Sunday, May 31, 2009

Random Photos from Canada Trip

I now know why my dad didn't want to keep the Sony DSLR. It's kinda heavy and bulky and hard to carry unless you have a dedicated camera bag. In addition, I bought him a 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens; it won't fit it the camera bag along with the camera. Anyway, this time I only brought my Panasonic point-and-shoot so I didn't take a lot of pictures.

Welcome to New York! I didn't actually see much of New York since I didn't leave Terminal 8 of JFK Airport. This is the 2nd time I've been in New York State. My other visit was to Buffalo in 1984, trying to recover our impounded Canadian car from US Customs (I'll have to write about that later).

JFK Terminal 8. Quite modern and the bathrooms were amazingly clean and odorless. Maybe because I was the first user at 6am on a Sunday morning.

To get to the departure gate for my Toronto flight, I had to cross under part of the gate area for Terminal 8. It was a long escalator trip down then back up on the other side. I'd hate to be stuck here during a power outage.

The flight from JFK to YYZ was on American Eagle which means riding on a cramped ERJ-140. I had the single seat in the exit row but it was still uncomfortable.

I flew across three out of the five Great Lakes on this trip. This is Lake Ontario near Oakville or Mississauga.

I was one of the first person to go through Canadian Immigration. The airport wasn't that busy on a Sunday morning. My sister arrived the night before and said it was deserted at 11pm as well.

Since I can't sleep well on planes, red eye flights really suck. In addition, the guy next to me was huge and his fat overflowed across the armrest and into my personal space. How come I never get to sit next to the cute yet friendly young Asian female?! Anyway, as soon as my parents/sister picked me up at Pearson Int'l, we drove to East York to visit my 3rd aunt. We lived at her condo for a few months when we first moved to Canada in 1977. She lives on the 27th floor and this is the view from her balcony.

We went to a Chinese restaurant in Markham for brunch. For some reason, my mom ordered Peking Duck. It was pretty good but way too greasy, especially after 24 hours of no sleep.

Dessert made from fried egg whites with a sweet filling.

Train along the Gardiner Expressway. It's the first time I saw a Via train. Usually I see the green GO trains. They travel about 70-80 mph.

The next day (or the same day... I can't remember), we went to visit my 2nd aunt in Mississauga. They used to live in Oakville while we lived in Mississauga; now it's the other way around. They have a lot of pets in their house. Here's my sister taking a picture of their lizard.

They also have a cat and sometimes a dog, depending on whether they're dogsitting for my cousin.

Some time later, we went back to Markham to have lunch at a Mongolian BBQ buffet. This place is at the same location as Pacific Mall where I often bought dinner when I traveled to Markham for work. It was $15 per person and the selection was pretty good.

Meat for the Mongolian BBQ. Choose either beef, pork, chicken, lamb or mix and match.

They even had a shaved ice bar. Some old people at another table just spooned the ingredients into a bowl and didn't get ice. Not sure if they understood what the fancy machine filled with ice was for.

Waiting on the runway at YYZ. We had to wait until the Austrian Air plane landed since we used the same runway for takeoff.

Lake Huron...

... and Lake Michigan.

Since Chicago O'Hare is one of American Airline's hubs, there were a lot of AA jets. This was taken from one of AA's Admirals Clubs near Terminal H/K.

Driving home on the 405 freeway. I velcro'ed a small tripod to the A-pillar and took this using the Night Scene setting (2 second exposure). I stopped at an In-n-Out on the way home as I usually do when I drive back from LAX after a China trip.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Last Trip to Toronto

So I think this may be my last trip to Toronto for the near future since my parents are moving back to Los Angeles. The first time we moved from Canada to the US, I didn’t visit from 1987 to 2004. Maybe my mom will still visit my aunts and I can go back with her; I need to use up 100k of AA miles before they expire.

We visited a few relatives during this trip and I got to eat lunch with Cyrus. Other than family, I think I’ve known him for the longest period. We were in the same class in sixth grade and since we both joined the instrumental music class, we were also in the same class for seventh and eighth grade. We both then ended up going to Applewood Heights for high school instead of TLK, which is where most of the people went after The Valleys (junior high). I treated him to lunch so he has to buy me lunch next time in California.

I think my parents’ move is pretty much planned out. I need to go back and find them an apartment starting early July. All they have to do is to finish tossing stuff and pack everything for the moving company. They’ve decided to drop off the Camry in Buffalo to ship to California instead of driving it themselves. I thought I would have to meet them in Chicago in July to help with the drive. They’re still looking for a house/townhouse. Ironically, they found one they liked this morning on in NW Fullerton and it’s right next to the condo Shirley just purchased. Maybe my mom can cook for her… ok, maybe not. I’m still looking for a house too and it’s more and more likely I need a three bedroom house instead of a smaller condo. I really like the live/work lofts in downtown Santa Ana except that I don’t really need the storefront-like workspace and there aren’t enough bedrooms. I’ve been narrowing my search to houses built after 1980 and listed for less than $600k. Almost everything available near work is a short sale or bank owned.

The pilot just announced that we’re about 20 minutes out of LAX. All the flights on this trip have been pretty good. The exit rows are much roomier than regular seats though I’ve never had too many problems with AA. The old Cathay 747 seats are the worst, especially when the person in front of you recline their seat right into your lap. I watched one and a half movies on my netbook (no TV screens on a MD-80) and still have >2 hours of battery life left. I probably couldn’t have finished even one movie with my power hungry Sony Vaio or the huge Dell D820 I have a work now.

Admirals Club Lite

I’m sitting in AA’s Admirals Club at Chicago O’Hare airport. I received a one day pass to try it out; normally this would have cost me $50. So far, it’s pretty lame. Over the past few years, I’ve been in business class lounges at LAX and a few places in Asia. Most of them give you free food, drinks, and Internet access. All I can find at O’Hare is water and some snack mix. Even for the snack mix, you have to stand in front of a large dispenser and rotate a knob like a beggar. If you want real food or drinks, you have to order it at a bar/counter. Even worse, my one-day free pass does NOT include Internet access. For that, I need to pay another $6 or something.

I guess the free pass is for me to “experience” AA’s lounge and entice me to buy a membership. The chairs are more comfy than what’s down in the terminal but that’s about it. Unless I travel every week and need to connect all the time, there’s no way I would spend the $500 for an annual membership. There is a lot of people in here though. Maybe they’re writing it off as a business expense.

I see people walking around with vegetables and stuff. Maybe there is other “free” stuff hidden away somewhere. I’m going to walk around and check it out.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Moving back to LA

After this week, my parents have only 4 weeks left in their house. Everything has been pretty smooth so far except for the new used car from Rebecca's dad. Their house sold within one week, they got rid of their old car, and most of the large furniture items are either sold or will be shipped to LA. We got a quote from Atlas Van Lines to move their stuff from Oakville to Costa Mesa for ~$4500 and another company to move the Toyota Camry from Buffalo for $1100. They still have to organize a garage sale during an upcoming weekend to see if any of the smaller stuff will sell. I think the main thing left to do is for me to find them an apartment somewhere close to me so the movers can have somewhere to drop off the furniture and they can stay while the house search in LA continues.

Chinese Bribery Update

My friend spoke to her lawyer again and it appears that the corrupt judge wants a cash handout and an expensive meal. The plan now is to give the judge ¥500 (~US$75) and hope that she accepts it, then take her (probably not her entire family) to a ¥300 meal along with the lawyer. My guess is that everyone working in the court know about this kind of stuff, including this judge's bosses, and it's business as usual.


I saw an ad on Facebook for a company called Mogo that promised quick and easy loans for Canadians. I guess I'm seeing a lot of Canadian ads since I'm at my parents' house. Anyway, the stated goal of this company is to "save Canadians $1 billion" on consumer loan interest compared to NSF fees or payday loans or something. I checked out their site and it's very well designed with a lot of lower case text and smiling models. However, nowhere do they list the actual interest rate, only $x fee per $100 borrowed.

Digging deeper, one of their programs is called quick money which offers 2 week loans. You can borrow up to $1500 or 60% of your net pay, and the fees are $18.50 per $100. At first glance, that looks like 18.5% interest, pretty high but comparable to credit card interest rates. However, that's $18.50 per $100 per 2 weeks. If you just multiply that out by 26, it's equivalent to ~480% interest! I know you're not supposed to hold these loans for an extended amount of time but that seems really expensive. The website advertises that it's still "cheaper" than regular payday loans (really?) or bouncing a check and paying NSF fees. It even says you can use the loan to avoid credit card late fees. If you really had credit card debt, it's probably cheaper the pay the minimum amount due plus the credit card interest which is ~18%-25% APR.

Is unsecured short term consumer loan that expensive where 480% APR is cheap? Doesn't this just push people deeper into debt? I guess if it's truly an one-time cash flow issue, then paying exorbitant interest fees for 2 weeks is okay. Also, why isn't there consumer disclosure laws requiring companies to state equivalent APR? The $x fee per $100 statement looks like a way to hide the fact you're being charged 100x interest versus a secured mortgage loan. It would be really interesting to see Mogo's default rate and what their margins are.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chinese Corruption - Up Close and Personal

I just talked to my friend in Chengdu about her divorce case. She filed for divorce in China last May (2008) and finally had her day in court in front of a divorce judge a few week ago. The quick background story is that she got married to a lowlife jerk in Taiwan and they had a son. After marriage, the husband started staying out at night for days and weeks (probably having an affair), got into street racing and drugs, and her in-laws treated her like a servant. A few years ago, she came back to China with her son and she hasn't seen him or any child support money since. They agreed to divorce but since she doesn't have any proof from Taiwan, she decided to file separately in China.

Anyway, she spent about ¥5000 on lawyer fees so far and finally got her court date at the beginning of May. At the hearing, the judge went through her paperwork, asked some questions, and told her to wait for a decision. Since she was in Chengdu and the court was in Zigong (her hometown and where her houkou is registered), the court agreed to contact the lawyer. This morning, she received a call from the lawyer saying her case has been rejected. The reasons given by the judge was that her court was the wrong venue since my friend is living in Chengdu, and there was some affidavit that wasn't filed prior to the court date. Both are false since any government matter/petition needs to be filed in your "hometown" or houkou, and the judge never asked for the paperwork during the past 12 months nor did she mention it during the court proceedings. WTF?!

Pay Up Sucker! (credit: stigmata1967/flickr)

The lawyer then mentioned that this judge has a reputation for needing something extra on the side to decide cases in your favor. The lawyer actually suggested a "red envelope" gift or alternatively, my friend can take the judge, probably along with her entire family, out to dinner. My friend is headed back to Zigong tomorrow and had to withdraw some cash from her bank account in order to pay for this bribe meal. She's not sure how much she needs to spend but she has ~¥1000 on hand in case. That's a lot of money for dinner; last time I was in Zigong, a very nice 10-course meal for 6 only cost ~¥350.

The worst part about this whole thing, other than the delay and the extra cost, was the fact that my friend wasn't all that pissed off... just annoyed. It's as if she expected this to happen somewhere along the process. I guess corruption is so prevalent that it's just another problem people expect to deal with. She also said stuff like this is more common in smaller towns where local officials have more power. This seems to be true from news reports and my own personal experience with corruption happened in Zigong as well. My friend said I should blog about this (!) but we're both pretty sure it won't make any difference. Hopefully, this greedy judge will be satisfied with an expensive meal and won't drag this out like a Nigerian 419 scam.

I told my friend to take a photo with the "judge" during dinner so I can post her name and picture... after the court case is closed, of course. Unfortunately, even for a laowai like me, this level of corruption is not surprising. Despite the CCP's constant whining about Western media bias and "hurt" Chinese feelings, the Chinese people are being screwed by their own government. It's ironic to me that the most popular movie in China right now is 南京! 南京! Not to make light of the Nanking massacre nor all the atrocities during WW2 but who was responsible for the most Chinese deaths during the past 100 years? Not the Qing rulers, the Japanese, nor some other foreign invader. That "honor" belongs to Chairman Mao.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

American Airlines Flight 10

I’m on the red eye flight from LAX to JFK and we’re about 90 minutes from New York. There is wifi on this flight and it appears to be a 11g wireless router. I’m not actually going to post this from the flight since I was too cheap to pay the $5.95 fee. It’s supposed to go up to $12.95 after a promo period. Without paying the fee, you can access and some stories from WSJ. Since you can’t use your cell phone on flights, it would be cool to be able to use Skype or MSN Messenger. If they offer this on Cathay Pacific, I’d definitely pay to use it now that I have a computer that can run 8+ hours on batteries.

I’m in one of the exit row seats on a Boeing 767. I think it’s the first time I’ve been on this type of plane; usually I’m on a 737, 747, or Airbus A320. On the way back to LA, I’m on two consecutive MD-80 flights. I don’t think I’ve been on one of those either. I got a free pass for AA’s Admirals Club right before I left so I’ll probably use that during my 3 hour layover in Chicago. Interestingly, this is the first time I’ve sat in an exit row seat domestically. I usually select seats on my own and exit row/bulkhead seats are always unavailable. This time I called the AA Platinum phone number since I had to reuse a previously cancelled free flight, and the reservation person just gave me exit row seats on all 4 flights. I also had to pay $0.40 on my credit card since the international flight taxes went up a bit (I had to pay $40 when I initially reserved the flight).

Dang it. The flight map shows that we’re flying over Detroit. If I was on the direct LAX to YYZ flight, I would be there in another 30 minutes. Instead, I have another hour to New York, and won’t get to Toronto for another 5+ hours. At least it’s more bearable than the 15 hour flight from LA to Hong Kong. I think my sister is going to pick me up from Pearson Airport. I called her right after I cleared security in LA and she happened to just get off her flight in Toronto at ~11pm Eastern Time. I’m making her go back to the airport after ~11 hours but I’m returning the favor by dropping her off next Wednesday really really really early for a 7am flight back home. They need to make these airport things more convienent.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Another day, another K-pop group. This one (2NE1) is from YG Entertainment, which typically has more hip-hoppy artists.

2NE1's debut on Inkigayo... pretty elaborate.

One interesting thing about 2NE1 is one of their members, Park Bom Lee, actually went to Berklee College of Music here in the US (Boston). That's pretty impressive. Not sure why they didn't make her the group leader since she's the oldest. Probably because she hasn't been with YG that long and the actual "leader" trained with YG for 7 years. Still... Berklee! At least they made her the lead singer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

2009-10 California State Budget

I read in the news that proposition 1A through 1E were defeated in the California special election yesterday. I'm not sure what Arnold and the rest of the legislator were thinking. Did they actually think people were going to vote for more taxes at this time? What a waste of money.

Since I basically do budgeting for a living, I wanted to take a look at the budget proposal. Supposedly there is a $42 billion shortfall on a budget of $135 billion. What kind of idiots submit a budget where the deficit is ~45% of the expected revenue? To quote our CFO, they're "spending money like a bunch of drunken sailors!"

The budget summary PDF file is 175 pages so it will take some time to read but there's an interesting chart on page 69 in the Revenue Estimates section. I'll need to figure out how to cut out the chart but here's the accompanying text:
Modeled closely on the federal income tax law, California’s personal income tax is imposed on net taxable income: that is, gross income less exclusions and deductions. The tax is steeply progressive, with rates ranging from 1 percent to 9.3 percent. Figure REV‑03, which shows the percent of total returns and tax paid by adjusted gross income class, illustrates the progressivity. In 2006, the top 15 percent of state taxpayers, those with adjusted gross incomes (AGI) over $100,000, paid 84 percent of the personal income tax. The top 1 percent of state taxpayers, those with AGI over $480,940, paid 48 percent of the personal income tax. Changes in the income of a relatively small group of taxpayers can have a significant impact on state revenues.

So I fall into the >$100k category, along with most of the people I work with. We're already paying a huge portion of the personal income taxes, which makes up ~50% of all tax revenues. From the chart, people making <$50k (~65% of the population) pay zero state income tax. How is that fair? Don't they consume state government resources? I paid ~$25k in state taxes last year, not counting sales tax on stuff I bought. I'm 100% positive that I didn't cost the state of California anywhere near that much.

Chinese Singing Show To Go On, With a New Name and Conditions

Sigh... I really don't get it. What is the CCP afraid of? Is it the public voting? Is the competition is not "patriotic" enough because they're singing pop songs? Or is it just a knee-jerk reaction to control anything that's popular?

Wall Street Journal
After a two-year absence, the enormously popular Super Girls, China’s single-sex answer to American Idol, is back, albeit under a new name. This time, it’s called “Happy Girls” (快乐女声 in Chinese), according to Xinhua News Agency.


A spokesman for Hunan Satellite Television told the media late last month that a revival of the televised singing competition had been approved by the Sarft, though not without several conditions attached.

These conditions include the following: the competition may last no more than two months (about half the length of an American Idol season); episodes may only air after 10:30 pm; judges must be appropriately dressed and use proper language; competitors are not allowed to hug each other or shed tears on stage; and there must not be any fan groups cheering for contestants in the studio audience. Meanwhile, all forms of public voting for contestants, including mobile text messaging and online polls, will be prohibited, as reported by the Chinese-language media.

Maybe SARFT just don't want people to be entertained, or happy.


I saw Jane Zhang in concert a few years ago in Pasadena with Leon and Fred. She finished in 3rd place in the 2005 Super Girl competition.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No More Free Credit

I'm too disgusted to comment on this kind or crap anymore.

New York Times
Credit Card Industry Aims to Profit From Sterling Payers

Credit cards have long been a very good deal for people who pay their bills on time and in full. Even as card companies imposed punitive fees and penalties on those late with their payments, the best customers racked up cash-back rewards, frequent-flier miles and other perks in recent years.

Now Congress is moving to limit the penalties on riskier borrowers, who have become a prime source of billions of dollars in fee revenue for the industry. And to make up for lost income, the card companies are going after those people with sterling credit.

Banks are expected to look at reviving annual fees, curtailing cash-back and other rewards programs and charging interest immediately on a purchase instead of allowing a grace period of weeks, according to bank officials and trade groups.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


5.0 4.7 earthquake at around 8:40pm near Lennox, CA (close to LAX). I was in Torrance which is pretty close to the epicenter so the shaking (more like a jolt) was quite intense.

Empress Pavilion

We had lunch yesterday with Tim and Chris(tine) at Empress Pavilion. It's probably the best dim sum place in LA Chinatown. Tim used to be the assistant/associate pastor at CCCSB a long time ago. Currently they are missionaries in Kenya working with Africa Inland Mission. I think this is their second furlough and they'll be back in Kenya in August.

The food was pretty good. I used to come here every Saturday with Haley for takeout. We were volunteer tutors at an elementary school down the street.

The restaurant is huge but it still fills up quickly on weekends. I waited ~1.5 hours once for a table. I once saw Lisa Ling eating dim sum here; her sister is one of the reporters currently kidnapped by the North Korean government.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

PS3 Pinball Game

I just bought a pinball (Zen Pinball) game for my PS3 online from the Playstation Store using the PS3. It's way too convenient... and dangerous on the wallet. The game is 319MB and it's downloading right now. My wireless network has been a bit flaky lately so I hope this works. 35 minutes for a 300MB download seems like a long time.

I'm sitting in the living room blogging this from my netbook, which is also on the same wireless network, while watching the game download. How did we live before all this technology?!


Eehh, the pinball game is so so. I guess I should expect too much for $9.99. The main problem with pinball games is that the pinball table is long and narrow portrait but the HD TV image is long and narrow landscape. The game has lots of views but the fixed perspective views only show the bottom of the table clearly while the moving views move way too fast for me to figure out what's going on. There are 4 tables but they all seem similar with lots of tracks that carry the ball all over the place, or so it seems. The graphics are pretty nice but I still like Space Cadet Pinball that came with Windows (but not Vista) and Pinball Construction Set by EA on the Apple II. :)


There was only one season of xxxHolic on Hulu so I started watching another series called Bleach. I think I saw the first few episodes awhile ago then downloaded a couple of full-length movies. Hulu only has episodes 1-75 and 80-83 but I found the rest on Veoh with subtitles from Bleach Portal. From the Wikipedia article, season 10 is about to start. I just finished watching episode 91 which is the end of season 4 so there is a lot to watch.

It looks like there's third Bleach movie out. :)

Koda Kumi (倖田來未) DVD's

After posting the 2009 KTMF videos last week, a lot of people subscribed to my YouTube channel so I feel pressured to upload some content. :)

I bought both her "Best" CD/DVD in Taiwan a few years ago. However, since the DVD's were encoded to Region 3, I've been only able to watch them on my DVD/Karaoke player; it plays almost every disc format known. I have been reluctant to change the DVD player on my personal computers away from Region 1 so I changed it on my work computer and ripped both DVD's. There were a total of 30 music videos. I downloaded a lot of her stuff before so now I have ~60 Koda Kumi MV's. She must be very busy.

I'm going to upload videos that I can't find on YouTube or if there are only low quality versions. I ripped everything at 720x480 @6000kbps so the actual files are ~250MB each and take forever to upload and process.

Here's the first one:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bad Chinese Fast Food

I think I'm buying dinner at Chipotle too often. Three of the regular workers there recognize me and know what I usually order. To try something different, I went to a Chinese fast food place (2 item combo, etc.) across the street. It was called "New Panda" and I should have known it was going to be bad just from the name. I ate only about 1/4 of what they gave me.

I wish Sam Woo was a lot closer to home. :(

Slumdog star's home is demolished

This is pretty lame. The movie pulled in $200M at the box office plus who knows how much DVD sales in the future and they can't help one family move out of the slums? What does it cost for a small apartment in Mumbai? $5k? $10k? $20k? Out of all the profits from the movie, they can't even find that bit of money? How much did they pay the kids for their part anyway?

BBC News

The Mumbai slum home of one of the child stars of the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire has been demolished by city authorities.

Reports say that police smacked the boy, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, with a bamboo stick before ordering him out.

The authorities claim he and other families were squatting on land that was owned by the government.

He played a younger version of one of the main characters in the film, which scooped eight Oscars.

"We are homeless, we have nowhere to go," Azharuddin said after the demolition.

The family lived in a temporary makeshift shelter made up of plastic sheets over bamboo sticks, in a slum near Bandra East in Mumbai.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

YouTube Videos

So I am still mad at myself for accidentally deleting a video I recorded of Baek Ji Young this past Saturday. Oh well, I'll just have to find another one of her concerts to attend... maybe in Korea!

After uploading the "fancam" videos to YouTube, some of them have been getting a few hits. The most popular one so far is Lena Park and Jessica (SNSD) singing You Raise Me Up with almost 8,000 views. A lot of people (even from South Korea) subscribed to my "channel" on YouTube. I think they will be disappointed since I hardly ever upload anything; this will probably be my first and last K-pop concert, unless Baek Ji Young comes to LA again. :)

Somebody else's recording of 입술을 주고 by Baek Ji Young

Some people comments that the quality of the videos were very good. I actually thought they were pretty crappy since I had to shoot at max zoom (280mm) on my camera. Since it's not a camcorder, I couldn't change the zoom while recording and the sound quality was pretty bad. However, compared to the typical 30 second, wildly shaking clips, I guess my videos were decent by comparison. It's probably more of a function of the image-stabilization system of the camera than technique.

I also got tricked by the camera into taking low quality videos at first. At the highest quality setting (30fps VGA), it said I could record only 22:34 of video. That only works out to 4-5 songs, plus I wanted to take photos, so I set the recording to 320x240 (30fps QVGA) during the first half of the concert; I switch back to 640x480 when SNSD came out. After downloading the videos to my computer, I noticed that the low quality videos were about 140MB for 5 minutes and the high quality videos were about 300MB for 4 minutes. That means I could have shot 50+ minutes on my 4GB SDHC card. The VGA videos look much better since they're 4x the size. That's good to know if I go to this concert next year.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

California Bankruptcy

Los Angeles Times
California could be broke by July, state official warns

Despite the budget fix enacted in February, the state is on track to come up $23 billion short of what it needs to get through the year, the Legislature's chief budget analyst says.

Where is all the money being spent? Why aren't they cutting more spending instead of raising taxes? I saw an increase in my state taxes on my past paycheck and it's not because I got a raise. When our company needed to improve the bottom line, we cut millions out of the budget. Maybe this financial crisis is a good opportunity for California to file bankruptcy, restructure its debt, reset every department's budget to zero, and have them justify all future spending in light of the current tax revenue projections. Just because there was an entitlement during fat years should not result in perpetual spending. This will never happen of course since the Democrats are in charge. They need to keep paying off their "constituents" so they can stay in office.

K-pop Concert Photos and Videos

Yesterday was a long day. I brought a friend along to the concert so I had to pick her up in Torrance before heading to Hollywood Bowl; it was a lot of driving. I left my apartment before 4pm and didn't get home until 1:30am this morning. The concert itself was long, from 6:30pm until almost 11pm since there were many peformers and each had to sing 3-4 songs. As expected, I didn't understand anything that was said since 99% of the time everyone spoke Korean. Overall the performances were pretty good and there were a lot of crazy fans. I thought I was going to be the oldest guy at the concert but there were a lot of older people, probably there to listed to the opera singer.

However, the sound engineering, especially near the end (when all the big-name acts were on-stage) was terrible. They had the volume cranked way too loud and you could barely hear the vocals over the distortion. I'm not sure whether it's because the instrumental tracks were mixed incorrectly for the Hollywood Bowl sound system or if the sound techs were incompetent, but I couldn't make out much of the lyrics (that I don't understand anyway).

Here are some photos. Our seats were in Terrace Box 1322 which is much much closer than I've ever sat at Hollywood Bowl. The face value on the tickets were $125; I paid $75 each for them.

Lots and lots of people in line to get in. The security check was almost non-existent. I should have brought my Sony DSLR and more food. Anyway, all the photos and videos are from my Panasonic DMC-TZ3.

The place was packed with people... mostly Korean I assume.

Some guy singing the Korean national anthem. They also sang the US national anthem right afterwards.

A choir from Korean Airlines. Not sure if they're actual flight attendants or professional singers dressed like flight attendants. They sang 3 or 4 songs.

TaeYeon of SNSD singing a duet with Lee Juk. She got a lot more cheers than the guy and it was his part of the concert.

Baek Ji Young. I missed her other concert in March because I was in China so I'm glad I got to see her this time. I recorded two videos and managed to delete one by accident... it was a song I really liked too. :(

It was still pretty hard to see clearly. I would have paid double to sit up closer. I also had to decide whether to take photos, record a video, look through binoculars, or just sit back and watch/listen. :)

Hollywood Bowl at night. It got pretty cold when the sun went down.

Lena Park. She was born in Los Angeles and attended UCLA. She sang Josh Groban's "You Lift Me Up" with Jessica from SNSD, another ABK from San Francisco.

The fans didn't know it was Jessica at first. You hear the loud cheering at 0:20 into the video when they figured it out.

Kim Tae Woo and Son Ho Young (MC) from g.o.d. I didn't listen to them much before but they put on a good show. It was a mini-reunion of sorts since the group disbanded awhile ago.


SNSD or Girls' Generation. Only 8 out of 9 girls showed up. Yoona is probably back in Korea shooting her K-drama.

Yuri and Sooyoung

Gee! I've watched so many performances of this song (on Korean music shows: Inkigayo, Music Bank, Music Core) that it was weird seeing it live. Same for TaeYeon when she came out to sing the duet. It felt like I was watching TV (or my computer monitor) when looking at the large screens next to the stage.

I guess SS501 was the headline act since they sang last and did the most songs. I haven't listened to them that much either before the concert.

U R Man. They put on a pretty good show. Lots of teenage girls (and some ajummas) were going crazy around us.


Some more fireworks. They didn't shoot off any really large fireworks this time.

I'm still pissed (at myself) that I deleted Baek Ji Young's performance of her "lips" song. I uploaded a total of 7 videos to YouTube. All together, there was ~1.6GB of photos and videos on my camera from the concert. I was worried about running out of memory (4GB SDHC card) but ended up running out of battery first.

The song I recorded and deleted by mistake... :(

I enjoyed the concert. Depending on who comes next year, I may go again if I can get even better seats and bring along my DSLR and zoom lens.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Korean Concert Tickets

Woohoo! I got two tickets from someone with extras. The seats are in the Terrace Box section (TB03). I've been to the Hollywood Bowl many times and this is the closest I've ever sat, though most of the concerts have been orchestral. From fan videos during past concerts, this one will be loud, with lots of screaming teenagers.

Now that I'm going, I should find out more about the singers/groups (the bold names are the ones I've heard of):

MC: Son Ho Young

Girls’ Generation (SNSD)
Lee Juk
Lena Park
Kim Changwan Band
Son Ho Young
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Kim Heung Gook
Tae Jina
Tenor Um Jung Haeng
Kim Tae Woo
Baek Ji Young

Min Hae Kyung

I scanned through the thread on forums (352 pages) and there are lots of people whining about AP tests. Now I feel really really old. :(

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sichuan Earthquake Anniversary

Leon and I went to Chengdu a week after the huge earthquake last year. We didn't see much damage but the aftermath of the quake was visible everywhere, from makeshift tents along the roads to convoys of rescue workers and relief supplies. I even experiences a pretty large aftershock the day before I came home.

Almost a hundred thousand people died in the earthquake and many were children, crushed by collapsing school buildings. As the one year anniversary approaches, the government is still not giving answers to grieving parents or even letting them visit the school sites. I think this is due to corruption at the local official level (stealing funds that would have made the school buildings safer) and CCP's paranoia with any dissent, even constructive criticism.

This attitude is evident as the police harass journalist and private citizens trying to report on the issue.

Foreign Correspondents Club of China

3) On May 6, the FT journalists arrived at the Mianyang government office to pick up its local reporting passes where they saw a local woman petitioning outside. When Anderlini attempted to film an interview with the woman, an unidentified man arrived and ripped the video camera from its tripod, tearing off the bottom of the camera. Anderlini asked the local propaganda office for compensation, but was told police would have to handle it. The team left the area.

The propaganda office told the FT police could stop any interview for any reason, and that “the reason the police were so violent with us was they were trying to protect us from the petitioner.

The last line is both funny and sad. I guess "propaganda" is another word for government lies. The more repressive and authoritarian the government, the more it needs to lie to its own people. I wonder if workers in the propaganda office lie so often that it becomes a natural reflex. Do they lie to their family and friends after work?

K-pop Concert this Saturday

The 7th Korea Times Music Festival is this Saturday at Hollywood Bowl. I think tickets were sold out awhile ago but there are still people selling their tickets at forums. The tickets are pretty expensive, ranging from $80 to $200 for good seats... I guess that's not too bad since I paid $100 to sit behind the sound board at a Jane Zhang concert in Pasadena.

Anyway, if I had a date (who likes K-pop), I would consider picking up two terrace tickets and go this Saturday. Artists/groups performing include Baek Ji Young (I missed her concert in March), SNSD, SHINee, Lena Park, SS501, and a bunch of people I haven't heard of. Actually, I would probably pay $100 just to see BJY and SNSD. One of the members of SNSD is from Diamond Bar so this is a homecoming concert of sorts. I wonder how many non-Korean will be there.

Baek Ji Young

SNSD (소녀시대) or Girls' Generation

I read online that for their Thailand concert, SNSD flew from Seoul to Bangkok arriving at 2am, went to their hotel to sleep, rehearsed during the day, performed at night, then returned to Korea right after the concert. Crazy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Funny Reviews for Obama USB Drive

I saw this product being sold on Amazon.

Currently, there are 9 reviews (all 1 star) and they're really funny. This one is my favorite.
I, too, was fooled. Granted, I took my chances selecting a product with no performance history. It's just that the marketing was so great! I had to have it! Alas, things are not what they seemed. As soon as I began to use the Obama drive, I noticed several changes. My word processor began actively applying political correctness to my documents. "Uhhh" and "ummm" keep showing up in every paragraph. My security software keeps warning me of impending doom unless I spend tons of money on new programs that are supposed to fix things. Worst of all, I found a trojan horse that removes data from my hard drive, and redistributes it to total strangers.

I asked for a replacement, but was told that only if my Obama drive totally died, it could be replaced, but the choices were a Biden drive or a Pelosi drive. Maybe I'll just outsource my computing needs until 2012.

That's with a "T"

Metropark Hotel

Due to the swine flu epidemic, there are 274 people quarantined for a week inside the Metropark Hotel in Hong Kong. Evidently, a Mexican guest in the hotel was infected with the H1N1 virus.

I stayed one night at that hotel on my first trip to Chengdu back in 2007. The hotel was relatively inexpensive and near the Wan Chai MTR station. The rooms were rather small though; I can't imagine being stuck in there for a week.

BBC News

Monday, May 4, 2009

Strange Auto Insurance Rates

I just called and added my dad to my auto insurance policy. I am currently the only driver on my policy and I have two cars insured. By adding him, my insurance premium went down by $9 for the year. That doesn't make any sense to me. My dad paid $900 for his auto insurance (that included collision on another car) so I expected my premium to go up. Strange...

Omega Service Network

I have an old Omega Constellation watch. I think it originally belonged to my uncle Jackson (gift from ex-girlfriend) who then gave it to my grandfather who gave it to my dad. I've had it for awhile and still wear it once in awhile. The problem with an automatic watch is that they stop if you don't wear it for a few days. Even when I wear it daily, it slows by a few minutes each day so I have to adjust it. Since it's pretty old, the adjustment knob is a bit stiff and the internal movement probably needs maintenance.

Anyway, from the Omega website, I searched for an official customer service center. There are only two places listed for California: one in Beverly Hills and the other in West LA. I also looked up Chengdu and there are three service centers. Maybe Omega's database is incomplete but it appears that I can get better service for my watch in China than at home.


Dang it. After reading more about Omega Constellations online, I'm not sure if my watch is real or a replica. There is a test called the "MOY test" which checks the alignment of the three letters under the Omega logo. The letters don't line up exactly right per the test on my watch. I probably should take it to a Omega retailer and have them verify the authenticity of the watch.

Yeah, 2:20 AM. I need to go to sleep. :(

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Japanese anime is so weird. I found this series on Hulu and just finished watching the first episode (23 to go). Unfortunately, the episodes are all dubbed; I prefer watching non-English stuff in the original language with subtitles instead of dubbed versions.

I'm not sure why they put "xxx" in the title. So far, it's mainly about spirits and possession.