Thursday, April 30, 2009

New York!

I'm finally going to New York... for 3 hours. Even though I've been to Asia and Europe, I've not traveled much on the east coast. The only places I've been to is Boston (3x) and Newark Airport. I think I want to visit the museums in Washington, D.C.

Since my parents are moving back to SoCal, I figured I'd better use my free LAX-YYZ ticket soon. I originally used AA miles for a ticket last Thanksgiving but cancelled it since I had to travel for work to Toronto that week. I managed to reuse that ticket for a trip during the upcoming Memorial Day week so I can help my parents organize their move. Unfortunately, AA wouldn't let me change the routing (cost $150) so I still have to fly out of LAX and connect both ways. Anyway, the only "free" ticket during that weekend is a redeye from LAX to JFK with a 3 hour layover, then a short flight to YYZ on American Eagle. Sigh... I hate the tiny Embraer jets. I don't know if I can get out of the airport on a Sunday morning and go somewhere interesting within 3 hours.


Hmm, JFK is on Long Island, far from anything interesting. I thought I could run out and take some photos of NYC but I guess there's nothing nearby.

2/3 = 0.66

I think Chinese people are wise to require testing for civil servants. Obviously I don't expect everyone to be a math whiz, but when your "town accountant" can't figure out two-thirds, something is seriously wrong. The newspaper reporter is pretty lame too: 137 yes votes out of 206 is still not 2/3 majority.
Truro zoning decision hinges on single vote

By Mary Ann Bragg
April 30, 2009

TRURO — Voters narrowly approved one of four zoning amendments late Tuesday night at the annual town meeting. But town officials were still looking at the exact vote count on that article yesterday.

In a vote of 136 to 70, voters passed a new time limit on how quickly a cottage colony, cabin colony, motel or hotel can be converted to condominiums. The new limit requires that those properties be in operation for three years before being converted to condominiums.


The exact count of the vote — 136 to 70 —had town officials hitting their calculators yesterday. The zoning measure needed a two-thirds vote to pass. A calculation by town accountant Trudy Brazil indicated that 136 votes are two-thirds of 206 total votes, said Town Clerk Cynthia Slade.

Brazil said she used the calculation of .66 multiplied by 206 to obtain the number.

But using .6666 — a more accurate version of two-thirds — the affirmative vote needed to be 137 instead of 136, according to an anonymous caller to town hall and to the Times.

Also, there are "versions" of two-thirds? It's not like they had to do this in their head... they used a calculator and still keyed in 0.66!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back to the USA

My parents called me today and told me that they've sold their house in Canada. It was only on the market for a week; they have to move out by the end of June.

So after leaving Taiwan, it's 8 years in Canada, 19 years in the US, and 5 years back in Canada. Now they need to find a house/condo in SoCal.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Phishing for Retards

I got this email from "Citibank" today.
This is a Security Alert you requested to help you protect your account.

Your account has been blocked.
You have exceeded the number of three (3) failed login attempts.

To unlock your account, please login to your account

Thank you for your cooperation.

The link goes back to then redirects to Russia... I was actually expecting it to redirect to China.

How stupid do you have to be to fall for this? How can I login if my account has been blocked? Arg, there's also a period missing after your account... amateurs.


Occasionally, I go to either 搜狗 or 百度 to check out the latest Chinese pop music. I don't visit too often because both sites are in simplified Chinese and it's really hard for me to understand. Anyway, i was checking out the Top 500 Songs on Baidu and noticed that a singer named 阿桑 was in 2nd, 4th, 12th, and 13th position and I've never heard of her before. I downloaded a few MP3's and saw that she only released two albums back in 2003 and 2005... kinda odd to be still ranked so high.

The few songs I downloaded were really good so I wanted to find out more about about this singer. Since I put in her Chinese name in the search box, all the results were in Chinese. I finally found some information on Chinese Wikipedia (traditional Chinese). Scanning the article, I saw the sad news that she passed away in Taiwan less than two weeks ago due to breast cancer... she was only 34 years old. :(

Susan Boyle

I know I'm about 32 million hits too late but I just watched this and her voice puts all those K-pop singers to shame. I wonder what she looked like 25 years ago and why she never sang professionally.

The embedding feature is disabled but you can click twice on the video window to go directly to YouTube.

She sang on a charity CD in 1999. Amazing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Just Dinner

I just went to Chipotle to get some dinner. I've been going there quite often and I think I've settled on my usual: chicken burrito, no beans, mild salsa, and some lettuce. I know it's not really authentic Mexican food, but it's pretty good and cheap ($6.20 w/tax). I'm Chinese and I also eat at Pei Wei, so I'm not that choosy.

In line in front of me tonight was a female CSI officer from the local police department. I think the restaurant gave her a discount since her total was <$5 and she got the same thing as me plus a drink. She was telling the cashier that it was really busy tonight; that's not good news coming from a CSI officer. In the parking lot, I saw that she drove a Chevy Astro minivan (offical vehicle). I guess CSI only get to drive Hummers in Miami.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dinner and Whine

Having to eat dinner every night is a drag. I found myself driving around aimlessly tonight looking for dinner. I would think of some place to get food then quickly reject it. After about 30 minutes, I ended up at the In-N-Out in Santa Ana. I find myself spending all my time either at work or at home sitting in front of a computer, or out driving around looking for something to eat. :(

I had lunch with my previous manager today; he's the CFO at a different company now. Talking to him over lunch, I realized how indifferent I am with my current job. I also realized that out of the several MBA level analysts that started around the same time as me, I'm the only one that has not been promoted to director level and I have no idea if it will ever happen. I actually don't care anymore but I'd like to know the criteria on which these decisions are made. I spend a lot of time mentoring my staff and helping other people in the finance organization. Perhaps that's not as valuable as "talking constantly in meetings to gain visibility with senior management" anymore...

Facebook: Mafia Wars

Sometimes I wonder if the somewhat anonymous nature of the Internet brings out the worst in people. I see this in online forums all the time where people make the rudest comments.

On Facebook, there is a game called Mafia Wars. It has a bunch of stuff you can do but one of them is to fight other people and take their money. Since much of it is based on how many people you've added to your mob, I lose a lot of fights since I only have 7 people (some have hundreds). Because of that, I never initiate any fights and I "bank" all my money in the game so it won't get stolen. It's not that much fun. Anyway, the game keeps a log of events and sometimes I would log in and see my health way down or that I've been killed. The interesting thing is that I see people attack me 6-7 times in a row even though the payoff is $0 (can't lose money in the bank). What's the point other than to inflict further health damage? I wonder if these people are anti-social psychopaths in real life. If they see an injured person lying on the ground, would they run up and kick them in the head? Probably.

Case in point. My log of lost fights is pretty long. Today, I saw some guy attack me 6 times, then return an hour later to attack me again 5-6 time with a total payoff of $0 each time. Weird. Since you can see their "real" Facebook name and his was kind of unique, I Googled it and got some interesting hits. Evidently he is a student at one of the SUNY schools (class of 2011) and he has several arrests for possession of marijuana and alcohol plus one for petty larceny. What a loser; I guess he gets his kicks by beating up weaker characters on a Facebook game.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tiananmen 20 years later: A survivor's story

Associated Press
BEIJING – Twenty years after China's military crushed dissent around Tiananmen Square, the details are still fresh in Qi Zhiyong's mind. The acrid smell of tear gas. The people run down by tanks. The dizzying pain when a bullet tore through his left leg.

The student-led protests in the heart of the Chinese capital had gone on for weeks, an extraordinary call for political freedom and an end to government corruption. Sparked by the April 15 death of a beloved Communist Party chief deposed by hard-liners, they were mostly peaceful, even after martial law was declared on May 20.

But late on June 3, 1989, the government lost its patience.

"I saw people being run over. Blood sprayed everywhere," says Qi, then a 33-year-old construction worker. "The tanks kept moving, as if the people weren't there. My hair stood on end. I was chilled to the bone."

Witnessing the crackdown and losing his leg transformed Qi from a loyal Communist Party supporter into an activist with a simple goal: speaking out about the events which the leadership has all but erased from history.

His efforts cost him his job, his wife and his freedom. But a newfound Christian faith and pure doggedness have kept him going.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Things Never To Trust in China

Written by a laowai. But since I'm a Twinkie in China (yellow on the outside, laowai on the inside), I found most of this pretty funny.

My favorites:

12. Any declaration or announcement from any Chinese authority that begins with the words “For your safety”.

14. Shops that only consist of a man in a bomber jacket smoking a cigarette next to a fridge. [the fridge is NEVER plugged in so all the drinks are lukewarm]

20. Websites that are not banned in China.

22. Un-labeled meat. [especially on the back of a bicycle]

23. ISO9001.

31. The information plaques in museums. [Serf Emancipation Day]

32. School textbooks. [my friend's English textbook had the n-word in its vocabulary list; useful if you ever visit Compton]

33. “And now on CCTV, news from our Tibet Correspondent.” [Serf Emancipation Day]

35. “Mei wenti”. [Leon's favorite words]

40. Claims of sovereignty. [Taiwan!]

45. Anyone who refers to you as “friend”, and especially anyone who refers to you as “old friend”.

47. The quality of a DVD purchase. [only ¥5 from street vendors]

48. Traffic signs, traffic lights, or traffic regulations of any kind.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Yet Another Old Computer

I have lots of old computers in my closet. Since I was trying to run DOSBox (MS-DOS emulator) on my newer computers without much success, I thought I would dig up a mid-aged laptop computer. It's a Compaq Presario 1220 with a 200MHz Cyrix processor... not sure what Intel chip it corresponds to. It has 16MB of RAM and a 1.0GB hard drive. I put both Windows 98 and Red Hat Linux 5.2 on the computer. It has a CD-ROM drive and a RJ-11 connector but no Ethernet.

I booted it up and Windows 98 runs fine. I remember wanting to use it for a CD player at work so I only have Winamp installed. The Linux OS boots up fine as well but it's been so long that I forgot the login ID and password. I tried every ID/password combo I could think of but nothing works. I think there was a GUI (X Windows?) and a CD player application installed. The Linux login screen also says Kernal 2.0.36 on an i586. I think i586 refers to a Pentium class processor so this machine should be faster than a DOSBox emulated 486. If I really wanted to play old DOS games, I should probably reformat the hard drive and just install DOS and nothing else.

What happened on June 4th?

BBC News
The trial of a man accused of harassing the Chinese Prime Minister has been rescheduled to avoid a clash with the anniversary of a student massacre.

Cambridge University researcher Martin Jahnke, 27, admits throwing a shoe at Wen Jiabao during his tour of Britain.

However, he has denied causing intentional harm or distress.

Magistrates in Cambridge have moved his trial forward to 1 June to avoid it ending on 4 June - the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising.

So the British courts are going to move up the trial date on this inconsequential matter because it coincides with the June 4th massacre in Tiananmen Square. This is weird because if you ask people in China what happened on June 4th, they either don't know or are afraid to talk about it. Why is the British worried about this when the CCP doesn't even acknowledge that the massacre happened at all?! Mind boggling. I'm hope there were some secret phone calls from Beijing to London; otherwise, the distasteful explanation is that Britain is helping to maintain China's version of what happened on June 4th.

BTW, I think the guy who threw the shoe is an idiot. There is nothing to be gained except more exposure for a communist dictator.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Apartment Woes

It's 1:00am and my asshole neighbors are blasting their stereo in the bedroom again downstairs. They also share a bedroom wall with another apartment unit on the first floor; I don't know how they can stand them. It's not even good music... it's just some crappy hip-hop stuff so all I hear is the kick drum. Sometimes, in addition to the loud music, they throw in some drunken yelling as well.

My lease is up at the end of May. I got a lease renewal offer that's $75 less than my current rent. I don't think I'm ready to move to a house yet so I may have to sign another six-month lease. As for my neighbors downstairs, I'm going to get my bass cab back from NewSong. I should connect it to my bass amp, loop some EWF (Earth, Wind, and Fire), and go to work. If they're blasting their stereo all night, they have to sleep in the day, no?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Child Abductions and Government Indifference

What a sorry excuse for a government. I read somewhere that if a country has the words "Democratic" or "People's Republic" in its name, you can be sure that the government is neither democratic nor cares about its own people.

New York Times
These and thousands of other children stolen from the teeming industrial hubs of China’s Pearl River Delta have never been recovered by their parents or by the police. But anecdotal evidence suggests the children do not travel far. Although some are sold to buyers in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, most of the boys are purchased domestically by families desperate for a male heir, parents of abducted children and some law enforcement officials who have investigated the matter say.

The demand is especially strong in rural areas of south China, where a tradition of favoring boys over girls and the country’s strict family planning policies have turned the sale of stolen children into a thriving business.

Here in Shenzhen and the constellation of manufacturing towns packed with migrant workers, desperate families say they get almost no help from the local police. In case after case, they said, the police insisted on waiting 24 hours before taking action, and then claimed that too much time had passed to mount an effective investigation.

Several parents, through their own guile and persistence, have tracked down surveillance video images that clearly show the kidnappings in progress. Yet even that can fail to move the police, they say. “They told me a face isn’t enough, that they need a name,” said Cai Xinqian, who obtained tape from a store camera that showed a woman leading his 4-year-old away. “If I had a name, I could find him myself.”

The reluctance of the police to investigate such cases has a variety of explanations. Kidnappers often single out the children of migrant workers because they are transients who may fear the local police and whose grievances are not treated as high priorities.

Moreover, the police in China’s authoritarian bureaucracy are rarely rewarded for responding to crimes affecting people who do not have much political clout. Mr. Peng said the police preferred not to even open a missing person’s inquiry because unsolved cases made them appear inefficient, reducing their annual bonuses.

For the parents of missing children, the heartbreak and the frustration have turned into anger. Last September, about 40 families traveled to the capital to call attention to the plight of abducted children. They staged a brief protest at the headquarters of the national television broadcaster, but within minutes, dozens of police officers arrived to haul them away.

“They dragged us by our hair and said, ‘How dare you question the government,’ ” said Peng Dongying, who lost her 4-year-old son. “I hate myself for my child’s disappearance, but I hate society more for not caring. All of us have this pain in common, and we will do anything to get back our children.”

Friday, April 3, 2009

More Memory for Little Computer

The 2GB memory module arrived today and I installed it in the Eee. It came with 1GB of RAM but the 2GB upgrade was only $19. Sigh... I remember paying >$100 for a 1MB module for my Mac Plus. Since I don't have many applications on this computer, I think 2GB should be plenty for Windows XP so I turned off the virtual memory. Normally Windows creates a VM file on the hard drive in case it requires more memory than physically available. It would swap unused applications to the pagefile and load what was needed into physical RAM. Since RAM is faster than HDD, the computer slows down a bit when it's swapping data. Turning the virtual memory off should improve the speed somewhat since the computer does not need to access the HDD unless I'm loading new applications or files. In addition, spinning up the HDD requires more power than accessing physical memory so this may help battery life too. I think I'm getting >8 hours on a full charge already so this may push it to the magical 9.5 hours as advertised.

It's only been three days but I'm pretty happy with the little computer so far.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Asus Eee Netbook

I got my new toy delivered today. It's a bit bulkier than I thought but so far it works pretty good. I had to uninstall some bloatware such as StarOffice 8 and install some virus protection since it's running WinXP. RIght now I'm trying to install Office 2003 on the netbook. Since it does not have an optical drive, I'm sharing the DVD player on my Sony Vaio; the netbook is connected via WLAN to my wireless router. It took awhile for me to get everything connected and it's a bit slow over wireless but it's working.

I checked the battery meter before the install. The battery was at 98% and the estimated time left was 7:17. It's not quite 9.5 hours on a full charge but I think I can improve by tweaking the power settings. The Atom N280 running at 1.66GHz is only a bit slower than my previous work PC, a Dell Latitude D-410. It had a 1.6GHz Pentium M but only 1GB of RAM. The processor is benchmarked at about 15% faster than the N280 but the netbook will have 2GB of RAM so it should be plenty fast for email and surfing the web. I worked for 3 years on the old D-410 so I can probably run Office without any problems on the netbook.

Next I'm going to share my 1TB external HDD with movies and TV shows to see if it can play videos. Asus thoughtfully partitioned the 160GB HDD into two so there is a 60GB D: drive that I can store my files without messing up the primary C: drive.

The Internet with Chineses Characteristics

Whatever. If you ever need a reminder that PRC is a communist dictatorship, here it is. SARFT (The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television) just released rules for Internet video content. Since the original webpage is in Chinese, I'm relying on this translation from Global Voices Advocacy. Without a doubt this is a knee-jerk reaction to the video posted on YouTube showing Chinese security forces beating a Tibetan monk. Of course, the CCP claims the video is a lie but offers no proof, then goes ahead and blocks all access to YouTube. This is typical communist modus operandi: lie about stuff then block all dissent. Obviously, the US government lies too, but at least we get to dispute or protest.

Some of the items on the list are so vague that it allows the CCP to arbitrarily censor any content they want. This is probably already true today but I guess they want to give the impression that they're following rules, kind of like elections in North Korea.

Here are some things that will be banned from the Internet:

2. damaging to national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity;

6. disrupting social order and social stability;

9. harmful to social morale and national culture and tradition;

Item #2 pretty much eliminates discussion about Tibet and Taiwan and #6 means any protests on video is banned, kind of like in real life. Since the Chinese people are so easily "offended" according to the CCP, #9 can be used to censor anything that's remotely critical of the government.

The rules also place the burden on video hosting sites to edit or delete video content that falls within a list of 21 items. I think the list already applies to TV broadcasts so these rules will make the Internet as boring as CCTV broadcasts. Some of my favorites [with comments]:
2. deliberately ridiculing revolution leaders, heroic figures, significant historical figures, prominent figures inside and outside China;
[So I can't call Mao crazy? What about CCP's non-stop Dalai Lama name calling?]

3. maliciously ridiculing people's army, armed police, police, and judicial bodies; contents that show physical abuse and torturing of prisoners and criminals;
["We don't torture people, but if you have a video of us doing it, you can't show it."]

5. advocating religious extremism, creating conflicts among different religions, sects, believers and non-believers that hurt people's feeling;
[No hurt feelings allowed in harmonious Chinese society! I thought China was officially atheist so why would they care?]

6. promoting fortune telling, fung-shui, exorcism treatment and other superstitious acts;
[So why did they choose to start the Olympics on 8/8/08 at 8:08pm? Was that not superstitious?]

10. deliberately exhibiting private parts of human bodies that covered up by body parts or small objects;
[No Western TV shows then...]

11. inducing sexual fantasy;
[This one is crazy. How do I know what will induce sexual fantasy for some wacko on the Internet?]

15. excessive horrible image, subtitle, background music and sound effects;
[Horrible background music and sound effects? Isn't that more about taste? I think Chinese opera sounds horrible, should that be banned?]

17. violating individual privacy;
[No more human flesh search engines... how convenient for corrupt government officials.]

I wonder if the CCP wil have to block all non-China based video sites since people can simply continue to post to YouTube. Also, the last item on the list says, "violating the principle of relevant laws and regulations." Does that include copyright laws? If so, then all unauthorized uploads of Western TV shows, Korean dramas, or music videos will have to be deleted.