includes a CD/DVD drive. As far as I'm concerned, a Thinkpad is still the best bet. They're a bit more expensive but I will gladly pay for the extra build quality. They look ugly, unfortunately, but they work well. On the Mac side an iBook is always good too but I don't have enough artsy fartsy snobbery to recommend a Mac (Kidding! Or am I?).

So I ask B what kind of general specifications she's looking for and like any normal consumer, and rightly so, she has no idea. She wonders if 512MB RAM is fast enough and which processor she should get. Isn't the Centrino a better processor than the Celeron? She'll need to do word processing and web surfing on the computer so she should get at least a Pentium M 2.0GHz right? Or is a Centrino better?

For those in the know, comparing Centrino to Celeron is like wondering which is better to sit on, a chair or a dining set. But B isn't really to blame for her confusion. Intel has pushed the "Centrino" label so much that it's a small miracle people haven't forgotten what a processor is entirely. The myriad labels and acronyms with which marketing departments rape the naive and unsuspecting minds of the average innocent consumer is frightening.

And it can't be helped. There is power in an identity, and power in a name. Exclusive brands and labels do exactly that, exclude, and by doing so create a sense of power for those who choose to put forth the effort (and often money) to be included. So what if you can't even find a place to see the Lamborghini Murcielago? Can you even spell Lamborghini? Can you even pronounce Murcielago? Correctly? Give us our 3,500% markup and then we'll talk.

Addicted to Net

NYTimes reports on treating internet addiction.

I'm not denying that there can be such a thing as internet addiction. I mean, I have no problems not using the internet for an extended amount of time. The cold sweat, hot flashes, accelerated heart beat, and panic attacks I get when not on the internet are just coincidences, I assure you. Me? Depdendent? Never.

On the other hand, an addiction to the internet is similar to an addiction to martial arts, throwing cats, or singing about the color blue: it's behvioral. And as such, I would imagine that there are usually underlying reasons for the addiction whether it's a need for escapism or personal identity or whatever else. In short, treating internet addiction as a new entity per se seems a bit unnecessary to me. Is this "new" addiction any different than entertaining and escpaist vices that have come up in the past?
"It's breaking new ground," Ms. Ewing said. "But an addiction is an addiction."

Now wait a second...if an addiction is an addiction, how is the internet addiction (which is just an addiction after all) breaking new ground? I agree with the latter part of Ms. Wing's assessment but I'm not sure about this ground-breaking business. At the very most, we're still on one plot of land and we're now digging over by the rhododendra instead of messing around with the shrubbery.