Friday, January 30, 2009

Victory Concert

Arg! I can't believe it. For someone that doesn't understand Korean, I listen to a lot of K-pop. Among the artists/groups I like, three of my favorite will be at a concert in Los Angeles on March 21, 2009. The only problem is that I'm going to be China that weekend. :(

So far, the list of artist include:


Baek Ji Young (백지영)


Jewelry (쥬얼리)
(Park Jung Ah is the one sitting)


Clazziquai (클래지콰이)
(Korean-Canadians!)

Plus some other people (Tae Jin Ah, Lee Eun Mi, SS501, Wheesung, Kim Gun Mo)...

I think I have the entire discography for the first three artists/groups listed above. Unlike a lot of other K-pop groups, they can really sing. I've even purchased CDs from Yesasia for Baek Ji Young and Park Jung Ah (from Jewelry). In fact, the MC's for the concert will be Park Jung Ah and Alex Chu (from Clazziquai). It sucks that I already bought my airplane tickets for Chengdu. I checked my itinerary and it will cost $200 to change my flight dates; that's a bit expensive so I won't do it. If I had known about this concert beforehand, I probably would have changed my China trip dates.

The 7th Annual Korean Times Music Festival is on May 9th and SNSD (Girl's Generation) is going to perform. Maybe I'll go to that. They don't sing as well but they're pretty cute... though I'm old enough to be their father(s).



Music Videos:


Park Jung Ah (yeah, kick his ass!)


Clazzquai (the rap in the middle is by Tablo who has a graduate degree from Stanford)


Baek Ji Young

Cancun 1984

I got in touch with a friend from Applewood Heights awhile ago. He was also in band and I told him I had a picture of him from our Cancun Trip in 1984. I finally scanned in the picture and he posted it on his Facebook page. After getting a request for more, I found some more pictures and scanned them into an photo album on my Facebook.

The band was pretty large in size with well over 100 musicians. Since we did not really have marching bands in Canada, this was the premier instrumental group at our high school. In addition to instrumental class, there was rehearsal every Monday night. The Cancun trip was my first trip outside Canada after immigrating there in 1977. I vividly remember having to sell steaks for our fundraiser and failing miserably. I think I only sold $50 of meat since Chinese people don't eat a lot of steak.

The trip was a lot of fun, enhanced by a lot of under-aged drinking. Most of us were 16-18 years old which was probably too young to drink in Canada. In Mexico, nobody cared. It was also in the middle of winter so it was good to escape the Great White North for a week.


It wasn't all fun and games. We had to play 3 concerts. This was at a local elementary school.


We also had to play in the lobby of the Sheraton hotel. The Mexican government just started to develop Cancun at the time so there were not many hotels. I think our hotel was next to the Sheraton. On the other side of the Sheraton was a Club Med.


One side trip was to the Chitzen Itza ruins. We chartered a few buses and our driver was driving crazy fast down one lane dirt roads in the Yucatan jungle. I thought Cancun taxis were the worst drivers in the world until I went to Chengdu.


Beach next to our hotel

Thursday, January 29, 2009

RedGone

Always wanted to get drunk and act like a retard without having your face turn red? Embarrassed because you're Asian and can't drink as much as your white friends? You're problems are gone!


RedGone
*Statements have not be [sic] endorsed by the FDA

I thought this was a hoax at first but I guess it's a real business. With all the problems in the world, someone found a cure for "Asian Flush." How about not drinking? Oh yeah, then you won't get promoted.
"After work, many of my co-workers would go to happy hour ot socialize and play the "workplace politics" game; often times I wouldn't go for the simple fact my face would turn bright red. With RedGone, now I go everytime and may even be up for promotion!"

- Dwight Ichind
Cape, Oklahoma

Other "testimonials"

Dang! Is that why I'm stuck as a senior manager?! I should have popped a few RedGone pills and gone drinking with the finance executives... [shakes head].

==========

The testimonial above has got to be fake. I Goggled "Dwight Ichind" and got zero hits. If you're not on Google, you don't exist. Also, everyone know there are no foreigners in Oklahoma.

==========

There is no Cape, Oklahoma, on Google Maps. Now I'm back to thinking this is a hoax. Why would they make up a location?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Spending Orgy Begins

It's only been a week since Obama took office and already the "wealth transfer" is beginning.

Wall Street Journal
"Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."

So said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in November, and Democrats in Congress are certainly taking his advice to heart. The 647-page, $825 billion House legislation is being sold as an economic "stimulus," but now that Democrats have finally released the details we understand Rahm's point much better. This is a political wonder that manages to spend money on just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years.

We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it. There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.

In selling the plan, President Obama has said this bill will make "dramatic investments to revive our flagging economy." Well, you be the judge. Some $30 billion, or less than 5% of the spending in the bill, is for fixing bridges or other highway projects. There's another $40 billion for broadband and electric grid development, airports and clean water projects that are arguably worthwhile priorities.

Add the roughly $20 billion for business tax cuts, and by our estimate only $90 billion out of $825 billion, or about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus. And even many of these projects aren't likely to help the economy immediately. As Peter Orszag, the President's new budget director, told Congress a year ago, "even those [public works] that are 'on the shelf' generally cannot be undertaken quickly enough to provide timely stimulus to the economy."

Heh. Only 12% of the plan can be considered "stimulus." The rest is just increased spending/pork that will need to be paid for with future taxes. I think people that voted for Obama and Democrats for congress should pay more taxes to pay for all this crap.

Monday, January 26, 2009

First 2009 China Trip

I just booked my ticket with Cathay Pacific for mid-March. Since I went with the cheap fare, I had to join Marco Polo Club in order to track my miles for oneworld status. If I make 4 trips to China again this year, then I should have the 60k miles needed to maintain my Sapphire status in 2010. This only requires 50k miles on American but if I can't transfer miles from CP to AA, there's no way I'll get that many miles flying to Toronto and Portland. I'm bummed that Marco Polo Club costs $50/year though. I'm also not flying with Leon (our schedules are off by a few days) so I have to slum it out in the business class lounge (instead of first class) at HKG airport.


747 + 777. This has to be CG or photoshopped. I don't think jumbo jets are allowed to fly this close.

From the online booking site, it looks like the flight from LAX to HKG will be on a 777-300ER. I've never been on a Cathay Pacific 777 before; I'm hoping it's nicer than their old and worn 747's. I read that Cathay Pacific has no current plans to purchase either the Airbus A380 or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner so it looks like older planes on their LAX-HKG route for the near future.


Awesome!

Family Planning = Economic Stimulus

Is the world going crazy?



Transcript at ABC.com
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

This is nothing more than democrats paying off their political supporters. The alternative is that they really believe less children = less drain on the government. What about passing policies that create wealth (tax cuts) so people can make responsible choices? This is the same argument the CCP uses to force abortions and sterilization as part of the one-child policy. I am not looking forward to the next 4 years of Socialist State of America.

==========

I have a question for these tax-and-spend liberals. How much of my salary should I be able to keep? 80%? 50%*? 25%? Why not give all my salary to the government and have them give me a stipend to live on? I think this is the socialist/communist dream. Regardless of skill or effort, everyone gets the same pay/benefits, with themselves firmly entrenched in the elite ruling class, of course.

*That is my marginal tax rate. Every dollar I make, I only get to keep half. That's just income taxes. If I want to buy stuff, I get to pay even more in sales taxes.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mac vs. PC

I'm ripping a Korean drama from DVD. A coworker let me borrow My Lovely Sam Soon (내 이름은 김삼순) on 8 DVD's. Each DVD has 2 episodes of about an hour long each. I'm using both my Mac and my Sony Vaio to rip the DVD to .avi files.

Mac - OS X 10.4.11
1.66 GHz Intel Core Duo
2 GB RAM
MediaFork 0.8.0b1
Video: MPEG-4 XviD (250MB target file size)
Audio: MP3 (128 kbps)
Destination: internal 80GB drive

PC - Windows Vista SP1
2.1 GHz Intel Core2 Duo
3 GB RAM
AoA DVD Ripper
Video: DivX 6.something (445 kbps)
Audio: MP3 (128 kbps)
Destination: external 1000GB drive (via USB)

I remembered installing DivX 6 on my Mac but it's not an encoder option on MediaFork. So far, the PC is winning. It's ripping at ~47 fps vs. ~25 fps for the Mac. I think the bit rate is higher on the PC as well since the files are ~300MB, about 50MB larger than the Mac files. I picked this size so I can fit all 16 episodes back on a DVD-R. In either case, it's taking forever (40 min/episode on PC and 60 min/episode on Mac) as I need to rip 16 episodes.

Hmm, I just noticed that DivX 7 is out. I'll try installing it before I rip the next episode on the PC. I'm bored...

==========

It never fails. As soon as I say I'm bored, I get some kind of computer hardware failure. I love my Mac. However, I've always hated the slot loading optical drive. Sure it looks cool and the PS3 has one, but CD's and DVD's always get stuck in the drive on my Mac mini. As soon as I put in the DVD (#5 out of 8), I could tell from the grinding sound that I'm in trouble. The Mac could not recognize the DVD and it also could not eject it. I hear the motor trying to eject every 15 seconds but no DVD appeared in the slot. After 10 minutes, I had to turn the computer off, open up the case, plug everything back in (with the cover off), manually assist with the eject process, and put everything back together again. I think I'll rip the rest of the DVD's on my Sony Vaio, which uses a conventional tray loading optical drive.



I still don't have a putty knife so I had to pull out the Chinese cleaver again to get the Mac mini open. Apple computer cases... another thing I hate about Macs.

Chinese New Year

I just called my friend in Chengdu and they're celebrating Chinese New Year (CNY) at her aunt's house. It's lunchtime and I can hear sounds of firecrackers outside. I think in China, they get the entire week of work/school. Even Singapore gets two days off. Having grown up in Canada/USA, there's not much mention of CNY in the mainstream media/culture. Sure there are events held at the local Chinatown but we don't usually go since my family has never been involved with community or politics.

At work, a Chinese coworker organized a lunch at a local restaurant. They were having a special 10-course lunch for $20/person, tax and tip included. The food was actually pretty good and even though we had 15 people at our table, there was more than enough food to go around. A couple of the people weren't even Chinese... they just like Chinese food. Tomorrow, I'm going with another coworker to San Diego for CNY Eve hot pot. We're going shopping at 1pm so we can bring what we like to throw into the pot.

Over the phone, my friend was asking me what my parents were doing for CNY. This made me think about what makes a person "Chinese" or any other ethnicity? Part of it is genetics but I'm probably more American/Canadian than Chinese. Whatever I know about Chinese culture was learned from my ~9 years of living in Taiwan and from my parents. In Canada, most of our relatives were on my mom's side which means there's also a heavy SE Asia/Malaysian influence. With Chinese people living in so many places outside of China/Taiwan/Hong Kong, what is "Chinese" anyway? As I blogged before, often I feel trapped in between cultures. I'm not 100% American/Canadian since my family culture was pretty Chinese-y. Of course, even though I look Chinese, I haven't lived in Asia since I left 30+ years ago. A lot of stuff I hear from China/Taiwan either confuses me or pisses me off. Oh well, at least CNY gives me a chance to eat with people.

Need for Speed: Undercover

I used to love Need For Speed games. A few of us used to race each other on NFS 3. The game ran fast on average PC's and the graphics were pretty good. I just downloaded and installed the latest NFS game and after one try, I promptly uninstalled it. My Sony Vaio is not the fastest machine but it's pretty decent. The video option defaulted to 640x480 and it still ran slow and choppy. The opening scene of the game is a short interactive drive but there's no way to escape out of it. If you don't get pass it, you can't even get to the game. The first "race" I tried, I was stuck in a 240SX yet I was beating all other cars, including a 350Z. Yeah, right...

I usually check reviews at ign.com. They gave the PC version a 5/10 which is pretty lame. I try not to get games that are rated less than 8/10. The PS3 version is worse at 4/10. Now I'm mad that I "wasted" a DVD-R to make an install disc.

==========

I also downloaded Spore, a game by Maxis/EA; they're the ones that created The Sims. So far it's pretty interesting.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Airfare

I'm planning to travel to Chengdu in March. I usually fly with Cathay Pacific/Dragonair:
LAX > HKG > CTU > HKG > LAX
Economy:$1.086
Business: $9,324
First: $20,455

I also checked with Air China:
LAX > PEK > CTU > PEK > LAX
Economy: $1,155
Business: $7,411
First: $11,737

If you look closer at the fare breakdown, Cathay's fare is $861 + $225 in taxes while Air China's fare is $771 + $371 in taxes + $7 booking fee. Are taxes higher because Air China connects through Beijing and need to pay for the new Terminal 3? Is there any logic to airfare anyway?

==========

My analyst left for Bangkok again tonight. For this trip, she will probably be in the air (18 hours + 15 hours) for about the same length of time as on the ground (~1.5 days) in Thailand. Another co-worker told me he once flew from LAX to Singapore to attend a morning meeting, ate lunch, then got on a plane to come back. I look forward to the day we have transporters like in Star Trek. "Beam me to China!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Anonymous Telemarketing Calls

I've been getting a lot of telemarketing calls from spoofed numbers on my work cell phone. Almost always, it's a "final notice" for some sort of extended auto warranty except it's never "final" since I'm getting calls on a daily basis. Because it's a work phone, I need to check every incoming call just in case it's an important call. I searched all the menus on the phone and there does not seem to be any way to block incoming calls from certain numbers.

Here is a list of numbers just in the last two weeks:
702-554-1452 (5x)
412-207-6629
972-291-7602
251-947-8966
248-758-9183
714-862-8303

I Googled the numbers and it appears that the caller ID is spoofed and if you try to talk to anyone about a "do not call" lists, they just hang up on you. If this was a legit business, then there's no need to hide behind a fake caller ID, so this "extended auto warranty" must be some kind of scam. Sigh... how do all these people sleep at night?

Censoring Obama



You would think with almost 60 years of practice, the CCP would be better at censorship. From the time shown onscreen, I think they were broadcasting Obama's speech live (1:18am = 12:18pm in Washington DC). Gotta give the translator some credit though, she went ahead and translated everything. You can hear her say "fascism and communism..." before being cut off at around 15 seconds into the video clip. The announcer was caught off-guard when the audio was cut; you can see her fumbling for several seconds before getting the other commentator's attention to ask her a question.

This was what was blocked from CCTV:
Recall that earlier generations faced down communism and fascism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

I must admit that the censors work pretty fast. Though a Xinhua article had the entire speech in English, the Chinese translation left out "communism" and the rest of the paragraph above.

BBC Article
China has censored parts of the new US president's inauguration speech that have appeared on a number of websites.

Live footage of the event on state television also cut away from Barack Obama when communism was mentioned.

China's leaders appear to have been upset by references to facing down communism and silencing dissent.

English-language versions of the speech have been allowed on the internet, but many of the Chinese translations have omitted sensitive sections.

If communism is so great, why can't it stand up against even a tiny bit of criticism?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wireless Brick

I think I just bricked my old 802.11g wireless router. With all the problems I was having with DLNA and my PS3, I thought I would try to upgrade the firmware in my Linksys WRT54GC router. I followed all the instructions and downloaded the newest version of the firmware. The progress bar went smoothly from 0 to 100%... then it timed out. After trying to reset it for 30 minutes, I looked online at the Linksys/Cisco website forum and found out that a lot of people were having the same problem. There was no response from anyone at Linksys. Why bother hosting a forum if you are not going to answer questions? The consensus was that there were a bad batch of these WRT54GC routers and they essentially become non-functional after upgrading the firmware.

Luckily, I had an extra 802.11n Netgear router in my storage closet. I got it at an employee raffle a few years ago. For some reason, my Internet connection decided to act up at the same time so it took me about 2 hours to swap out the router, reconfigure the security, and setup all the attached devices so they could connect to the new router. After all this work, I was still having problems with accessing media on my PC from the PS3. In addition, the only other device with 802.11n is my Sony Vaio but it's attached with an Ethernet cable. Without a corresponding 11n adapter, there won't be any bandwidth gain over 11g. In fact, I think the old 802.11b USB adapter is too old to recognize the 11n router so my Compaq notebook in the living room won't connect to the router. Arg!


Left to right: cable modem, new 802.11n router (with special "Enabled by Broadcom" sticker), and dead 802.11g router (with WEP passkey conveniently pasted on the side).

The newly installed Netgear 802.11n router asked if I wanted to look for firmware upgrades when I tried to configure it. I quickly clicked on [Cancel].

==========

I just check Netgear's website and found that the (really) old 802.11b USB adapter (MA111) can only use WEP encryption. I had enabled WPA2 on the new router since it's more secure. I'll probably go back to 128-bit WEP so older equipment can still connect; otherwise I have to spend $50 on a new USB adapter.

The Clone Wars

I've always been a Star Wars fan but I've been very disappointed with the recent movies, including the animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." I saw it in the theaters with Leon's family and it sucked pretty badly. In fact, it scored a miserable 18% on Rotten Tomatoes; even Episode I, the next worse movie, scored 63%. Anyway, I managed to download some animated Star Wars TV series from Veoh and watched on my computer last night.


Bad animated acting.

The first series was Star Wars: Clone Wars which aired from 2003 to 2005. The initial episodes were only 3 minutes long and I remember seeing ads on Cartoon Network. These were normal 2D animation and I found both DVD volumes. I also found episodes from the latest series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, that started airing on Oct-08. These are 3D CGI and visually look like the Clone Wars animated movie. Confused? I was... since everything title had the word "clone" in it.


Not a very "Star Wars" -like logo.


The latest series which picks up where the animated movie ended.

This latest series is still airing on Cartoon Network. Since my "free" cable does not include CN, I have to look for episodes online. The Star Wars site streams one episode at a time and they're showing #11. I did get to download episodes 2-4 and 8-10 from Veoh. For the longest time, I could not find the first TV episode, titled "Ambush." It was either removed due to copyright infringement or only part 3 of 3 was available (on YouTube). I finally found a site that is streaming the 21 minute episode and to no surprise, it's hosted in China on 土豆网. I think that translates to either "peanut" or "potato" web. As an added bonus, there are simplified Chinese subtitles in case I was to see how Star Wars vocabulary is translated into Chinese.

==========

OT but I ended up watching these on my Sony Vaio notebook with a 14.1" screen. What's maddening is that I have a PS3 connected to my 42" LCD TV in the living room. The PS3 is connected to my wireless network and I can see my Vaio from the PS3 as a media server. However, the only movie I've been able to stream so far is "My Sassy Girl." Of course, it's in Korean and the subtitles (SRT file) do not stream. Both devices are made my Sony and both are supposedly DLNA compliant. Photos and MP3's play fine but I keep getting mysterious DLNA errors when trying to stream movies.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Working Weekends

Sigh... it's only the 2nd weekend of 2009 and I'm at work again. My analyst is heading back to Thailand again Thursday so if it gets busy, I may be in for a 3rd weekend in a row. Hopefully this doesn't become a trend.

==========

We're still making journal entries for December. I've made a lot of slides already; every change means I have to go back and refresh all my files. I can think of much more exciting ways to spend my weekend.

==========

I'm done for now; hopefully I won't have to come back in tomorrow (Sunday). I'm heading to Fry's before I go home. Maybe I'll pick up some PS3 games to reward myself though I don't get any overtime money for working late or weekends.

Gee

video
Gee - SNSD

Friday, January 16, 2009

Home Shopping Network explains semiconductors

Flipping channels, I see HSN selling Acer Aspire One netbooks. I think they're selling the 8.9" version for $480. The guy making the sell was trying to explain why the computer was so "small yet powerful." He pulls out a piece of paper with a penny and a Intel Atom CPU die taped to the paper. Then he shows a old Intel Pentium CPU to make the comparison. Sigh... of course the Pentium is huge compared to the Atom; one is a fully packaged chip and the other is just a die. He should have compared the Pentium die vs. the Atom die but that wouldn't be as impressive.

I wish they would stop calling it a "powerhouse" computer. The Atom CPU is not that fast, more like a Celeron than a Core2 Duo. I read on a UK PC website that it took ~20 minutes to open Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint simultaneously. Good thing it only draws 2 watts of power as you wait and wait and wait.

==========

Just as I thought. You can find the same computer on Amazon.com for ~$350. Why would you buy it from HSN?

Chopsticks

I was invited to a work dinner last night at Wildfish, a restaurant right next to work in Newport Beach. It was mainly for finance people that worked on the AMD acquisition. I wasn't on the original invite list since I didn't join the acquisition process until late, though I'm probably the only one still traveling to Markham.

The food was okay. Since it was a seafood restaurant, I got a fish dish (snapper w/crab). A lot people ordered steak for some reason. Most people got there at 6pm and we didn't get our food until after 7:30pm. I ate a lot of bread while waiting.


The asparagus and potatoes were extra side dishes.


A co-worker's dish: sea bass Hong Kong style. My boss also had the same thing and he said it was pretty good.

The sea bass dish came with a Chinese bamboo steamer cover and a pair of chopsticks. Instead of giving the customer a nice pair of chopsticks, they gave out the crappiest wooden disposable stuff. I hate those chopsticks. I don't know why expensive American restaurants don't have good chopsticks? They don't need to be fine ivory or whatever... the plastic stuff will do. You can get a pack of 20 chopsticks at 99 Ranch for like $2 or something. It's like going to a nice Chinese restaurant, asking them for a fork, and getting a plastic picnic fork.


These are the worst chopsticks. They're hard to break apart cleanly and you run the risk of getting splinter in you hand or mouth. Also, the sea bass was supposed to be "Hong Kong" style but these are typically handed out at Japanese restaurants.


Still crappy but better. You get these at cheaper Chinese restaurants and pseudo-Chinese places like Pei Wei. I make fun of Pei Wei a lot but I eat there more than I'd like to admit.


Very nice though the pointy ends makes it hard to pick up peanuts.

I think there were 11 people at dinner and the bill came out to ~$900. Counting my lemonade, portion of appetizers, and dessert, I don't think I was responsible for more than $45. Someone else must have ordered something really expensive or more likely drank a lot of alcohol.

Apartment Lease

My apartment lease is up soon. I know this because the rental office keeps calling me. Maybe they're desperate to keep tenants since the economy is not good and Costa Mesa is not a cheap place to live. Anyway, my rent is ~$1400/month and I just saw my apartment complex advertising the exact unit starting $1150.

I'm ambivalent about my apartment. The location is good since it's close to work and shopping/dining. However, the unit is a bit old and the non-central HVAC is lame. I also have sh*tty neighbors below me that blast their stereo at all hours of the day/night. I'll see if I can negotiate a better deal. Maybe it's time to move to another apartment or seriously start looking for a house.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Please enter userid/password...

I forgot to send out a file via email before leaving work at 8:30pm, and I didn't bring my work computer home. Through the miracle of modern technology, I only had to login 5 times to send the file out remotely:

- login to my home computer
- connect to work through Cisco VPN
- remote login to a notebook computer on my desk since the file is on the network
- login to our SSLVPN website to use webmail
- login to Exchange server to access email and attach/send file

It worked though, and it saved me a trip back to the office. Of course, this only works with a broadband Internet connection. Good thing I didn't cancel my service after the reimbursements from work was canceled earlier this month as a "cost saving" measure. I guess they expect us to work from home at night and pay for the privilege ourselves.

Bah, I'm just pissed bitter that I'm not getting a cash bonus and all my stock options are worthless. The difference between a senior manager ($0 bonus) and a director (next level up) is at least $50k.

What financial crisis?!

Guardian.UK Article
President Barack Obama's inauguration next week is set to be the most expensive ever, predicted to reach over $150m (£102m). This dwarfs the $42.3m spent on George Bush's inauguration in 2005 and the $33m spent on Bill Clinton's in 1993.

Part of the spending includes emergency funding announced by the White House on Tuesday to help with the soaring costs. Most of this new federal funding will be to deal with the huge influx of people, estimated 1.5 million to 2 million.

Wait, I thought we're in a huge financial crisis requiring billions (or trillions) of government bailout money. I remember hearing about the $40M for Bush's inauguration and thought it was a total waste. At least the economy was okay back in 2005. Once again, as with much of government spending, I get zero benefit from my tax dollars. Obama is not even president yet and he's already "redistributing" my wealth. Also, I hear stories about Americans losing their homes and not having enough money for meat. Who are all these people traveling to Washington D.C.? The "rich" people making >$250k?

Hope! Change! Yeah right...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Work Anniversary

Today begins my 10th year at Broadcom; I started back on 1/12/2000. I really didn't think I would still be here. Sigh... I may as well stay another year and get the 10 year plaque/prize/whatever.

9 years is longer than anything else I've done in my life:

- living in Taiwan = 8 3/4 years
- living in Canada = ~8 years
- college (total) = ~7 1/2 years
- marriage (officially) = ~7 years

I guess I've been in the US for almost 24 years. Not sure if that counts for anything.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

YouTube Symphony Orchestra

I stumbled onto this page on YouTube.



I downloaded the Trumpet 1 part and tried to follow along with the performance. I guess you get used to a certain conductor. For the past three years, I've been playing in the Irvine Valley College WInd Symphony conducted by Steve Rochford. I had trouble following Tan Dun's conducting in the video, especially through the allegro portions. The key signature for trumpets is pretty ugly too with 5 #'s. The trumpet solo in the beginning sounded nice though; maybe I'll just practice that part. There are Trumpet 2 & 3 parts as well. The notes are a bit lower but the rhythm is mostly the same.



Try to follow along. Once you get lost, it's pretty difficult to get back on sync. There was a symbol at the beginning of the video. Not sure if it was No Talking or No Snoring. Usually trumpet parts have a lot of measures of rest and it's a challenge just to count them all. Here's a video of Song Hye Kyo (Korean actress) promoting the online audition.



It's in English, really. OK, obviously her English is better than my Korean, and probably better than my Mandarin.

Frequent Flyer Programs

Since our travel department switched preferred airlines from American to United, we were given a one-time membership upgrade by United Airlines. I guess people with elite status complained that they would lose their travel perks if they had to travel with United. I filled out a form last year and I just received my Mileage Plus Premier Executive card in the mail. It's good until Jan 2010 and is equivalent to my AAdvantage Platinum status. Both need 50k miles of travel each year and gives access to business class lounges when traveling internationally.

I really don't travel that much so it's kind of funny that I have elite status with both American/oneworld and United/Star Alliance. In the past, I've been able to transfer miles from Cathay Pacific/Dragonair trips to Chengdu to my AAdvantage account but that's pretty much over; all the cheap tickets only allow miles to accrue with AsiaMiles. Since United is part of Star Alliance, I may be able to fly Air China to Chengdu and transfer my miles to my Mileage Plus account. The only problem is that Air China charges more for it's LAX-PEK-CTU flight than Cathay's LAX-HKG-CTU. I just check prices for a flight in mid-March and Air China is ~$100 more. I wonder how the Star Alliance lounge in Beijing compares to Cathay's HKG lounges.

From my experience on several recent flights, the real perk is priority boarding. Most airlines are charging for checked baggage so everyone is bringing more stuff onboard. If you're the last one to get on the plane, most likely there is no space for your carry-on. On AA flights, I'm usually one of the first to board in coach so I can get a least one bag (or my PS3) in the overhead bins before they fill up.

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From the Star Alliance website, they have statistics for each of their member airlines. United has 460 aircrafts and 53,139 employees. That works out to about 115 employees per plane. That sounds like a lot of people considering there are many indirect heads (customer service, baggage handlers, mechanics, corporate) vs. direct (pilots and flight attendants). Singapore has 99 aircrafts and 14,066 employees which is even more at 142 employees per plane. Not sure if Singapore has a higher % of jumbo jets that require more employees per flight. Another interesting statistic is annual passengers/employee: United = 1,304 vs. Singapore = 1,348. I guess there's not much difference.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Chinese graduates at a Beijing job fair



RMB1000/month is about $130/month or ~$1700/year. That's not a lot of money for a college grad, even with the lower cost of living in China. My friend's studio apartmenet in Chengdu cost RMB1200/month to rent plus another ~RMB100 for utilities/management fee. I guess all these new college grads either live at home or need to find a lot of roommates.

Also, the 6 million number seems really high. That's ~0.5% of the population graduating from college each year. I wonder how that compares to the US?

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I found some statistics on the Department of Education website. For the 2008-2009 school year, they expect:

- 741,000 associate's degrees
- 1,585,000 bachelor's degrees
- 647,000 master's degrees
- 91,000 professional degrees
- 55,800 doctor's degrees

Counting all 5 categories, that's about 3 million college grads. If the 6 million number in China includes the same categories, then the US number is ~0.9%, which is about twice the rate in China. If the 6 million is only 4 year college grads, then the US rate is ~0.44%.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Daniel Ost

I was clicking around Facebook and saw pictures of my co-worker attending an engagement reception at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. The flowers arrangements were done by a guy name Daniel Ost. Since I've never heard of him, I looked up his website.


Wow. Evidently he does stuff like this*. Must cost a small fortune to have him decorate a reception in Thailand.

*Picture from his website... not actual reception in Thailand (note European architecture in background).

Cost Cutting

Due to the economic downturn, we're trying to cut costs at work before resorting to layoffs. The major component is pushing raises to October instead of April. I actually did the calculation on potential savings and it's tens of millions of dollars. Other stuff include eliminating the $3 subsidized dinners, drastically reducing the availability of free drinks, changing from bottled to filtered water, and no more free bagel/donuts on Fridays. A separate email came out from the CIO saying that we're not reimbursing home broadband Internet fees anymore.

With all my stock options underwater and worthless, we're just another company to work for now... no perks and very little upside other than salary. There is a management incentive bonus but it's for directors and above (I'm one step below director so I get 0%). That payout is still going to be >160% of budget at $40M; we beat a set of arbitrary metrics set at the beginning of 2008 even though our stock price has tanked by 36%. Since the executives decide what costs to cut, of course they're not going to touch their bonuses, which affects only a few, but rather push out the meager 2% raises out 6 months which affect everyone.

DVD Players

I just noticed that I have 5 devices that play DVD's attached to my (one and only) TV:

- PS3 (HDMI - Blu-ray)
- PS2 (RCA)
- Compaq notebook (RGB)
- Panasonic DVD player (HDMI though non-HD)
- Karaoke player (component video)

I bought the Blu-ray version of Ironman to check out the image on my 1080p TV and it's pretty awesome. It's similar to the first time I played a DVD (on my PS2). Compared to the picture quality of a VHS tape, it was so much better that I sat back and said, "Wow!" I remember Shirley being quite amused by my reaction.

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I bring this up because I almost bought a netbook from Costco. Then I realized I have 4 computers at home that I'm using regularly plus 3 old yet functional computers in my closet. Maybe I have too may electronic gadgets already...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Baby Pics

Sydnie Shaio-Ping Chi
12/19/08 8:20am
5 lb. 6 oz.
17 in.



Ducks vs. Kings

I'm heading off to a Ducks game at the Honda Center. My boss scored tickets for Henry's suite. Too bad I don't have time to get my camera; all I have on me is the BlackBerry.

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Ducks win 3-1! I got to sit next to Henry for most of the 2nd period. We said "Hi" and that was pretty much it... not every day you get to sit next to a billionaire. Should have brought a PMI business plan or something. He actually watches the game pretty intensely; I guess he has money riding on every game.

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View from the box.