Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Freezing in Copenhagen

The irony. Here is a temperature anomaly map of Europe during the Copenhagen conference:


From: WUWT

All that blue means temperatures were colder than expected average. Of course, weather does not equal climate... maybe this is just the (Al) Gore Effect in action.

What Is Communism?



I think Andy Lau (in the video) says it best: there is no system in China. Ultimately it's about power. Mao and CCP took power in the late 1940's not by rhetoric but through violence. Of course, this is not unique to China or CCP; violence and war is a common theme in human history. Communism was just a tool for grabbing and keeping power. Once they had control, the CCP turned to their main focus of wealth accumulation. People in China today don't join the party for ideological reasons; they join and pay for government positions to make money. However, they need to keep all the political controls in place to protect their power and wealth and that's what you have in China today: a "system" built on corruption where the politically powerful and financially wealthy are the same people. It seems hypocritical but not really... since no one in power believes that Communist/Marxist/Maoist crap anyway.

Explicit Lyrics



So, are lyrics explicit if you can't understand them? I don't think they sang Hollaback Girl live since that sounds like Gwen Stefani's voice. It's pretty clear she sings "Uh huh, this my sh*t at around 17 seconds into the video. It's not really that big of a deal... I have the MP3 of the album in my iTunes. However, the song (this version anyway) has a EXPLICIT tag on the iTunes store. This happens a lot when Korean singers try to be all gangster and include the English "bad" words in the rap.

I just wonder if the PD (producer) knows that he/she began this huge year end show with an English cuss word. What if a contestant on American Idol decided to sing a K-pop song and added a bunch of Korean swear words? What would the crazy Korean netizens say?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pajamas Remix Version

That's what it says on the TV screen... :) They should do this version next time they come to Hollywood Bowl.



OK, something different. See, 2PM should stick to dancing.


First girl: Seohyun
Second girl: Yuri
Third girl: Taeyeon

More Loan Delays

Unbelievable. The lender on my loan (chosen by a broker who was referred by my parents' friend) didn't fund the loan today so escrow won't close tomorrow. Now they want to investigate the proceeds from my stock sale that's part of the down payment. I already wired the money into the escrow account, provided them with my bank statements, the stock transaction history from my broker account, and even the details from the actual sale. I'm not sure what other info I can even provide anymore. I have a 800+ credit score, only taking out 33% of the house on loan, and my mortgage payment is going to be less than my apartment rent. If I can't get a loan... who can? Maybe they're trying to delay the loan past my interest lock date so they can charge me a higher interest on the loan.

The broker says that lenders are very conservative... now. Like I ranted before, where was this financial discipline before the meltdown? Not only am I going to have to pay for the bailout, I'm now grouped together with these deadbeats on loan applications. Great. Maybe this is a preview of socialism: everyone gets treated equally... equally bad.

She also said that 70% of loan applications get delayed by the lender. I'm not sure if that's overall or just this specific lender, who will probably sell my loan to someone else next week. If there's a 70% failure rate, should something be done to fix the process?

2PM Can't Sing Ballads

Good grief. JYP Entertainment originally had 2AM and 2PM as one large group but later split them into two with 2PM focusing on dance instead of singing... it shows. If you're in a group and can't really sing that well, avoid solos and languages you can't speak.



OK, a couple of them are decent... but seriously, this is their full-time job. Some of the YouTube comments say that they've gotten better. Really?! They were worse before?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Loan Documents

One of the primary causes of the global financial meltdown last year was the large number of bad mortgages. During the housing bubble, lenders were approving loans that should have never been approved. Many people were buying houses with $0 down, or taking out loans that they cannot afford to pay monthly.

Fast forward to today. I just bought a house with my parents and escrow is supposed to close on Wednesday. However, I'm going to the escrow company again today to sign documents for the third time. Supposedly, the lender didn't like the way I wrote my "9" on the dates... they said some looked like "P" instead. Huh? Anyway, when I went back to resign, the escrow company had me write down the same date as before. Now it seems the lender doesn't like that either so I have to resign them again.

In addition, this lender has requested an extraordinary amount of paperwork. I've bought a house before and refinanced a few times and it was never this much trouble before. I recently sold some stock and deposited the proceeds into my savings account so the lender wanted to see my stock/options portfolio detail too. I just forwarded them my down-payment wire transfer confirmation plus transaction detail from my checking account for the last month. All this work and I'm only borrowing 1/3 of the value of the house. The mortgage broker said that the level of scrutiny on each loan has gone way up recently. Sigh... if they had done this much due diligence before the financial crisis, we wouldn't be in this mess.

==========

Of course, as soon as I bitch about documents, the mortgage broker called and said that the lender needs more stuff. I had sent them the first page of my checking account statement since it has a summary of the balance. I didn't want to send them the transaction detail since it was really none of their business who I pay and receive money from. But since the first page says "Page 1 of 4", they want the rest, even though two pages are blank. Anyway, at the risk of losing my locked lower interest rate, I ended up sending it. Frustrating... :(

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Family Outing Live

From KPOP JJANG 짱 (jjang - "the best"), I found a program called TvAnts. It's basically a TV streaming app and like many others, it's from China. However, this one has a lot of Korean TV stations and the stream is pretty live. I connected to the "official" KBS streaming site and TvAnts is only a few seconds behind. I also use TVU to stream TV stations from China. I was talking to my friend in Chengdu and the stream for Hunan TV was only 15 seconds behind her cable TV signal. Technology is amazing.

Anyway, I'm tuned in to TJB SBS (not sure what the TJB means) on TvAnts, which means I have no idea what they're saying. It's 6:40pm on Sunday 12/27 in Seoul and SBS is showing a Family Outing special composed of mainly cuts from old shows. I think MC Yoo is going to leave the show since he'e going to have a baby. The show will most likely be canceled next year as their ratings have be dropping recently.



Hehe, watching streaming TV means I get to see Korean TV commercials too. There seems to be a lot more during each break compared to the US. I think this is at least the 20th+ commercial in a row... it's an ad for the Nintendo Wii.

Uh-oh, Family Outing is over. Now it's "Miss Gold is Coming" which is part 2 of Good Sunday on SBS. I've never watched this show before but I heard it a realty show with six middle-aged female celebrities. They compete each week for a chance to go on a date and find a husband.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More and More Taxes

With Obama and the Democrats spending federal tax dollars like it's free, I wanted to see how much I was paying in taxes already. Just to simply the analysis and have it comparable year-over-year, I took the AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) from my tax returns and added all the taxes from my W2 (Federal Income Tax, Medicare Tax, CA State Income Tax, Social Security Tax, CA SUI/SDI Tax) plus any amounts I paid along with my tax returns. Since I have to pay sales tax as well, I applied 7.75%/8.25% to the "take home" amount and calculated the net dollars as % of AGI.

Here is what I got:
2006 = 61.3%
2007 = 58.5%
2008 = 56.9%

I sold my house in 2006 so there was 6 months of mortgage interest deductions. Also I paid alimony in 2006 and 2007 which gave me a tax break. 2008 is probably a more representative year since I had very few deductions. Using the ~57% number, it means that from January 1st until June 6th, I'm slaving for one of the many levels of government that taxes me. Only starting from June 7th onwards am I keeping the money I earn. Sounds pretty steep. I'm sure I'm a net payer of tax dollars.

Ironically, I just bought a house with my parents. They're paying for 50% of the total with money from the sale of their house in Canada. I'm paying a bit in cash and taking out a mortgage for the rest. Excluding sales taxes, the amount of taxes I paid in 2007 & 2008 is about the same as my new mortgage. Crazy... and to think it will go up even more once we start paying for all that "Hope and Change" wealth redistribution.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

China wrecked the Copenhagen deal

I actually don't care much for the Copenhagen conference (and Kyoto before that) since a lot of AGW is political rather than scientific. This was made quite clear by China's actions during the conference; they don't think Shanghai or the Pearl River Delta will be underwater anytime soon.

Guardian UK
How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room

Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful "deal" so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.
...

Shifting the blame

To those who would blame Obama and rich countries in general, know this: it was China's representative who insisted that industrialised country targets, previously agreed as an 80% cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal. "Why can't we even mention our own targets?" demanded a furious Angela Merkel. Australia's prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was annoyed enough to bang his microphone. Brazil's representative too pointed out the illogicality of China's position. Why should rich countries not announce even this unilateral cut? The Chinese delegate said no, and I watched, aghast, as Merkel threw up her hands in despair and conceded the point. Now we know why – because China bet, correctly, that Obama would get the blame for the Copenhagen accord's lack of ambition.

China, backed at times by India, then proceeded to take out all the numbers that mattered. A 2020 peaking year in global emissions, essential to restrain temperatures to 2C, was removed and replaced by woolly language suggesting that emissions should peak "as soon as possible". The long-term target, of global 50% cuts by 2050, was also excised. No one else, perhaps with the exceptions of India and Saudi Arabia, wanted this to happen. I am certain that had the Chinese not been in the room, we would have left Copenhagen with a deal that had environmentalists popping champagne corks popping in every corner of the world.
...

China's game

All this raises the question: what is China's game? Why did China, in the words of a UK-based analyst who also spent hours in heads of state meetings, "not only reject targets for itself, but also refuse to allow any other country to take on binding targets?" The analyst, who has attended climate conferences for more than 15 years, concludes that China wants to weaken the climate regulation regime now "in order to avoid the risk that it might be called on to be more ambitious in a few years' time".

This does not mean China is not serious about global warming. It is strong in both the wind and solar industries. But China's growth, and growing global political and economic dominance, is based largely on cheap coal. China knows it is becoming an uncontested superpower; indeed its newfound muscular confidence was on striking display in Copenhagen. Its coal-based economy doubles every decade, and its power increases commensurately. Its leadership will not alter this magic formula unless they absolutely have to.

Haven't "the West" learned anything from dealing with North Korea and Iran? These dictators don't give a shit about anything other than keeping their power and privilege. China can't risk an economic slowdown since that will lead to greater domestic discontent, especially amongst the poor farmers and migrant workers. That in turn, will pose a risk to "social harmony" and stability, but mainly threaten the CCP's stranglehold on the Chinese people.

China is not a developing country. The country is poor on average because the CCP screwed up the economy for decades. It is an industrialized country and the #1 polluter in the world. If Beijing was serious about fixing corruption and waste, the standard of living would increase immediately.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A-mei Live (on TV)

I found some live TV performances by A-mei in 1080p HD on YouTube. She just turned 37 and is still as amazing as ever. I hope I can see her perform live before she retires for good.


我要快樂 - 張惠妹


原來你什麼都不要 - 張惠妹

==========

Hmm, I think I found a Taiwan music show (週日狂熱夜) broadcasting in HD that features C-pop singers, much like the shows I download from Korea. Even better, they all seem to perform with a live band too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Child Sponsor

I've been sponsoring a child through Compassion International since 1996; she lives near Phitsanulok (พิษณุโลก) in Northern Thailand. I chose a Thai girl because many girls from poor families are sold into prostitution there. Anyway, over the past 14 years, I've donated ~$4000... hopefully it has helped her live a better life. Since she is about to turn 18, my sponsorship will end soon. I've inquired into a scholarship for college but her school performance is only "average" so I'm not sure if she's able to attend.

Looking to sponsoring another child, I found a charity called Half the Sky Foundation through a book I'm reading. I did some research and they were highly rated on Charity Navigator. Basically they help run programs at orphanages in China for children with birth defects. With China's one child policy, often babies born with any defects are abandoned by their parents. I thought this was a worthwhile charity so I sent in some money to sponsor a child for one year. Since they allow you to choose which orphanage, I asked to sponsor a child in Chengdu; the orphanage appears to be very close to PMI's new factory.



I received an email this evening with the child's info and now I'm a bit depressed. It's a little baby boy born on 7/30/09 and the English translation says he only has one arm. The original Chinese report is more specific: he is missing his right forearm. He's only been at the orphanage since September and he is "thin and small" per the report. Hopefully they can help him gain some strength and maybe I can visit during my next trip to Chengdu.

Sigh... it's hard not criticize the Chinese government in this situation when you read about stuff like this.
$73 billion a year on banquets

Heavy consumption of hard alcohol is a common aspect of business and government functions, where “gan bei,” or “bottoms up,” is the standard toast. Academic researchers have estimated that government officials spend $73 billion a year of public funds on banquets – one-third of what Chinese citizens spend on eating out annually.

That's an absurd amount of money wasted on food and alcohol instead of social welfare for its citizens. Less than 1% of that money ($750 million) is enough to help millions of orphaned kids. Instead, NGOs have to rely on laowais* like me for donations.

*OK, I'm not a real laowai...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Family Outing

I'm a big fan of Korean variety shows. The only problem is that I have to wait for subtitles, usually fansubs, before I can watch the shows. I'm subscribed to 40+ channels on YouTube just so I can locate subtitled videos of the shows I like.

Korean (and other Asian) variety shows are kind of like reality shows here in the US except that the guests are celebrities, either singers or movie/drama stars. Also, the celebrities that come on these shows are pretty famous, unlike "celebrity" episodes of US reality shows that usually feature B-list guests. Anyway, the show that got me hooked was X-man on SBS (Korean website). The original show ran for 155 episodes over three years and though scripted, it was really funny. It also introduced me to a lot of K-pop artists since they were often guests on the show. There was another show I watched called Love Letter also on SBS that was very similar to X-man. Both shows are no longer on the air but you can find a lot of episodes on YouTube.

Currently, I'm watching several shows on a regular basis:
- 1 Night 2 Days (KBS)
- Family Outing (SBS)
- Star Golden Bell (KBS)
- Invincible Youth (KBS)
- Strong Heart (SBS)

The last two shows are kind of new so there's not much English info on them yet. I spend this past weekend watching old episodes of Family Outing. Basically a bunch of celebrities and one (or two) guests visit a family in a rural village while the family goes on vacation. They usually have a list of chores to do, make dinner, play games, spend the night, and eat breakfast. Each weekend is shown over two weeks on TV.

Here's part 1 of the first episode with Yoona of SNSD as guest


Soshified subtitles

==========

Part 1 of Star Golden Bell Idol Special Episode


Official KBS World subtitles

Part 1 of the first episode of Strong Heart


strongheartsubs subtitles

Part 1 of the first episode of Invincible Youth


ssfsubsG7 subtitles

Invincible Youth is also called G7 since it has 7 celebrities from girl bands:
- SNSD: Sunny and Yuri
- KARA: Hara
- Brown Eyed Girls: Narsha
- T-ara: Hyomin
- 4Minute: Hyuna
- Secret: Sunhwa
- plus Kim Tae Woo (guy) from g.o.d.

Younha + Tablo


Memory - Younha feat. Tablo (Epik High)

==========

I really liked this song but I had no idea what the words meant. Here's a video I found on YouTube with English translations. The lyrics are kinda sad... sometimes I feel that way too. :(

World's Lamest Scam Email

Why do I get the feeling that "Elena" is some guy sitting in front of a computer at an Internet cafe somewhere in Nigeria?
From: Elena Chan
Sent: Sunday, December 20, 2009 7:22 AM
Subject: My Predicament

Hello,

I am in a hurry writing this mail to you, I had to traveled to London, UK for an urgent function and unfortunately for me all cash and credit cards including my phone were stolen at the hotel where I lodged. I am so confused right now, I don't know what to do or where to go. The hotel telephone lines were disconnected during the robbery incident. So I have access to only emails. I am just wondering if you could loan me 1000 Pounds to pay up my bills and to and to get a taxi down to the airport. I'll definitely refund it back to you when i return home today. My return flight leaves in about 3hrs and i don't want to miss my return flight.

Please I need your fast response to my mail as i am having difficulties in paying my hotel bills.

I have nothing left on me and I'm grateful to God that i still have my life and my passport cos it would have been worst if they made had made away with my passport.

I don't really know where i am now but i just have to settle the hotel bills and head to the airport, i have 4hrs before my flight leaves, i need a quick loan from you and i think you can have it wired to my name through western union money transfer.

All I need is just 1000 pounds and you can have it wired to me via Western Union and i promise to refund it as soon as we get back home, here's my info below.

Elena Chan
272, Coriander Avenue, Docklands, E14 2AA,
London United Kingdom

As soon as it is done, kindly get back to me with the confirmation number and the full senders name. Let me know if you are heading to the WU outlet now???

I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
+++
Elena Chan
MSSW Candidate, May 2010
Columbia University School of Social Work
ELC2131@columbia.edu
(949)-439-5330

I receive a lot of these scam messages along with phishing emails but this has to be the lamest one yet. At least offer me 20% of $10 million or something for making me run down to a Western Union on Sunday morning.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

OC Cars

Speaking of fast cars, I saw this on the way to work:



I think it's a Ford GT; they're pretty rare since only about 3600 cars were sold in the U.S. It was pretty loud and seem to accelerate pretty quickly from the light. I was in my 4Runner so there's no way I was going to catch up. The black car was a late BMW 7-series with the ugliest set of wheels I've ever seen... they looked really cheap and tacky. I never understood why people buy a $80k car and mess up the ride quality with huge rims and ultra low profile tires. I guess it's all part of the Pimp My Ride wannabe gangster style or something.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gran Turismo 5 Contest

Gran Turismo is the king of racing simulations on the Sony PlayStation. I have GT3 A-spec and GT4 on my PS2 and GT5 Prologue on my PS3. The full version of GT5 for PS3 is still not released yet but Sony released the Prologue version with limited cars and tracks. Starting yesterday, they also released a demo called GT5 Time Trial Challenge.

It's really a demo and a contest rolled into one. There are only two cars (stock and tuned versions of the Nissan 370Z) and one track (Indy road course). The player with the lowest combined time trial for both cars wins a trip to the Indy 500 next May.



I downloaded the demo/contest last night and tried it out. I have a Logitech Driving Force GT wheel designed specifically for GT5 and I own a 2004 Nissan 350Z in real life. Of course, none of that really helps. I kept spinning out in the tuned version of the car and only managed ~2:00 lap time using the stock 370Z. If you go online, you can see the rankings. The current leader has a stock car lap time of 1:48.428 which is only 12 seconds faster than my time. However, my ranking is #7418 and I haven't even completed a lap in the tuned car. Last night, my rank was #3271... I guess I'd better go home and practice. The contest ends on 1/25/2010 so I still have time. :)


Interview that I ripped from the Gran Turismo site. I think everyone know who Jay Leno is. Here's more on Audrey Cleo from her blog.

==========

Heh. I managed to complete a lap without wiping out in the tuned 370Z. I think my time was ~1:48 something which gives me a combined ranking of... #14687. :(

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shanzai SNSD

Shanzai: refers to Chinese imitation and pirated brands and goods, particularly electronics. Literally "mountain village" or "mountain stronghold", the term refers to the mountain stockades of warlords or thieves, far away from official control. "Shanzhai" can also be stretched to refer to people who are lookalikes, low-quality or improved goods, as well as things done in parody.

Dang it, do the Chinese people have to copy everything?



A Chinese group very, maybe too similar to Korea's proud Girls' Generation is making headlines!

This Chinese group is called Idol Girls, and they are consisted of 9 girls. Okay, so the number of members can easily be the same, right? But that's not it. According to a Chinese site, the Idol Girls are an average of 18 years old, and are supposedly talented not only as singers, but as actresses, models, MCs and more.


Top: not SNSD
Bottom: SNSD

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Korean BBQ in Korea

I read an article (translated) about SNSD and SuperJunior eating at a Korean BBQ restaurant in Seoul after the 2009 Golden Disk Awards. The article said that the entire dinner party was ~50 people and they ordered 80 servings of meat; the total bill came out to ~$1500. I'm not sure what they mean by "serving" in the article but here in LA, each plate of raw meat is ~$20 and can probably feed one or two people, especially when you add in all the side dishes and rice.

80 servings for 50 people sounds like a lot of food and the bill was ~$30/person. I thought Korean BBQ in Korea would be less expensive than LA... it's actually quite comparable.


Original article (Korean)
On December 10th Super Junior, who took the Best Album award, and SNSD, who took the Best Digital Single award, celebrated after the 2009 Golden Disk Awards at a local Korean BBQ restaurant in Seoul.

The two "sibling groups," who cried and comforted each other after receiving the highest distinction awards, went to a local restaurant at 11:30 PM that night. They arrived in casual clothing with no make-up on and still could not hold their emotions in.

Usually after winning a huge award, there is an "alcohol party" to celebrate, but because most members are under age and their busy schedules the next day, they celebrated with Sprite instead.

Because Super Junior had a concert in China the next day, they were unable to drink. Lee Teuk and Kim Heechul, who are old enough to drink, mixed soju (alcoholic beverage) and Sprite together and showed an example of a *love shot. There was a total number of 50 people, which included the two groups and other staff members. They ordered 80 portions of meat and the bill came out to be $1500 (USD).


SNSD wins 2009 Golden Disk Award Digital Music Daesang

Tiffany seems to speak a lot. She's a MC on MBC's Music Core program but I think her Korean is the worst out of the 9 members. I think she just likes to talk.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bypassing YouTube

Since I have two strikes on my YouTube account for TOS violation, and one of them from Avex, I'm going to try and upload this directly to Blogger. The quality is not as good since they limit you to 100MB. It's hard to encode videos to that size without sacrificing quality. I think YouTube allows uploads up to 2GB but only 10 minutes in length.

Here is another MV from miray. I'm not sure where I got this from; there are only snippets of the full MV on YouTube. Right now my music/performance video folder is ~170GB and contain ~2000 files, some dating back to 2002.


激情 - miray

I don't know if the MV has anything to do with the song lyrics. The song title (激情) means "passion" in Japanese. Maybe the song is about these girls that break into a bar/nightclub, steal a bottle of champagne, and dance around nekked half-naked.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kim Tae Woo

Just so it's not all Asian girl bands/female singers all the time, I do listen to male C/J/K-pop artists. Kim Tae Woo was part of g.o.d., one of the first idol groups in K-pop. He was just in the army for his mandatory military service and recently started his comeback. I saw him perform at the 2009 Korean Music Festival at the Hollywood Bowl back in May.


KTW is the tall guy on the left.

This is the song he was promoting at the time...


Words I'd Want To Say (하고싶은 말) - Kim Tae Woo (김태우)

And his latest song...


Love Rain (사랑비) -Kim Tae Woo (김태우)

More YouTube Whining

Wow, I went back to check the K-pop videos I linked to YouTube and most of them were gone... all you see is the "This video has been removed due to terms of use violation" message. I started to find new links for some of the embedded videos but I gave up after five or six of them.

That sucks. Now how am I supposed to introduce my three readers to new C/J/K-pop songs and videos?!

==========

OK, here's a Japanese girl group called Foxxi misQ. I posted one of their MV before. It's like having three Koda Kumis on stage. What do you think about this one, anonymous commenter? :)


Ultimate Girls - Foxxi misQ

This is not just a random post of some half-dressed J-pop singers (okay, it kinda is)... I have MP3s of almost all of their albums and singles in my iTunes library.

More Koda Kumi

Since I can't post her videos, I'll just have to link to other people's uploads and hope they don't get taken down.

I like this song... though she has a tendency to say "butterFRY" instead of butterfly.


Butterfly - Koda Kumi


Live! The announcer says "butterFRY" too. :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You're Free To Go...

Wow, this is a stunning turn of events. Judge dismisses Henry Samueli's guilty plea and the charge of lying to the SEC... and he doesn't have to pay the $12M fine.

LA Times
Judge dismisses charge against Broadcom co-founder

Henry Samueli had pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the SEC in its stock options backdating probe. But after testifying in the trial of another Broadcom executive, the judge threw out the plea.

A federal judge this afternoon threw out the guilty plea of Broadcom Corp. co-founder and billionaire Henry Samueli and dismissed the charge against him of lying to investigators in a stock options backdating probe.

In a stunning reversal, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney said Samueli did not make a material false statement to Securities and Exchange Commission investigators.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Japanese KARA Fan

I saw this on YouTube...


At 4:56 in the video:
Even though I don't know what they're saying, I'm used to it. Because I listen to a lot of their songs, but I have almost no idea what they're saying.

Yup!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Stop Breathing...


AP Article

YouTube Account Suspension

Oh well, one of my favorite sources for K-pop music videos and performances on YouTube was just suspended. I think she created 5 (or more) accounts and almost all of them have been suspended; there's only one left and it probably won't last either. That's too bad since she just started uploading videos in 1080p. I wish the "official" accounts would put up better quality videos.

==========

Heh, I just checked and three videos in my YouTube account were taken down due to Avex Entertainment. I went through a lot of trouble to rip these MVs from a region 3 DVD. I'm not even sure how I did it now.

Gentle Words by Koda Kumi
COME WITH ME by Koda Kumi
Selfish by Koda Kumi


For some reason, this one is okay. Maybe they have an agreement with Avex or something.

I heard you get three strikes before your account is suspended in YouTube. My first strike was an A-mei video from a DVD I bought in Taiwan. The Koda Kumi videos were strike two. Let's hope no one finds the "illegal" Cheer Chen uploads.

AGW Scam

I will start listening to the global warming alarmists when their actions match their words.

Telegraph UK

Copenhagen climate summit: 1,200 limos, 140 private planes and caviar wedges

Copenhagen is preparing for the climate change summit that will produce as much carbon dioxide as a town the size of Middlesbrough.

On a normal day, Majken Friss Jorgensen, managing director of Copenhagen's biggest limousine company, says her firm has twelve vehicles on the road. During the "summit to save the world", which opens here tomorrow, she will have 200.

"We thought they were not going to have many cars, due to it being a climate convention," she says. "But it seems that somebody last week looked at the weather report."

Ms Jorgensen reckons that between her and her rivals the total number of limos in Copenhagen next week has already broken the 1,200 barrier. The French alone rang up on Thursday and ordered another 42. "We haven't got enough limos in the country to fulfil the demand," she says. "We're having to drive them in hundreds of miles from Germany and Sweden."

...

The temptation, then, is to dismiss the whole thing as a ridiculous circus. Many of the participants do not really need to be here. And far from "saving the world," the world's leaders have already agreed that this conference will not produce any kind of binding deal, merely an interim statement of intent.

Instead of swift and modest reductions in carbon – say, two per cent a year, starting next year – for which they could possibly be held accountable, the politicians will bandy around grandiose targets of 80-per-cent-plus by 2050, by which time few of the leaders at Copenhagen will even be alive, let alone still in office.

In light of the recent email scandal from UEA, the participants in the AGW scam are:

1. "Scientists" who fudge data and analysis to scare people/governments into more funding for their "research" and boondoggles such as Copenhagen

2. Politicians who use the threat of AGW to take more control over people's lives

3. Environmentalists who use AGW to further their anti-capitalist and anti-growth goals

4. Unscrupulous businessmen (e.g., Al Gore) who are getting rich from carbon credit trading scams that don't even reduce any CO2 output

The proposals at Copenhagen will cost trillions of dollars of economic output and will make the entire world poorer. I think we deserve more transparency into the science and more scrutiny into the climate models that have been unable to predict anything during the past decade. This is from one of the leaked emails from UEA CRU:
The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

Doesn't that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Small (Accounting) World

After this month's accounting close review meeting, I was walking around to visit people in building 2. Next to Jessica's office, there was an Internal Audit contractor. I walked by, glanced at the name, and though it was a bit familiar. I poked my head back into the office and asked whether the person used to work at Ingram Micro. It turned out that she did and quit Ingram about the same time I did. Her name is Debbie Kaucher and she was an accountant at Ingram but has been a consultant for the past 9 years. I didn't know her that well but we knew a lot of people in common. Small world.

Speaking of work, my direct supervisor is switching jobs. He's trying to keep his old responsibilities but I'm not sure if he will be successful in doing so. There 0% chance that they will let me replace him so I may get a new manager. I've known him ever since I started 10 years ago so we have a good working relationship. Hopefully this transition will work out well and I won't get stuck with a bad manager.

YouTube 1080p

Since I don't subscribe to any Asian pay channels, the only way to get TV shows from Asia is either from someone's uploads or through YouTube. For K-pop videos, I'm a bit picky so I usually only download HD files which are 720p (1280x720). These files play fine on my Mac mini (Intel GMA 950) but my Sony Vaio (Intel Mobile 965 Express) has problems with them and can only play them at ~25 fps.

Starting last month, people can upload 1080p videos to YouTube. I just downloaded a performance by Lena Park using Safari and the MP4 file was 108MB for the 4:07 video. I tried playing it with QuickTime on my Vaio and it could only manage ~9 fps. Even on my Mac, the video only plays at ~25 fps. I love the super high 1900x1080 resolution but all my computers are too slow to play the file.

Sigh... maybe the newer Macs have better video performance. I should bring the MP4 files in to an Apple Store and try it. I should also try playing the file on my Dell 17" notebook that I gave to my dad. Most of my other computers use the embedded Intel video chip but I remember upgrading the Dell to a faster ATI or Nvidia chipset. Let see if that was worth the extra money.

==========

Nope. The Dell 1705 has an ATI 1400 video chip and it managed only ~20 fps. The new Dell Inspiron 15 I just bought for my mom with Windows 7 played the file at ~22 fps. My old Mac mini is still the winner. Maybe I should try it on the PS3... once I get the stupid DLNA thing to work.


I wonder where the source file is from? Do TV stations in Korea broadcast in 1080p?!


Dang, another suspended account/video. It's okay, here's another 1080p video... TRON! I'm old enough to have seen the original in the theater.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Japanese Reggae


Jump Pump by miray

I've always seen this artist categorized as Reggae for some reason. Not sure why... her songs sounds like a lot of other J-pop/K-pop songs, with a bit more Latin percussion though. Oh well, at least she's a lot cuter than Bob Marley.

Here are two other music videos on YouTube. They were uploaded by her label company (Avex) so hopefully they won't be taken down like a lot of the K-pop stuff.


Proof of Love


恋しくて~You're not here~

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mac vs. PC

I haven't paid too much attention to the Apple vs. PC ads. I saw enough to recognize that the "Apple" guy is from Die Hard 4. Anyway, I've always had both systems and I use them interchangeably but if pressed, I prefer my Macs. I got a reminder today why Macs are better.

I ordered a new monitor online last week and received it at work today. It's an Acer X213H LCD monitor and I got it for a cheap $115. I tried it out at work with both my work Dell notebooks and it seemed to work fine though the older Dell D-410 couldn't drive it at the full 1920x1080. When I got home, I thought I would use it on my Mac. I removed the old monitor (ViewSonic VX2235wm) and plugged in the same cables (DVI) to the Acer. As soon as I plugged it in, my Mac mini recognized the monitor, set the resolution to 1920x1080, and everything worked perfectly. This is with the older 10.4.11 Mac OS X too.

Next, I tried to attach my ViewSonic to my Sony Vaio running Windows Vista Home Premium (or something) and it would not output at the monitor's native 1680x1050 resolution. I even went online and downloaded the right driver (.INF file)... who installs monitor drivers?! Sigh... so I decided to switch the ViewSonic back to my Mac and use the Acer on my Sony since it claimed to be Vista compatible. After 15 minutes of messing around, I finally got it to work somewhat decently. I tried installing the Acer drivers and Vista still won't recognize the model. Yup, I have a Generic PnP Monitor. Along the way, Vista couldn't load my profile on restart and I lost all my settings and desktop icons. I've learned though that when Windows goes crazy, restart a few times and maybe it will fix itself. Luckily, it did this time so I have my icons back though they're dispersed all over the screen.

I hate Vista... but I'm too cheap to buy a Windows 7 upgrade. Maybe I'll wait until SP3 comes out for it before I upgrade.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Portland Thanksgiving

Just got home from Portland with my parents; we went up to spend Thanksgiving with my sister, Rebecca, and the girls. I brought my Panasonic camera but forgot the battery so no pictures. :(

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blame Canada

epic fail pictures
10:10 p.m.: Suspicious people were reportedly doing something with flashlights by the side of North 5th Street in Custer. A deputy checked and found the people were not suspicious, but merely Canadian. The out-of-towners were enjoying an evening stroll.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Another Brown Eyed Girls Song

Hmm, they just finished promoting Abracadabra and now they have a new song out. Incidentally, I wonder what Google was thinking when they bought YouTube. The only good content was illegal (copyright) content. Who wants to watch a bunch of poorly produced amateur videos anyway. Now that Korean media companies are actively patrolling YouTube, a lot of K-pop music performance videos are disappearing daily. I've been trying to download as much stuff as possible but the video uploading feature in Blogger sucks so I still need to link to YouTube. Oh well, I shouldn't complain too much since it's all free (for now).

Back to Brown Eyed Girls, the song is called Sign. I like the costumes and choreography better than Abracadabra. What I really miss is their old style performances where the focus was mainly on singing... they have great voices.

Dang it... just as I was typing this post, one of the accounts I subscribe to got suspended. She (don't know anything about the person except that it's a she) usually uploads HD stuff the same day as the broadcasts in Korea. I'll have to search for another source until she creates a new account... :(


Sign by Brown Eyed Girls. Let see how long this video lasts on YouTube.

==========

OK, not very long. Oh well, there's a lot more where that came from. :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Alternate Universe

I guess this could have been me... my family immigrated from China Taiwan when I was eight years old.

Yale Daily News
Tony Chi places his cup of green tea on the aluminum grill and sprawls on a stool in the back of the restaurant. Adjusting his chef’s hat, he ties on his hachimaki, a traditional Japanese headband worn as a symbol of perseverance and hard work. He cranes his neck to scope out the two groups that just sat down at other hibachi grills. An elderly husband and wife sit at the first. Surrounding the second is a group of 30-something couples, the women flaunting blond highlights and low-cut dresses, the men gelled hair and starched sport shirts. Each of them orders a shot of whiskey or vodka.

Tony grins. “They’re going to get wild,” he whispers. “This table, it should be exciting.”

It is a rainy Saturday night in November 2008, and Tony is teaching me the art of scouting a hibachi party. Hibachi chefs like Tony don’t put on the same act for everybody. Rather, they size up the customers who sit before them and adjust their routines accordingly: families with doe-eyed children get balloon animals, older couples are treated to “sir” and “ma’am” flattery, and college kids drown in quarts of sake. Tony, who is 30 years old and has been cooking hibachi since before his voice dropped, prefers the third category. Long after those customers leave the restaurant, Tony remembers them. More importantly, they remember Tony.

At least people remember him. I don't think there's anything memorable about my work.

JeepSpeed – Transfer Case Upgrade

It’s been over a year since we stripped down our JeepSpeed Cherokee. We got someone to build our roll cage since then so now it’s time to start building the truck. Randy purchased a whole lot of stuff for us to install and yesterday was the first build day.

We started at 8:30am at Randy’s parents’ house. I was a bit disappointed that no one else showed up. We had a lot of enthusiasm when we decided to start this project but mostly it’s been Randy and I so far, both money and labor. The first task was to get the truck off the trailer and into the work area (under a canopy in the driveway). Since the driveway was on a slope and the truck is not running, we ended up towing the trailer down the street to a flat section, unload the truck, then tow it using a rope back up to the driveway. It was weird “driving” the truck without a seat and trying to steer without power steering.

DSC01220
The truck sitting on the trailer. The rear end is up so high becuase the racing leafsprings have already been installed and there is no weight in the back w/o the fuel tank.

Our original goal was to do a couple of things today, including work on both the front and rear suspension. However, since the truck had so much rust (originally from Illinois), it took forever to remove the nut and bolts holding everything together. The first item on the agenda was to upgrade the 4WD transfer case with a shorter and stronger main shaft. We also ended up removing the exhaust pipe/catalytic converter/muffler to get better access to the transfer case.

DSC01223
Extra 4WD transfer case that Randy bought along with an upgrade kit. We ended up pulling apart the one under the truck so he will probably reselling this one.

DSC01224
Back of the truck after we pushed it into the workspace. The big hole is where the fuel tank used to be. We have to replace it with a fuel cell for safety reasons.

The transfer case upgrade looked simple on paper: remove from car, open it, take out old main shaft, replace with new main shaft and tail housing, reassemble the case, and reinstall. After 8 hours of work (with a lot of help from Randy’s dad), we managed to replace the shaft and reassemble the transfer case but didn’t get to reinstall it back under the truck.

DSC01225
Rear driveshaft. One of the retention clamps was missing where the axle joins to the rear differential. From the amount of dirt and rust, I think it's been missing for awhile. Good thing the drive shaft didn't fall off while driving on the freeway. I also noticed that all 4 tires were from different brands... I've never seen that before. We're going to replace all the wheels and tires (probably with BF Goodrich tires so we can get pit support from them).

DSC01226
The current transfer case under the truck. It would take forever to disconnect both driveshafts and the transmission.

DSC01227
We sawed through the exhaust pipe to get rid of this section. We'll probably build a new exhaust to the side... just like Jesse James on Monster Garage!

DSC01228
The JeepSpeed truck sitting on jackstands. It was easier to work underneath with the truck up on stands but it was also a bit nervewracking. Randy brought out a wheeled "creeper" for me so it was easier for me to move around on my back under the truck.

DSC01229
Open transfer case with both shafts removed.

DSC01230
Randy holding on to the new main shaft while his dad tried to figure out how to remove some needle bearings without a hydraulic press. We ended up just pounding them out of the drive gear with a hammer. :)

DSC01237
Nightfall (1 second exposure at f/3.5). After all this work, we only managed to replace the main transfer case shaft. This truck build will probably take a lot longer than we planned.

I was so tired at the end of the day even though I didn’t do much since I don’t have much experience working on cars. I can’t imagine doing this everyday as an auto mechanic.

=========

BTW, the original post was created in Windows Live Writer. Typical of Microsoft, the preview only works with Internet Explorer. I tweaked with the formatting until it looked right under preview but after posting, I viewed the page with Safari (Mac OS X) and it was all messed up. I had to use the basic HTML editor in Blogger to fix everything. The photo uploading tool was pretty good though so I may use Writer to upload (not sure where the photos are stored though) then edit the text online.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Back to School

I've always liked school... or rather, I enjoy learning new stuff and writing papers/taking tests never bothered me. If graduating from high school = 12 years of education, then I've spent ~21 yeas in school (4 years for BS, 1.5 years for MS, 2 years for MBA, and 1.5 years of JC classes). Dang it, I could have been a medical doctor.

I'm been really bored at work for the past 18 months. This is the 4th or 5th job rotation and there's nothing else I'm interested in, except maybe for business development. The problem is that there are lots of people interested in the same job and the current guy in the position doesn't appear to be leaving anytime soon. Additionally, all the analysts from ~10 years ago have either left the company or been promoted to a director title, except me... so maybe the company is sending me a message to move on.

One thing I've looked into is teaching. My first experience teaching (other than tutoring) were several seminars at Yenching University in Beijing. I went with PESI way back in 1998 and gave a few lectures on corporate finance. Trying to get more hands-on experience, I signed up to teach at the University of Phoenix afterwards and ended up teaching intro accounting and finance for about a year. My 10 year work anniversary next January is about the same time as the next round of promotions/raises. I guess I should wait at least that long to see what happens.

After my trips to China, I've been thinking about the future. Since I have no family, I can probably dump all my stock/options, live on savings for the next 20 years, and wait for Social Security (ha ha). Anyway, I found out that UCI Extension offers a certificate program for TEFL and they're holding an information session later this month. If I'm not feeding a mortgage or wife/kids, I can take a few years off and teach English/business somewhere. Once I get a TESL certificate, I think I could easily find a teaching position in China (with a 95% pay cut) though I'm still not sure if I can live there for more then 2 weeks at a time. Maybe Korea... then I can spend my spare time stalking K-pop stars. :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Transpacific Cruises (sort of)

Heh, I didn't know you can travel around the world on container ships. Some of them offer passenger service and the rooms look pretty nice though three weeks at sea sounds boring.


CMA CGM Hugo
21 days from Long Beach terminal to Hong Kong


Single cabin for 85 Euros (~$125) per day. That means a trip from LAX to HKG will cost $2,625 one-way and $4,375 round-trip (35 days).

Global Warming = Religion


The end of the world is coming!

Telegraph
In a landmark ruling, Mr Justice Michael Burton said that "a belief in man-made climate change ... is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations".

The ruling could open the door for employees to sue their companies for failing to account for their green lifestyles, such as providing recycling facilities or offering low-carbon travel.

So the guy refuses to travel by air. Maybe that works in small countries like the UK. I can't take a train to NY (69 hours) or a ship to Asia (3 weeks) every time I need to travel for work.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

$20 Telescope

For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be an astronomer (or a spaceship pilot). While working at the Mississauga Public Library, I read every book available on astronomy. When I got to UCLA, somehow I ended up studying engineering and now I'm stuck behind a desk making financial slides.

Since I've always lived in urban areas (Taipei, Toronto, Los Angeles), I've never owned a telescope. There's usually so much light pollution that only the brightest objects can be seen. The only time I've seen the Milky Way was on a mission trip to a Navajo Indian Reservation on the border between New Mexico and Arizona. I'm actually not that good at spotting planets and stars; I was more interested in astrophysics. So far, I've only taken one astronomy class in college.


Mt. Palomar Observatory in San Diego County

Like all hobbies, you can spend a little bit of money or a lot of money. I've been checking out telescopes on and off for several years and it seems like you need to spend ~$500 for a decent beginner's scope. Some of the nicer refractors costing almost $10,000! Checking out a telescope review site, there was a review for a $20 telescope from Galileoscope. Surprisingly, it got a recommended rating. It's a project to make good quality telescopes available for everyone, kinda like the $100 laptop project. It's made of plastic and does not come with a tripod but for $20, it's supposedly pretty good.


I want to get one (or three) for Christmas but I think they're heavily backordered. :(

Monday, November 2, 2009

Testing Windows Live Writer

Windows live installed this program on my computer that allow you to edit blog posts. It has a better interface than the online Blogger editor. I’m going to do a few test posts to see if I should switch to my Sony notebook (Vista) for blog posts.

BTW, I bought another Dell computer for my mom. Her Inspiron 600m was getting pretty old and messed up. I got her an Inspiron 15 (1545) with an Intel T4300 CPU, 3GB or RAM, and 250GB HDD. It came with Windows 7 and the Windows Experience Index was 3.4. The total with tax & shipping came out to ~$600. My Sony is about a year old and only 3.1 on the index but cost me ~$1200. It’s cover is a cooler shade of blue though.

Important Changes to your California Tax Withholding

Timely. Just got this email from our payroll manager at work.
As a result of recent California legislation (CA Assembly Bill x4 17), California’s Employment Development Department has released new tax withholding tables, which are effective from November 1st through December 31st, 2009, and require employers to increase the amount of state income tax withheld from employee paychecks by 10%. For example, if you currently have CA taxes withheld at $100 per paycheck, it will be increased to $110.

The legislation also increases withholding rates for supplemental wages paid from November 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009 as follows:

- Increase from 9.3% to 10.23% for compensation related to bonuses, restricted stock units and stock options.

- Increase from 6.0% to 6.6% for other supplemental wages (such as overtime pay, commissions, sales awards, and vacation payout).

California has not yet released new tax withholding schedules for 2010.

CA vs. TX

Looks like I should pack up and find a house/job in Texas instead.

City Journal
One out of every five Americans is either a Californian or a Texan. California became the nation’s most populous state in 1962; Texas climbed into second place in 1994. They are broadly similar: populous Sunbelt states with large metropolitan areas, diverse economies, and borders with Mexico producing comparable demographic mixes. Both are “majority-minority” states, where non-Hispanic whites make up just under half of the population and Latinos just over a third.

According to the most recent data available from the Census Bureau, for the fiscal year ending in 2006, Americans paid an average of $4,001 per person in state and local taxes. But Californians paid $4,517 per person, well above that national average, while Texans paid $3,235. It’s worth noting, by the way, that while state and local governments in both California and Texas get most of their revenue from taxes, the revenue is augmented by subsidies from the federal government and by fees charged for governmental services and facilities, such as trash collection, airports, public university tuition, and mass transit. California had total revenues of $11,160 per capita, more than every state but Alaska, Wyoming, and New York, while Texas placed a distant 44th on this scale, with revenues of all governmental entities totaling $7,558 per person.

What might interest Tiebout is that while California and Texas are comparable in terms of sheer numbers, their demographic paths are diverging. Before 1990, both states grew much faster than the rest of the country. Since then, only Texas has continued to do so. While its share of the nation’s population has steadily increased, from 6.8 percent in 1990 to 7.9 percent in 2007, California’s has barely budged, from 12 percent to 12.1 percent.

There's just no incentive for California politicians to be fiscally responsible. Due to the large number of Democratic voters in the state, there's no accountability when the legislature cannot balance the budget. Seriously, I would be out of a job if our spending budget is twice as high as our revenue/margin forecast.
If California doesn’t want to be Texas, it must find a way to be a better California. The easy thing about being Texas is that the government has a great deal of control over the part of its package deal that attracts consumer-voters—it must merely keep taxes low. California, on the other hand, must deliver on the high benefits promised in its sales pitch. It won’t be enough for its state and local governments to spend a lot of money; they have to spend it efficiently and effectively.

The optimistic assessment is that things are going to get worse in California before they get better. The pessimistic assessment is that they’re going to get worse before they get much worse. As is often the case, hanging around with the pessimists is less fun but more instructive. The current recession has driven California’s state government into what amounts to a five-month budget cycle, according to Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee. He estimates that the budget deal tortuously wrought in July should start falling apart in October, because it was predicated on pie-in-the-sky revenue estimates and because so many of its spending cuts are being challenged, often successfully, in the courts.

It has already started falling apart. California is out of cash and they're increasing our state tax withholding unilaterally starting now. It's like a family that cannot pay it's bills. Instead of controlling spending, we keep charging more on credit cards that we cannot possibly pay when the bill is due.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Interest Free Loans

Not for us but for the California state government. Starting tomorrow, all state income tax withholding will increase by 10%. The overall state tax rate hasn't changed (after the increase a few months ago) since voters shot down the tax increase propositions. Think of it as an interest free loan that we're forced to make to the state government. There's also a good chance that come April, there won't be any cash for state tax refunds (including "loan" repayments) so we'll end up with more IOU's.

What a bunch of incompetent and crooked politicians. When there's no money, cut spending! I hope all you who voted for these tax and spend, wealth redistribution, Democrat a$$holes are happy now.

Los Angeles Times

Starting Sunday, cash-strapped California will dig deeper into the pocketbooks of wage earners -- holding back 10% more than it already does in state income taxes just as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks into gear.

Technically, it's not a tax increase, even though it may feel like one when your next paycheck arrives. As part of a bundle of budget patches adopted in the summer, the state is taking more money now in withholding, even though workers' annual tax bills won't change.

Think of it as a forced, interest-free loan: You'll be repaid any extra withholding in April. Those who would receive a refund anyway will receive a larger one, and those who owe taxes will owe less.

Doubting Reasonable Doubt

During my 3 days as a juror, we were told by the judge not to do any independent research on the case since we were supposed to decide on a verdict just by the evidence presented during trial. I think all the jurors followed the rules and we came up with not guilty verdicts on all counts. I also felt most of us thought he was probably guilty but there was ample room for reasonable doubt.

After the trial, I did some research on the Internet. The Orange County court website has a database of prior cases so I searched for the defendant's name and found the case: 09CF1973. If you pull up the record, you can see that he was Found Not Guilty by Jury on all counts on 10/28/2009. So far so good, right?

However, the name search also returned a whole page of cases related to the defendant, ranging from "Riding a bike at night without headlight" to multiple felony convictions. The jury knew from count 5 of the current case that he was a convicted felon (therefore not allowed to own a firearm) but we were not told the nature of the felony and also could not use that fact to determine guilt. Looking through the list of cases, the prior felonies include: unlawful taking of vehicle (66 days in prison), 2nd degree robbery with gang and dangerous weapon enhancement + street terrorism (3 years in prison), and possession of a firearm by a felon (32 months in prison). By my count, the current case is probably his fourth or fifth strike. Wonder what happened to three strikes and you're out?

From all this additional information, I'm now very certain that he committed the crimes in the current case. I think past history is a very good predictor of future behavior and the defendant seems well on his way to being a career criminal. It also appears that he is in one of the many Latino street gangs in Santa Ana. The part that I'm uncomfortable with is that even if we had this additional info, the jury probably would have found him not guilty since the evidence in the current case was weak. If we followed the instructions, then all his priors do not matter. We probably saved him 25 years of prison time but it also looks like he'll be back in court soon. Hopefully he doesn't kill someone next time. :(



Dang it. Now I feel really bad about my first jury duty experience. Most likely we let a guilty felon back on the street. Even worse, if you put us back in the jury room again with this additional info but the same trial evidence, the result would be the same.

Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.
-William Blackstone

Friday, October 30, 2009

China Thoughts, Part III

Part I
Part II

I saw this post on chinaSMACK which talked about how houses are more dependable than men. chinaSMACK is a site that translates posts from other Chinese websites so non-Chinese readers can get an idea what is being discusses online in China. The original post was on Sina.


I am more dependable than a man.

I experienced this firsthand in China. I've been dating a girl in Chengdu for about two years and we just broke up a few weeks ago. It came as a complete surprise to me since I had just brought my entire family to China to meet her. It was quite serious as we were talking about getting a K visa (fiancee visa) for her and her son, and emigrating them to the United States. Looking back, I think she was more focused on security rather than relationship. Over the National Day holiday, her extended family convinced her that moving to the US was harmful to her son and they lent her some money to help buy a bigger apartment in Zigong. In the end, I guess she chose the house instead of me.



Backing up a bit, we had met during one of my early trips to Chengdu back in 2007. She is ~10 years younger than me and divorced with one young son. I found her quite different from your "typical" girl from China. She was very independent and direct in conversation. We had a lot to talk about except when it came to politics (she was not interested) and her future plans in life. She married young and moved to Taiwan (ex-husband was aboriginal Taiwanese) where she lived with his family. After giving birth to her son, she was treated poorly by her husband and in-laws so she came back to China. After I met her, she ended up enrolling in college and she just graduated over the summer with a two-year degree in Logistics.

During our conversations, she would mention often that she felt insecure. There are very few safety nets in China and life is difficult for a single mom. Even with the huge male-female imbalance, there is a stigma about divorce and not many men want to marry a divorced woman, especially one that already has children. She asked me about this a lot and I said I didn't mind supporting her and raising her (our) son. She was quite envious of her friends that managed to buy an apartment, either by starting businesses or being someone's mistress (very common). I think she felt that if she had a house in her name, she would always have somewhere to live... she was scared of being poor and homeless in China.



Long story short, I had met her parents and her son last year during a trip to Chengdu (right after the earthquake) and she just my parents. I was just about to start the process of filing for an immigrant visa for her when she told me that she was buying a house. That in itself was no big deal since we also talked about helping her parents move to a better apartment once I bought a house here for us. Then she told me that she has been too selfish, always thinking about herself, ditching her son with her parents, etc. She was now going to move home (into the new house/apartment), get a job, and be there for her son. Hmm... I thought that sounded kinda odd so I prodded some more and she finally said that she didn't want to move to the US anymore and we can just be friends (我们可以做朋友). That phrase means "let's break up" in Mandarin too.

Sigh... I'm really disappointed that she didn't tell me this before our Aug/Sept trip to China. My family spent an entire week with her thinking that we were going to get engaged/married soon. They also brought gifts for her and I also gave her a new Dell netbook. We had planned to visit Hong Kong during my next trip in November (now cancelled) so I left a wad of RMB for her for travel costs (not sure now if I'll get that US$1500 back). I guess she's been having some doubts about our relationship but she never said anything to me about it until she decided to buy the new apartment in Zigong. We use to chat (Skype/MSN) almost every night but I haven't spoken to her since early October. She said to call her when I go to Chengdu next time (if nothing else she would try to return my money). I haven't decided whether I want to go back there anymore.



I think there were still a lot of cultural differences between us even though we're both Chinese. Both her parents were Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution while my dad was an army officer in Taiwan, and my grandfather was a KMT officer. To some degree, I took for granted that she would want to come to the US and it would be better for her son. Maybe I relied too much on my own experience growing up in the West, or I brushed aside her concerns about adapting to a new culture and learning a new language too quickly since it was easy for me when I moved from Taiwan to Canada. I guess one positive point is that this all came out before we got married. I don't think I could handle a 2nd divorce.