Saturday, October 31, 2009

Interest Free Loans

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

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

Los Angeles Times

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

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

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

Doubting Reasonable Doubt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 30, 2009

China Thoughts, Part III

Part I
Part II

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

I am more dependable than a man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

China Thoughts, Part II

Part I

I took a lot of history classes during undergrad at UCLA. Someone, probably a non-engineer, decided that engineering students can't read or write well so they required us to take several non-technical classes. For Electrical Engineering majors, the requirement was more strict; we had to take either history 1A/1B/1C or humanities. I chose the history series (Western Civilization) since there were still some facts involved. I did pretty well in those classes even though most of my papers consisted of pulling quotes from the reading material.

Anyway, after taking the 3 required history classes, I decided to continue with several upper level Chinese history classes. All together, I think I took a total of 8 history classes at UCLA and probably could have minored in history if I stayed another quarter.

The last history class I took focused on modern Chinese history from the late 1800's. I don't remember the exact topics or lecture contents but I remember I felt a great sadness for my people. The Han people were beaten by the Mongols, Manchus, a bunch of Western countries, Japanese, and finally ourselves in one tragedy after another (including communism).

With all this "history" or "baggage" depending on your POV, I really didn't like the most recent National Day celebration in China. It was pitched as the 60th anniversary of the motherland and gave the impression that China = Communism. I feel that my definition of "China" and "Chinese" is no less valid than the official CCP version on display. However, it's hard to communicate this to the people I know in China. How do you tell people living inside a box that there is a bigger world out there if they can't see out of the box?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

California Politics

California is in the middle of a huge budget crisis and our legislators are acting like idiots.

First, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano yelled out "kiss my gay ass" to Arnold Schwarzenegger at a Democratic event (he was invited by Willie Brown). To return the favor, Schwarzenegger vetoed a routine bill (AB 1176) sponsored by Ammiano. I'm sure some of you have seen the letter he wrote to explain the veto. Here are the first few words of each line:
To the Members of the...

I am returning Assembly Bill 1176 without my signature.

For some time now I have lamented the fact...
unnecessary bills come to me for consideration...
care are major issues my Administration...
kicks the can down the alley.

Yet another legislative year has come and gone...
overwhelmingly deserve. In the light of this,...
unnecessary to sign this measure at this time.


Arnold Schwarzenegger

Awesome. He is the Terminator, you know. Some math professor calculated the odds of this happening randomly at ~1:2,000,000,000. Hmm, it could have happen by chance.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reasonable Doubt

I'm done with jury duty. Since we turned in a verdict, I can talk/post about the case. The only restriction is that I can't sell any information about the case for 90 days. Since no one pays to read my random thoughts...

It was criminal case with 5 counts: two 2nd degree robbery, two assault with deadly weapon, and one illegal possession of a firearm (defendant is a convicted felon). Jury selection took until ~10:30am on Tuesday and the prosecution called three witnesses (victim plus two Santa Ana police officers). We thought there would be more witnesses but the lawyers gave their closing arguments this morning and we started deliberations at ~11am. The first poll was 10 for not guilty and 2 undecided. Yup, the prosecution's case was that weak.

Anyway, the facts of the case was pretty simple. Two guys were riding their bikes at 1am on Main Street in Santa Ana when they were approached by two other guys with guns. There was some conversation about Lopers (Santa Ana street gang) and the two guys on bikes were hit over the head with guns. One victim said he passed out for a few seconds and when he woke up, their bikes were gone. They flagged down a Santa Ana police officer and while they were telling the story, the defendant was seen riding down the same street on a bike. The police gave chase, cordoned off the neighborhood (more like one small block), and found him hiding under a SUV after 45 minutes. The case basically hinged on whether the victim's ID was credible. I thought that there was a good possibility that the defendant was the assailant but there was some doubt. I think most of the jurors felt the same so we reluctantly voted not guilty on all counts.

It was an interesting experience. As I mentioned before, both lawyers were not that great. I found out today that the defense attorney was from the Public Defender's office and she seemed very young and inexperienced. I was surprised that some stuff I see on TV shows was actually true. Both police officers came across as arrogant and it was very obvious that the 2nd officer didn't like the public defender at all. All the jurors (me included) took our task very seriously. It was mostly a white crowd (include the judge and both attorneys) with three Asians in the jury. Since both the witness/victim and defendant were Latino, as well as both officers, you would expect some racial prejudice/commentary during deliberations. In fact, there was very little discuss about that other than admitting that we didn't know much about the Latino gang culture; the focus was pretty much on the facts and the law as instructed by the judge.

We were done deliberating at around 3:30pm. After the verdict was read, both lawyers met the jury in the hallway for a quick Q&A both ways. We felt that there was a lot of evidence lacking and didn't enjoy having to make a decision based on so few facts. The prosecutor told us that one of the victim/witness was an illegal so he took off to Mexico right after the incident and could not return for trial. We then turned in our badges and I was back at work by 4:30pm. Other than the fact that I have to burn 3 vacation days (maybe I can negotiate it down to two), it was a pretty good experience...

Oh yeah, hopefully we didn't let a criminal back on the street.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jury Duty, Day 2


Back for more. I think they will direct some more questions to the new batch of jurors this morning including me. I think if we get rejected by either the judge or the two attorneys today, we get to go home.



No such luck. I got selected to be on the jury for this case. I did meet an ex-coworker; she was selected as an alternate juror for the same case. Right now we're on lunch break. I drove to Mos in Santa Ana to get lunch and it took longer than I thought. Good thing we have almost two hours for lunch. Anyway, I'm stuck here for the week.



Afternoon break. This is pretty tedious stuff. The lawyers are not as good as they're portrayed on TV.



Like yesterday, we stopped promptly at 4:30pm today. I drove straight to work and got there at around 5:05pm and took care of some emails and report requests.

I think I'm going to stop blogging about jury duty until after the trial since I can't say anything about the case... and there's really nothing interesting about it anyway.

Superior Court of California - County of Orange

Part of the Jury Assembly Room on the 3rd floor of the court building

Ze plane! Ze plane!

I love airplanes. Not so much the 15 hour Transpacific flights but the machines themselves. During my DC/NYC trip last weekend, I visited the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum twice. Since I got to DC so early on Friday, I walked around The Mall and went to the Air & Space Museum by myself; I also went again the next day with James and Elim. They had lots of stuff on display but nothing really huge since the building was not that big. Actually, I didn't know about Udvar-Hazy Center where they keep the large planes on display, including a SR-71 Blackbird. It's right next to Dulles Airport so I could have gone there right after I arrived in DC/IAD.

I think I should have studied Aeronautical or Mechanical Engineering instead of Electrical Engineering. I probably still would be working as an engineer now instead of finance. Anyway, here are some photos, in no particuar order:

WW2 German V-2 Missile

Apollo Lunar Module

F-1 Engine (Saturn 5 Rocket)

Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane

Apollo and Soyuz

WW2 German V-1 Cruise Missile

North American X-15

Pioneer 10 Space Probe

Lockheed F-104A Starfighter

Supermarine Spitfire (with Rolls Royce Merlin V12 engine in front)

Predator UAV with 2 Hellfire missiles
(it was much bigger than I imagined)

Douglas DC-3

Sputnik 1

Bell X-1 (first plane to break the sound barrier)

Charles Lindberg's Spirit of St. Louis

Monday, October 26, 2009

Liveblogging Jury Duty

Today is my first time at jury duty. Not knowing what to expect, I came earlier so I wouldn't be late. After parking and going through security, I was directed to a huge waiting room with probably thousands of other potential jurors. We went through orientation already and now are waiting to be called for jury selection.

The first pre-screened jury duty call was for a 15-day trial. They're only qualifying those people with paid jury duty days from work. Since I get a grand total of zero days, I'm disqualified. The next case was called too and it's for 10 days. I'm surprised by the number of people standing in like to be pre-screened. They either get a lot of paid jury duty days (public employee) or are retired/unemployed. If all the cases are long, then I'm probably going to spend the entire day sitting in the jury assembly room. Maybe I can find a more comfy chair and take a nap.



Third case called was for 7 days and they're still pre-screening for financial hardship/paid jury duty days. Maybe our zero paid jury duty days policy at work was designed to keep us out of long cases.



Aaahhh! First random request and I got called.



Lunch break. I'm stuck in jury selection hell. Looks it will take a longer than one day so I have to come back tomorrow. I can't blog on anything about the case but it is a criminal case and may take the entire week. There goes all my accrued vacation... hope I don't have to start taking unpaid leave for this. :(



Lunch break almost over. I ended up grabbing a sandwich from the court cafe. Sigh... back to the courtroom. It's kind of surreal sitting there watching the judge talk to each potential juror and joking about stuff while the defendant is sitting right there. I wonder what he's thinking while listening to the light banter from people that will decide his fate for the next few/many years.



Afternoon break. Jury selection is way slow. We only went through one set of lawyer dismissals so far. Maybe they can get their 14 this round and we can all go home (except the selected jurors, of course).



I'm so tired. I got home at around 5:30pm, crashed, and just woke up. I got called up to the jury box at around 4pm and just got through introducing myself before the day ended at 4:30pm. This means I have to be back in the courtroom at 9am tomorrow for more questions from the judge and both lawyers. During my 15 second intro, the judge did ask me whether I knew Bill Ruehle, whose trial just started across the street in Federal Court.

The most frustrating thing for me is the fact that they have to end right at 4:30pm due to budget constraints on overtime. This is California state court so the cost comes out of my state taxes anyway (just raised this year). Instead of having state employees work a bit longer each day (like the rest of us in the private sector), they shift the burden to the taxpayers again by making us go back the next day.

DC/NYC Trip, Home Finally

Arg, I just got home after being on the road for 24 hours. Here's my "itinerary" since 3am (Pacific Time) this morning:

Get up, drive from DC to NYC (5 hours)
Drive/walk around NYC (3 hours)
Waiting for non-existent subway train (1 hour)
Subway/taxi ride to JFK (1.5 hours)
JFK to DFW (4 hours)
DFW layover (2 hours)
DFW delay (3 hours)
DFW to SNA LAX (3 hours)
LAX to SNA by bus then home (1.5 hours)

I'm going to take a shower and sleep... need to get up in ~3 hours to go to jury duty at Santa Ana.

BTW, I did meet someone "famous" on the plane. I thought the tattoo lady had too many tattoos for a "regular" person. It turned out she is Kat Von D, the tattoo artist on LA Ink. On a hunch, I googled LA Ink and recognized one of the tattoos on her arm that I saw on the flight from LAX to IAD. Cool... maybe she will remember me and give me a discount when I go to her shop for a tattoo!

Katherine Von Drachenberg, aka Kat Von D

I recognized the tattoo on her upper right arm plus some stuff on her hands. She looked like this in real life (makeup and all) but a bit skinnier.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

DC/NYC Trip, DFW Layover

I like DFW airport. It's one of two places that American Airlines connects all their flights through and it's much better than Chicago O'Hare. They even have free Internet access thought it's not wireless. Right now I have about 15 minutes before my flight boards.

Long story short, I walked a lot this weekend. My legs are still crazy sore from walking around DC and NYC. Let's see... after arriving my myself at Dulles on Friday, I took the Washington Flyer bus to the metro and found my way to The Mall. I walked around for a bit, got tickets for the Washington Monument, and took some pictures at the Air & Space Museum. Afterward, I checked in to our hotel and waited for James & Elim. The rest of the day we walked and took pictures around The Mall and Jefferson Memorial and took a night tour of all the major monuments. We were worried about rain but it ended up raining only at the end of our tour.

The next day we went back to The Mall and hit some of the museums. Most of the time was spent at the Air & Space Museum where we watched two IMAX shows. Since James & Elim spent a lot of time at the Met in NYC, we skipped the art museums and went to the National Archives, like Nicholas Cage. We also took a look inside the Museum of Natural History but it was really crowded and chaotic. Finally, this morning we left DC at ~7am since we had to return the rental car in Manhattan. It was about a 4 hour ride so I got a 45 car tour of mid-town NYC and we walked around for about 2 hours. I took a lot of photos.

The last part of the trip was pretty lame though. We decided to take the subway to Jamaica Station and catch the AirTrain to JFK. However, the E train switched tracks (it was running on the F track) and there was no notice. After four consecutive C trains went by, I found out about the switch. By then, 45 minutes had passed and we were running like crazy to catch the N train to get to the E train running on the F track.

Arg! They just announced that my flight is going to be delayed until 10pm (35 minutes late) since the flight crew arriving on another flight are delayed. I hope they don't delay any further; I have jury duty very early tomorrow.

Anyway, back to NYC. So we finally found the E train but it was running the "local" schedule which meant it stopped at all 23 stations between 34th Street and Jamaica Station. We entered the subway system at 2:15pm and didn't get to Jamaica Station until 2 hours later. Running out of the station (AirTrain was too slow), we found an unmarked cab who agreed to take us to JFK (10-15 minutes) for $20. We ended up arriving at JFK Terminal 3 (Delta) at 4:30pm for a 4:50pm flight; I still don't know if they caught their flight. For another $5, the driver dropped me off at Terminal 8 and I was one of the last people to board my flight (they boarded early for once). So after all that running around, I'm just sitting here at gate D21 waiting for my next flight.

In hindsight, I probably should have just ditched James & Elim in DC and flew back home from IAD or DCA instead of JFK. Well, at least I got some photos:

Lincoln Tunnel. The toll was $8!

Chrysler Building

UN Building next to the East River

Guggenheim Museum

NASDAQ display at Time Square. Since it was Sunday, there weren't any stock quotes.

Random people at Time Square

Rockefeller Center (GE Tower?), home of NBC

Skating rink in the Rockefeller Center

Friday, October 23, 2009

DC/NYC Trip, Overnight Flight

Yawn. It’s about 3am Pacific time and I’m 1.5 hours from Washington DC. I managed to get a bit of sleep but since I’ll probably be really tired when I get to DC. I’m only spending a few days since I have to rush back home for jury duty on Monday morning. In addition, I couldn’t leave work until today since we have our quarterly earnings call today. To fit all this into my schedule, I had to fly out of LAX since there are no redeye flights out of SNA. There were a lot of people flying out tonight on American. It took me about 30 minutes to get through security even though I was in the special line. I decided to splurge and spent 25,000 miles to fly first class so I can get some sleep; coming back, I’m slumming it in coach. The waiting area was really crowded too with late night flights leaving from almost every gate.

When I reserved my tickets, I chose seat 6A since it was the last row of first class and a window seat. On short flights, I don’t really care if it’s a window or aisle seat. I was in my seat for about 2 minutes when someone asked me if I can switch seats with 5E so she can sit with her brother. Actually, it’s probably easier to sleep on a window seat because you can lean against the bulkhead but I agreed. Afterward, I noticed that her shoulders, arms, and even hands were covered with tattoos. It wasn’t one big tattoo but literally hundreds of small/medium ones. I tried to take a stealth picture but was unsuccessful. It was too dark for my Sony DSLR to focus and the auto-focus light on my Panasonic would have given me away (yes, I brought two cameras on this trip). Her brother has some on his arms too but it wasn’t crazy like hers. Maybe she’s on that "Inked" TV show or something.

Only one more hour to DC. My flight is landing at Dulles, which is way outside of town. I tried to get a flight to Reagan International but AA did not have any overnight flights and tickets on other airlines was >$300. Hopefully our flight will land on time since I need to catch a bus from the airport to L’Enfant Plaza. I should be able to make the 8:00am bus; the one after that leaves at 8:40am. This is a public bus and the fare is only $3.10. Plan B is a private bus that goes to a closer metro station but costs $10. Unlike the redeye flight from LAX to JFK on a 757, I’m on a small 737 and there’s no Wi-Fi so I’ll have to upload this when I get to the hotel in DC. I just noticed that they didn’t even play the in-flight movie since everyone is sleeping (except for me).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I'm flying out to DC tomorrow night on a redeye flight from LAX to IAD (Dulles) to meet up with James and Elim. They've been out on the East Coast since Monday. It's a bit inconvenient since there are no overnight flights out of SNA or into DCA (Reagan). Dulles Airport is way outside of Washington DC so I have to take a bus (route 5A) into town. James and Elim are driving in from Pennsylvania so we'll probably meet up around noon at our hotel. Since I'm using my AA miles for tickets and it looks like I won't travel to Canada anymore, I splurged and got first class seats on the redeye flight to DC for 25k miles. On the way back, we're leaving from JFK and I have to stop in Dallas before flying in to SNA.

We planned this awhile back but it looks like it will rain both days (Fri/Sat) in DC. I guess we'll hang out inside the galleries and museums instead of outdoors. I was telling them that even though I've never been to DC, a lot of the metro stations and buildings sound familiar. I played a lot of hours of Fallout 3 (PS3) and it's set in post-nuclear war DC; a lot of the travel between destinations are through subway tunnels. :)

Downloading from YouTube

There seems to be a constant battle between YouTube and developers that write programs to download vides from YouTube. I guess last night's YouTube update disabled downloading again. I've been using YouTube Downloader 2.51 and it stopped working today. I updated the version to 2.52 but I think it only addresses the previous YouTube update on Oct 4.

Sometimes I wish I studied programming so I can write apps too. I took Pascal(!), C/C++, and LISP but that's ancient history.

I was trying to download these two videos of Brown Eyed Girls before they got deleted.

Uptown Girl. The bass player does a pretty good job singing backup vocals. I could never sing and play bass at the same time.

You Raise Me Up. Miryo can sing!

They were in New York earlier this month and did a outdoor concert for Chuseok. COME TO LA!


Sigh... another one. I may have to upload stuff I downloaded from YouTube directly to Blogger. It just takes so much processing time to convert large video files so they come under the 100MB limit.

Sweet Girl - Chuseok Special

My friend just got back from Korea after a six week trip to see her family. She was sick for about a week over there so she stayed at home and watched TV. She was trying to explain one of the shows to me this morning.

Sunny: I saw this show with a lot of girl bands doing dance/sports competitions...

Me: Uh-huh, there are a lot of K-pop girl bands lately.

Sunny: They were doing other group's dances. I think I saw Wonder Girls...

Me: No, they're in the US right now. It was So Nyuh Shi Dae, Brown Eyed Girls, Kara...

Sunny: Yeah, Kara! How did you see this already?!

Me: YouTube. Somebody already translated and uploaded it.

I don't know where I would get my K-pop fix if it wasn't for YouTube. :)

Part 1 of 9 on YouTube. Sunny thought No Hongchul (MC) was irritating too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Singing in the Rain

This is crazy... and dangerous. There is a lot of expensive sound equipment just waiting to short out, not to mention shock and/or electrocute performers and technicians. I used to run sound for a small/medium church and our 3 power amps require 28A at 110VAC. The KBS setup must use hundreds of amps of current. I dunno... maybe they managed to waterproof everything.

A sprinkling of rain is okay; this looks like a thunderstorm with mini-waterfalls coming off the stage. And who are those crazy fans? I would have gone home a long time ago. Hmm, I think my dream job is no longer being a sound guy in Korea. :(

Somebody call a rain delay! Isn't it cold mid-October in Korea? At least they're not wearing white hot pants and high heels like SNSD. [replaced video on 12/11/09; previous account was suspended]

BabyVOX from 2004. Seems like they hold a lot of concerts in the rain in Korea.

China Thoughts, Part I

Leon asked me last month (while we were driving to "meet" the major of Guangzhou here in Los Angeles) what I liked about China. I had written that sentiment in a post that wasn't even about China; it was about crazy K-pop antis in Korea. He said this because I am usually critical of China (mostly the CCP) in my posts. I really dislike the communist government but it frustrates me even more that the local people I meet in China don't care about politics. Anyway, I've been thinking about that question quite often and I'm saddened that I don't have an answer.

Even though I wasn't born in China, that is really my home since that is where my family comes from. My dad was born in Chengdu due to the Sino-Japanese War while both my paternal grandparents are from Zhejiang province (like a lot of the KMT). I'm less clear on my mom's side of the family since they've been in Sarawak (Malaysia) for so long, but they're Teochew from northern Guangdong province. I bring this up because often I feel very un-Chinese, especially when I'm in China surrounded by millions of people that look like me, yet I don't feel American/Canadian though I've lived in North American for 32 years. Sometimes I boast that I have passports from three countries (USA, Canada, Taiwan), but that also means I have no home, no roots.

I've been thinking about this more since I read Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang. She's an ABC (American born Chinese) journalist working for WSJ based out of Beijing, and the book is about migrant factory workers she met and befriended in Dongguan over the course of several years. Part of the story however, is the author's own journey in discovering her family history. It resonates with me because it's so similar to mine (or what I think is mine). My family's history of migration is both unique and common. It is true that most people in the world never leave their ancestral home for generations, but almost every Chinese family that "emigrated" from China => Taiwan => USA/Canada has the same basic story.

I guess a part of me blames the Chinese Communist Party for making me a homeless person. My family, and millions of others, were on the losing side of the Chinese Civil War and as a result, lost everything we couldn't carry with us and were exiled from our homeland. Even now, I only know the name of the city/village where my grandfather is from and nothing else. When a Chinese person asks me where I'm from originally, I'm supposed to say 象山浙江 (Elephant Mountain, Zhejiang) though I've never been there (neither has my dad) nor even find it on a map.

Here's an excerp from Factory Girls:
The Chinese today have a troubled relationship with their past. On the surface, they take pride in it--China has five thousand years of history, one is constantly reminded as an American--but there is an aversion to going much deeper than the level of a Qing Dynasty television soap opera. Why did a great civilization collapse so rapidly when confronted by the West? What made people turn so readily on each other--in workplaces, in villages, in families--during the political movements of the 1950s and 1960s? And how could they pick up their lives afterwards as if nothing had happened?

The last question is easiest: through forgetting. <...>

The past seemed to consist of only painful stories. <...> So much suffering suggest that there will be a historical accounting one day--but the instinct against introspection runs deep in this culture. Perhaps for a long time to come, China will feel the way it does now: a country that is at once tethered to history and unmoored from it, floating, free.

Unmoored... that's how I feel. Sigh... one time I asked Leon if the KMT had won in 1949, would we be living in mainland China today? Would our lives be different? Better?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

House Hunting

My parents have been busy looking for a house since they got back from Asia. Originally their budget is ~$500k but the selection is not that great. Most are either really old (from the 1960's) or located next to freeway/railroad. When a decent property is listed, there are lots of offers right away. I'm back to considering living with them again so we can get a bigger and nicer house for now. Most 4 bedroom houses are $650k-$700k around this area (Irvine/Tustin) with lots going for >$1M still.

For comparison, I saw this on the web. Here's what $675k will get you in Georgia.

The 8,000 square-foot home on 3.5 acres is for sale for $675,000. It has newly refinished hardwood floors, a gourmet kitchen, breakfast room and a sitting room. Other features include a library, two-room office suite and a large front porch.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sexual Harassment

I had to stay a bit later at work on Wednesday to complete an online sexual harassment training course. The bill requiring this in California (AB 1825) was passed in 2007 but we've had these courses for quite awhile now. It helps the company with CYA in case there's a complaint and lawsuit.

Coincidentally, there's recent news that David Letterman admitted on-air that he had sex with his staffer(s) in response to an alleged blackmail threat. If he had taken the training class, he would know this is a huge no-no and potentially a big problem for the CBS legal department. I guess New York is not really Hollywood but hopefully no one was using Letterman as a "moral compass". Let's see if he continues to makes statutory rape jokes anymore.

I used to watch his show back in college. During my freshman year, we would wait up each night to catch the Top 10 List. This was when he was still at NBC and his show aired after Johnny Carson at 12:30am. As I grew older and (hopefully) wiser, I found him to be boring and really not funny. Even though his show is on at 11:30pm now, I haven't watch it in many many years.

And yes, I know Paul Schaffer is Canadian. He's not that funny either... he's actually quite irritating.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Propaganda March

This is probably the only picture I'll post about the 60th PRC anniversary.

From Danwei


1. Are these real soldiers? I read that they had to find "models" and others to march in the parade.

2. Are those real guns? They don't look like regular combat rifles.

3. Most importantly, is that really their uniform? Skirts? Boots with heels?!

Moral Midgets

There has been a lot of news about Roman Polanski, the child rapist film director, since his arrest in Switzerland last week. Regardless of what you think of his movies (I've only seen The Pianist), he admitted to rape & sodomy with a 13-year old, and skipped bail to hide in Europe during the past 30+ years.

The response to his arrest has been sharply divided. His supporter include Hollywood elites and European "cultural" types, while just about everyone else (including me), thinks he should be extradited back to the US for sentencing on the original conviction and skipping bail.

I saw this in the LA Times today.
From Michael Moore's politics to on-screen sex and violence, the movie business is constantly being assailed for not sharing the country's values. Rarely has the morality argument been as rancorous as with the Roman Polanski case.

Hollywood is rallying behind the fugitive filmmaker. Top filmmakers are signing a pro-Polanski petition, Whoopi Goldberg says the director didn't really commit rape, and Debra Winger complains "the whole art world suffers" in such arrests.

The rest of the nation seems to hold a dramatically different perspective on Polanski's weekend capture. Even if decades have passed since he fled Los Angeles before his 1978 sentencing, Polanski must be extradited and serve his time, the thinking goes. There's no excuse for forcing sex on a 13-year-old girl. People who defend him have no principles.

Here's the best part:
In an opinion piece in London's the Independent, Weinstein Co. co-founder Harvey Weinstein, who is circulating the pro-Polanski petition, wrote: "Whatever you think about the so-called crime, Polanski has served his time. A deal was made with the judge, and the deal is not being honored.... This is the government of the United States not giving its word and recanting on a deal, and it is the government acting irresponsibly and criminally."

In an interview, Weinstein said that people generally misunderstand what happened to Polanski at sentencing. He's not convinced public opinion is running against the filmmaker and dismisses the categorization of Hollywood as amoral. "Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion," Weinstein said. "We were the people who did the fundraising telethon for the victims of 9/11. We were there for the victims of Katrina and any world catastrophe."

OMG! I think Mr. Weinstein is either full of himself, retarded, or both. Hollywood is the last place to look for morality... it's all about money and fame. These cowards won't speak up against Polanski because they're worried about loosing their next gig/movie/project. Moral compass indeed... *spit*

When he mentions Katrina, does he mean this?

Sean Penn's Boat Sinks In Failed Katrina Rescue Attempt

New Orleans, Louisiana (AHN) - Political Activist and Actor Sean Penn made his way down to the city of New Orleans with a personal photographer and an entourage in an attempt to help victims stranded by floods caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Penn had planned to rescue children and adults in the flood waters, but apparently forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of the vessel, which began taking water within seconds of its launch.

Penn who is known for his political activism, was seen wearing what appeared to be a white flak jacket and frantically bailing water out of the sinking vessel with a red plastic cup that eventually was not enough for the Academy Award winner.

When asked what he had hoped to achieve in the waterlogged city, the actor tells the Herald Sun: "Whatever I can do to help."

The paper reports that one bystander taunted the actor saying, "How are you going to get any people in that thing?"

Isn't he a millionaire? Why didn't he just donate money so people trained in search and rescue can better do their jobs? Spicoli and his entourage(!) just causes more problems for the real rescuers in NOLA.