Friday, March 31, 2006

Bunny Rabbit

I saw a rabbit huddled next to the curb in our work parking lot. It was pretty windy and cold but I thought that rabbits had lots of fur to protect themselves. Anyway, I took a couple of pictures but didn't get too close... I heard rabbits bite.

BTW, I was offered kung-pao rabbit when I was in Beijing but I didn't have any though. After someone suggested Donkey Flesh King for lunch, our motto became, "Beef, pork, or chicken only. Please, no strange meats."


Yes, it's a rabbit


Yes, I took the picture with my Treo

Thursday, March 30, 2006

TV

So I decided today that a little bit of TV was better than no TV at all. Since I don't have cable TV or even an antenna, I've been only watching DVDs since I moved into the apartment. I just attached a coaxial cable splitter to the incoming cable and now I get three cable channels on my TV: CBS, CSpan2, and G4. I didn't have G4 in Brea but it appears to be a cable channel for nerds... cool! Anyway, the first TV show I watched was CSI on CBS. I think the FinalFour is on CBS this weeked so at least I'll get to watch UCLA.

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OK, CSpan2 doesn't really count as a channel so I removed it from my remote. Now I only have two channels programmed so whether I push CH+ or CH-, I get the same (other) channel. As soon as I clean up my apartment, I'm getting cable TV.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Nigel: These go to eleven

CUPERTINO, Calif. - Owners of recent iPods will now be able to set how loud their digital music players can go. Apple Computer Inc., facing complaints and a lawsuit claiming the popular player can cause hearing loss, made the setting available as part of a new software update Wednesday. The free download applies to the iPod Nano and the iPod models with video-playback capabilities.

Parents also can use the feature to set a limit on their child's iPod and lock it with a code, the company added.

"As the leading provider of digital music players, Apple continuously brings iPod customers innovative and easy to use solutions," Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president for iPod marketing, said in a statement. "With the increased attention in this area, we want to offer customers an easy to use option to set their own personal volume limit."

Earlier this year, a Louisiana man filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the iPod can cause hearing loss in people who use it.

The devices can produce sounds of more than 115 decibels, a volume that can damage the hearing of a person exposed to the sound for more than 28 seconds per day, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif.

Although the iPod is more popular than other types of portable music players, its ability to cause hearing loss isn't any higher, experts said.

Apple ships a warning with each iPod that cautions "permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at high volume."


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Sigh... I should have gone to law school. Evidently you can sue anyone for anything. I actually wanted to get more volume out of my iPod. I have to turn the volume all the way up when I use it with the cassette adapter in the car or plug it into a stereo.

To the idiot in Louisiana that filed the lawsuit, "Turn down the volume!"

Monday, March 27, 2006

Cassette Tapes

[You can tell I've got no life since I'm posting a lot lately.]

In my attempt to clean up all the stuff I moved from my house to the apartment, I found a crate of cassette tapes. Some of the stuff is recent but there are tapes that I brought from Canada with music from the early 80's. Since I still have a tape deck attached to my stereo, I'm listening to some of the tapes, especially those without any labels. I'll post updates on any gems I find.

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1. Recording of some meeting at Ingram Micro. Not sure if it's Chip Lacy speaking or Bronson Ingram. [trash]

2. Unknown Cantonese singer. [keep until my parents come and ID the singer]

3. Girl I'm Gonna Miss You by Milli Vanilli. Where did that come from? Must be Nancy's tape. [trash]

4. The Thin Red Line by Glass Tiger. Hey, they're Canadian. Hey, they sang Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone) and it's on this tape! [keeper... until I find a mp3 of their only hit song]

5. Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. For you young kids, this is the hypnosis song in Zoolander. It's a cassette single so that the only song on the tape; I can't believe I bought a cassette single. [not sure]

BTW, I'm willing to part with any of these rare tapes if the price is right... :)

6. Hoi Polloi. I searched on the Internet (not using Google) and there are a lot of bands named Hoi Polloi; this is not the more famous one from New Zealand. My college roommate, Craig, used to be a member in this band and we saw them once playing at the Troubadour in Hollywood. I think Craig had to quit the band when he got to UCLA because he needed time to study, or was it his multiple (concurrent) girlfriends. [keep until I find Craig again]

7. Mix One. I made a bunch of tapes with different songs and I think I got to Mix Fifteen before I found out about CD-Rs. Here's side A of Mix One, recorded on a Radio Shack 60 minute tape:
• Ghostbusters
• Burning Down The House
• Maneater
• Babe
• Victims
• It's Raining Again
• Lucky Star
[I'm keeping this one... even though I'm a bit embarassed about the song selection]

8. Platinum Blonde. I've got not one, but two albums by Platinum Blonde. I had to double check on the web but indeed, they're from Toronto. I saw them in concert at Maple Leaf Gardens; also performing was The Spoons and Cory Hart. The Spoons were a local band from Burlington (just west of Toronto) and they had a cute, female bass player, Sandy Horne. I think I went to the concert just to see her in person.


Everyone in Canada dressed like this in the 1980s

Yup, 80s music on tapes actually recorded in the 80s.

MiniMac

I've had the new Intel Core Duo Mac Mini for about 3 weeks now and I'm having mixed feelings about it. I've been a loyal Apple customer ever since I bought a Apple ][+ a long time ago. Sure, for the past 10 years I had to live exclusively in the Wintel world but the new Intel Macs were supposed to be fast and cheap. Well, $800 is not that cheap and they're not too fast. Maybe because all the software are coded for the G4/G5 processor and I need to upgrade to 1GB of RAM, the Mac Mini feels a lot slower than my work PC (1.6GHz Pentium M w/1GB RAM). Applications also seem to crash quite often but nothing catastrophic like the Blue Screen of Death on Windows. I've been mostly using it to rip DVDs to my iPod, patiently waiting for Tascam to write a new FireWire driver so I can use it to run my FW-1082.

I hope Steve Jobs is enjoying his 10 million shares of restricted stock (5.4 million after tax). That'll teach me to be the first on my block to buy new technology.

New Car



...but not mine. My immediate boss bought a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet yesterday and I got to drive it around the block earlier this afternoon. I like it! I got to about 70mph in 3rd gear and it has six gears. It weighs about the same as my Z (3200 lbs.) but it has more horsepower (325hp vs. 287hp) and a manual transmission. My butt definitely felt like the 911 accelerated faster than my Z. The convertible top was pretty cool too; it goes up/down with one button and the whole process takes only a few seconds. And it has rear seats... but for small children only.

I still like my Z and the 911 does cost about 2.5x, but if I had $90k to spend on a car, hmm...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

LOTR

I just finished watching Lord of the Rings extended DVDs that I bought awhile ago. Actually I watched 5/6 of it since I'm still missing the 2nd half of The Two Towers. Anyhow, why couldn't Gandalf just get one of the huge eagles to fly Frodo to Mt. Doom and drop the ring into the lava?

My favorite part of the movie is still the mountain flare scene although it would suck to be the one that had to sit in a mountain hut all day and watch for the signal. The trebuchets in Minas Tirith were pretty cool too.

HP 6110xi all-in-one

OK, I installed all 90MB of drivers and software for my HP printer on the Mac. I grabbed the first thing I could find as a test scan. It was the entrance ticket to the National Palace Museum in Taipei. I think it turned out okay; I just need to find out what the other 716 items installed were.



On the back of the ticket it says: This ticket entitles the holder to one additional visit to the National Palace Museum free of charge anytime through December 31, 2006. I guess they did that because the museum was under renovation and they didn't have much out on display. I think my parents want to go there for our Taiwan trip this May so I'll save NT$100 (US$3) to see the jade cabbage again.

Solar Eclipse

I read in the news that there will be a total solar eclipse on March 29, 2006. Unfortunately, the visible path is going to be in northern Africa and across the middle of Asia with the greatest eclipse occuring near the border of Libya and Chad. No chance I'll be there. :)



I have been near two solar eclipses though. The first was on January 3, 1992. I just graduated from USC with my MSEE and was still looking for a job. I think I was taking C++ programming (or Japanese) at El Camino College and caught the very end of an annular* solar eclipse that occured mostly across the Pacific Ocean. I even had a piece of silver-ish film to look through at the eclipse. I remember it got a bit darker but not much else.

*An annular eclipse differs from a total eclipse in that the Moon appears too small to completely cover the Sun. As a result, the Moon is surrounded by an intensely brilliant ring or annulus formed by the uneclipsed outer perimeter of the Sun's disk. The solar corona is not visible during annular eclipses.



The other was a total solar eclipse on August 11, 1999; Shirley and I were on our honeymoon in Europe. That day, the eclipse path went through northern France with the greatest eclipse occuring somewhere in south-west Romania.



We had signed up for a tour of Monet's garden in Giverny and the Ch√Ęteau de Versailles. On our way to Giverny from Paris, we noticed a lot of cars on the road headed the other way. I think a lot of people were headed for the maximum eclipse boundary somewhere north of Paris while Giverny and Versailles were southwest of Paris. Anyhow, when we got to Monet's garden, the place was completely empty. Our tour guide said that the garden was usually packed with tourists, especially during summer. I think only one other tour group showed up while we were there so I was able to take a lot of good shots of the garden. It's all on regular film so I'll need to scan the photos before I can post them.


Aerial view of Monet's garden

After Giverny, we took the bus to Versailles and stopped in the parking lot/entrance to see the eclipse. Even though we weren't in the path of maximum eclipse, I think we were close enough to be in the high 90%. The sky was a bit cloudy but it did get a lot darker and noticeably colder for about two minutes. It was going from noon to dusk and back to noon in a couple of minutes. I did get one shot of the sun with our camera but I'll have to figure out how to scan that photo as well.

On a side note, I'm trying to install the scanner driver for my HP 6110 on my Mac Mini and all I can find is a 90MB install file on HP's website. I'm sure it's going to be a waste of hard drive space but I can't find anything else. Arg, items remaining to be installed: 717... :(

Anyway, I found a map on NASA's website with projections of future total solar eclipses. I think I want to experience a total eclipse at least once, and be at the point of greatest eclipse if possible.



I think my best chance is the on on August 21, 2017, 11 years from now. All the other eclipses seem to occur over the ocean and the August 1, 2008 eclipse seems pretty hard to get to since it's in northern Russia. Maybe the July 22, 2009 eclipse may be an option since the path of maximum eclipse goes through Shanghai, although there may be too much air pollution to see anything.

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I plugged in the coordinates for the greatest eclipse on August 21, 2017 into Google Earth and it's near Hopkinsville in Western Kentucky at the corner of Hwy 91 (Princeton Road) and Quarry Road. There seems to be a farm on the corner. I guess I better start looking for hotel rooms!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Neighborhood

I found a WaMu branch and a Stater Brothers supermarket close to my apartment today. I've been living here for almost a month so I'm trying to find out what's around the neighborhood. The Stater Brothers is actually quite nice and modern, not at all like the one I used to go to in Brea. I bought some groceries to make soup; it's not much but cooking will make it feel more normal.

There is also a Ferrari/Maserati dealer right next to the WaMu branch. I wonder if they'll let me test drive a F430.


$192,484

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It's 3:43am and I'm still making soup. I guess I won't be helping out with sound production tomorrow at NewSong at 6:30am. I'm not scheduled this week anyway.

UCLA Basketball

Wow, UCLA won again. I haven't watched any games yet since I don't have cable in my apartment. I did listen to the UCLA-Gonzaga game on the radio since I was in my car... unbelieveable.

I think if I keep not watching, maybe they'll keep winning.

Friday, March 24, 2006

More Mammoth Pictures


View out the window from the loft in our condo


View of the condo (Horizon 4)


My 4Runner, all covered with snow


Looking back on Eagle Express (chair 15)


Looking uphill on Eagle Express

Anyone here for finance?

My manager, another co-worker, and I went to USC earlier this evening to do a recuriting presentation. This time, we were looking for undergraduate finance and accounting majors. They put us into this tiny conference room in the basement of the student union building; it took them almost 10 minutes to get the doors open (first it was locked, then it was stuck). As students were filing into the room, I thought to myself, "Hmm, this reminds me of my engineering classes." Basically the room was full of badly dressed Chinese and Indian guys and only one or two of the 40 were girls. Not knowing this, my manager ran through the 40+ slide presentation, focusing on financial data, skimming through most of the engineering slides, and pausing to explain engineering terms and acronyms. At the end, people started asking about engineering positions which was weird since this was supposed to be a finance recruiting session. We asked for a show of hands and it turned out all but one person were engineering majors... sigh. We were actually recruiting for 3-4 finance positions so this turned out to be a complete waste of time.

And... the one finance guy's resume wasn't even that good. :(

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Skiing, Day 1


The chains from Hell

Actually, I was kind of glad we put the chains on the night before. Otherwise I would have needed to put them on the next morning since the roads were covered with snow and ice. However, I think we either put them on incorrectly or they were too loose. Every time I get to about 25-30mph, something on the chain would bang away at something in the wheelwell, and it was loud.

The first morning, we left the condo at about 7:45am in order to rent skis. We went to a local ski shop to rent equipment. In hindsight, it was probably easier to rent at Canyon Lodge at Mammoth since we don't have to lug everything around with us. I rented the same type of skis I rented at Snow Summit except these were a bit longer at 160cm. It turned out to be a pretty good length; maybe I'll buy a pair before next season.

The weather in the morning was really nice and we got on the slopes at around 9am. It looked like there were a lot of people but the lift lines were really short. Since we were skiing Saturday and Sunday, I bought a two-day pass which cost $130. I don't remember paying that much for lift tickets but it's been awhile since I skiied at Mammoth. The snow was much much better than what we had at Snow Summit. I met up with some co-workers, including my manager, and skiied down an intermediate run.


My manager's 4 year-old daughter; I had a hard time keeping up with her

In the afternoon, it started snowing for real. The sky was cloudy and it got a lot colder. I spent the afternoon with Sunny and Steve on Eagle Express (chair 15). This is all the way to the left when you look at a trail map of Mammoth. It's mostly beginner and intermediate runs and we stayed with the green dots. The snow was really good but it got cold cruising down the slopes.


Lots and lots of snow

Friday, March 17, 2006

Mammoth

After about 8 hours, we finally arrived at Mammoth. The first 80 miles took about 3 hours on the I-15 freeway. I think it's all Vegas traffic; once we got on the 395, I was able to drive at 80mph without any problems. There were lots of CHP cruisers, especially in the 25mph zone in town. My radar detector was going off all the time, even in Ka band.

Right after dinner in Bishop, it started to snow. There was not a CHP checkpoint but everyone pulled off the road to put chains on. I had just got new chains for my 4Runner so it was an experience trying to put them on at the side of the road. After several tries, I think we got it on pretty good, even though it was banging something loudly near the rear-left wheel. We stopped to check several times but could not see anything wrong. It was a good thing we put them on; the parking lot of the condo we're staying at is covered with snow plus there's a layer of ice underneath.

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It's 3:25am and I can't sleep. I hate when this happens: usually it takes me several days to get used to a particular bed. I'm actually pretty tired from driving for so long but here I am, wide awake and blogging away on some random wireless LAN connection. The one notible exception was in Thailand. That was a crazy schedule with basically a different hotel each night. I noticed that if I got a massage, I was so relaxed that I slept through the entire night without waking up. Maybe I'll look for a Thai massage parlor in town today.

Sigh... we have to "get up" in three hours so we can go rent skis. I guess I'll try to go back to sleep. Both my roommates in the loft snore but I probably snore louder than either of them. Arg, right now someone's car alarm is going off right outside the condo. I know it's not mine since I have the crazy Viper alarm; even if it was my car, there's no way I'm going outside in 8 degree F to turn it off.

Empty House


Living Room


Kitchen


Dining/Family Room


Master Bathroom


For Sale Sign


Orchid

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Skiing

I'm going skiing this weekend with some co-workers. Actually, we're leaving at 1:30pm for Mammoth and I'm driving a bunch of co-workers. I bought some tire chains last week in preparation for the ski trip and it looks like I will have to put them to use this weekend. The last time I drove to Mammoth with chains was the late 1980s; that was a 11 hour ordeal Leon's old Camry.


(not Leon's actual car but real close)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

New Car... maybe

I'm seriously thinking of trading in both my cars (2004 Nissan 350Z and 1999 Toyota 4Runner) and getting a new one. I think I would still want a SUV since I'm used to carrying/moving stuff in my car but I want something more car-like instead of the truck-like 4Runner. The first car that came to mind was the Infiniti FX35 since it has the same engine as the Z, but at $40k, there are several other choices:



Infiniti FX35
Lexus RX350
Acura MDX
Mercedes-Benz ML350



They all have 3.5L V6 engines and are about the same size. I know only two people read this blog but... any opinions? Should I just keep my two old cars? I was thinking of getting rid of the Z anyway. I can probably get about $28k for both cars if I can trade in both.

Car Fixed

I just walked over to the body shop and picked up the Z. Of course, the final amount of the repair was more than the estimate... final damage = $2,087. I guess one good thing is they replaced the front bumper/air dam. Both of us have hit a few curbs and scuffed it up pretty good. Now the car looks brand new... maybe I should sell it before I mess it up again.





I also got a bill for additional car insurance premium. At first I thought, "Wow, that was fast... I just had the accident a couple of weeks ago." It turned out that when Shirley took herself off the policy, I lost a "professional" discount. Evidently, if you add someone to your policy without tickets or accidents, it may not increase your premium. I quickly went to AAA's website and found out that engineers get a discount too. You don't even have to be an engineer now as long as you have a degree. So now I have to find my UCLA diploma(!) and fax it to AAA.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Crazy Weather

I was moving some patio furniture to a friend's house Saturday and got caught in a sudden hailstorm. In about 10 seconds, the road was covered with 1/4" sized ice particles. Some drivers decided to pull over to the side of the road; me, I took pictures.


View out the windshield


I stopped to get some gas and took a picture of the front of my car. By now the ice was already melting.


The hailstorm only lasted about a minute but there was a lot of ice. There was still a lot of rain, even when the sun came out. It was hard to see where you were going due to the glare off the pavement.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

MIDI Keyboard Controller

I got tired of messing around with GarageBand with the regular QWERTY keyboard so I went out and bought a M-Audio Keystation 49e MIDI controller. It was only $100 at Fry's; I found it while I was looking for a PCMCIA FireWire adapter for my work laptop. I was going to find a more expensive keyboard with semi-weighted keys but since I can't play piano anyway, it probably doesn't matter.



This time, unlike the Tascam board, I plugged the keyboard into the USB port, clicked on GarageBand, and everything worked. Pretty cool. Of course, I don't play piano or keys so I'm going to learn. Once I get the Tascam board working, I'll have a mini studio in my apartment. The board has 8 regular inputs so I can plug in my microphone, guitar, bass, keyboard (via MIDI), and use either the GarageBand drum machine or the Cubase LE drum kits.

Maybe I can quit my day job... not!

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Mac OS X Browsers

There are a lot more Internet browsers for Mac OS X so I've been downloading and trying out different programs. The computer comes with Apple's Safari browser but I've already had problems trying to log in to Blogger. I also downloaded Firefox and Camino from Mozilla.org and I know Microsoft has a version of Internet Explorer for Max OS X.

Right now I'm trying out Camino 1.0 as my default browser since it is a universal binary version that runs natively on the Intel-based Macs. It does feel much faster than Safari or Firefox.

I'm still trying to get used to using the "Apple" key instead of "control" for copying and pasting.

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Dang! I tried to download Yahoo! Messenger and Camino insists on making an MS Excel file. The download works fine using Safari. I guess it's back to Firefox for now.

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I checked the Microsoft site and they don't have Internet Explorer for Mac anymore; instead they tell people to download Apple's Safari browser. Hmm...

Intel Macs

After holding forever on the phone, I was told by Tascam tech support that they don't have drivers ready for the new Intel-CPU Mac Mini and it won't be ready until June! I can't believe it takes 3+ months to modify a driver... maybe they should outsource their software development group. Also, there was no notice on Tascam's website. The only "requirement" was Mac OS 10.2.8 and above (I have 10.4.5). Now I probably have to get a PCMCIA FireWire adapter for my work laptop; I bought the Mac Mini so I didn't have to use my work computer to run the Tascam board. Sigh...

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

New Toys

I bought three new toys in the past week:

Motorola RAZR V3 (so I can have a "home" phone number)
Tascam FW-1082 (part of a group buy with NewSong Church sound team)
Apple Mac Mini w/Intel CoreDuo (so I can use the Tascam FW-1082 as it reqires a FireWire port)

The last Mac I bought was a Mac IIsi from the early 1990's. I think it had a 25MHz Motorola 68030 CPU and 17MB or RAM and a 80MB HDD. I stopped using it when I had to buy a WinTel notebook computer (Gateway Colorbook) for business school.

Now all I need is another bedroom to put all this stuff... :)

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Having problems getting the FW-1082 to show up on the Mac. I'm on hold with Tascam support; it's my 4th call and I haven't spoken to anyone yet... not impressed.

Banned in China

Leon emailed me from Chengdu today telling me that he could not access this blog. Wow! At first we thought that it was because I had blogged about subjects censored by the Chinese government. Topics like religious freedom, Taiwan independence, or Internet censorship. I then asked him to try other Blogspot blogs and it turned out he could not access any of them. I guess the Chinese government blocked the entire blogspot.com domain. Interestingly, he could still access my old Xanga blog without any problems.

He also called me at work using Skype and it sounded pretty good. At $.03 per minute, it's really cheap to call anywhere. I remember calling Shirley everyday from Beijing back in 1998 for two weeks and it ended up costing me over $800.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Exotic Cars

On the way home from work last night, I saw a strange sliver car in front of me. As I pulled closer, I saw "JAGUAR" on the back of the car and the license plate (Oregon) said "XJ 220". This is the 2nd XJ220 that I've seen; a co-worker at BRCM has one as well.




Later, as I was coming back to the apartment from my house, a black SLR blows by me on the freeway. This was also the 2nd SLR I saw on the road; the first one was valet parked at South Coast Plaza. I tried to follow it to get a picture with my Treo (great pictures, eh?!). I was driving 95mph one-handed on 55-South in my 4Runner which was full of miscellaneous stuff I just picked up from the house.



This reminds me of one Saturday morning several months ago. A couple of us went to get breakfast at IHOP by John Wayne Airport after loading the sound truck at NewSong. As I was pulling in the parking lot, I saw two Ferraris on McArthur Blvd. and another one (Testarossa) in the parking lot. We don't see this kind of stuff in North OC...