Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chinese Hackers

I think everyone has heard about Google pulling out of China. Part of the story is the rise of hacking from China and whether it is sanctioned by the communist government.

From the March 2010 MessageLabs report (part of Symantec), it appears that most of the hacking does come from China.


I'm not sure what period this covers (either all 2009 or just March 2010) but ~28% of cyber-attacks originate from China, followed closely by Romania (what's with Cameroon?). Sure, there are a lot of people in China and they all need something to do. However, looking at the target of these attacks, there is an interesting pattern.



I thought most of the hacks were for economic gain, similar to the infamous Nigerian scams; I still get a lot of emails for all sorts of advanced-fee and phishing scams. The first six categories above do not look like your "typical" target of financial scams but more like industrial/political espionage. This may not mean that the CCP is actively sponsoring cyber-attacks but it sure looks suspicious. Similar to the 50-cent (wumiao) army used to generate fake grassroots opinions, I think the CCP fosters this type of behavior from individuals through nationalistic propaganda and financial/political rewards.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Anti-homeless Benches in Chengdu

I saw the translated article on ChinaHush; here is the original from Sichuan Online. Homelessness is a pretty widespread problem. In the US though, there are a lot of government and private groups organized to help them. I'm not sure if this is the case in China... I've never seen (though I haven't really looked) a homeless shelter in Chengdu. I guess it's easier to go after the symptoms (homeless sleeping on bus benches) than the cause (no social support for homeless people).



The article says these benches are on the newly renovated sections of Renmin South Road. It also says many people are complaining because they are uncomfortable and hardly anyone sits on them. They look like they would be really uncomfortable in the summer, especially under direct sunlight... oh wait, the sun hardly ever comes out in Chengdu due to the smog/haze so I guess it's ok.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rocket Science?!

Did Toyota ask for "help"? This appears to be yet another waste of my tax dollars.

Associated Press (Yahoo!)
NASA will help probe Toyota acceleration problem

WASHINGTON – NASA and the National Academy of Sciences are joining the government's effort to figure out what caused the sudden acceleration problems that led to Toyota's massive recalls.

NASA scientists with expertise in electronics will help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study potential electronic ties to unintended acceleration in Toyotas. NASA's knowledge of electronics, computer hardware and software and hazard analysis will ensure a comprehensive review, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday.

In a separate study, the National Academy of Sciences will examine unwanted acceleration and electronic vehicle controls in cars from around the auto industry, LaHood said. The National Academy is an independent organization chartered by Congress.

The academy study, expected to take 15 months, will review acceleration problems and recommend how the government can ensure the safety of vehicle electronic control systems.

Why is NASA and NAS getting involved? I don't think this is NASA's expertise or mandate. Also, I thought they were having budget problems and don't even have enough money to complete their space missions. Is this the best use of NASA resources... 15 months and $3 million?

At the end of the article, it said that this would end up being a peer-reviewed paper. Is this what passes for academic research these days? Really, it shouldn't be that hard to figure this out. People built the car and all its systems... it's not like it's some complex mysterious natural phenomenon. Why don't they just ask the Toyota software engineers instead of doing this weird "scientific" reverse engineering project? This reminds me of a class I saw at UCLA. I think it was an English Literature class on Stephen King's novels. I can understand studying Shakespeare or other dead authors but Stephen King? If you don't get his writing, just go ask him. Sheesh...

We have a 1999 4Runner and a 2002 Camry. They were built before all this drive-by-wire stuff but I would still buy a Toyota instead of GM or Chrysler today. I'm guessing the real purpose of this is to keep Toyota's problems in the media spotlight for the next year or so to the benefit of Government Motors (GM) and its union bosses.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another Day, Another OS Install

I seem to be doing a lot of these lately...

My mom's old computer has a lot of problems. When they moved back to California, instead of fixing it again, I bought her a new Dell laptop. Since then, I've been using the old Inspiron 600m on my LCD TV as a media player. However, due to whatever problem was there before, the computer runs really slow and crashes a lot. This morning, I copied off all the personal files on to a USB drive and now I'm going to reinstall the OS.

Hmm, the first step is to find the recovery disks. Not sure where they are... I have discs from newer Dell computers but not sure if they will work. Hopefully after the reinstall, it will run fast enough to stream movies via wireless.

==========

I found a Recovery CD app on the old Dell. Now it's unpacking and burning a CD for me. I think I'll just install Google Chrome and XBMC and nothing else on this computer.

==========

Hey, even better idea... I'm going to try and install Snow Leopard on the Dell notebook. This will probably be a complete waste of time but what the heck.

==========

OK, none of the three different guides I tried seems to work. Maybe I have the wrong OS X DVD. I'm back to trying to restore the original Windows XP OS now.

==========

The recovery disc creator kept giving me a CD burn error. After 4 CDs, I decided to give up and go with a mystery Dell OS disc. It turned out to be Win XP Media Center SP2 from 2005. That installed okay but did not include any drivers for the Inspiron 600m. I have to go to the Dell website to install a whole bunch of drivers. In addition, Windows is trying to install SP3 and about a million security updates.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Old Camera

In addition to a lot of computers (old and new), we have a lot of cameras in the house. The most recent is a Panasonic DMC-ZR1 that I bought for my mom to replace her Canon PowerShot SD600; one of the switches on the Canon is broken so it's stuck in video recording mode. My dad has a Panasonic FZ28K (18x zoom) and an older Olympus digital camera. I used to buy Sony point-and-shoot digital cameras but all three are gone now. The tiny U20 finally broke again (after being serviced once) so I tossed it. The other two I "lost" during break-ups. My primary cameras now are a Panasonic DMC-TZ3 and a Sony Alpha A100, both several years old but working fine. I also have a Canon T50 film camera that I bought back in 1985.

During our most recent move, my dad found his old film camera. This is a Yashica Lynx-14E from the early 1970s. It's all manual: exposure, shutter speed, and focus. The fixed 45mm lens is huge and can shoot down to f/1.4. The lens also has an old-school mechanical butterfly shutter that can expose at 1/500th second. The only problem is that the exposure meter (over/under) uses old mercury batteries which have been banned for many years. After searching the web, I found a cheapo adapter which allows you to use a modern Li-ion battery. Now all I gotta do is find some 35mm film so I can try out the camera.


The one I have is a lot cleaner. My dad always kept it in a leather (original?) case. He also has a flash for it that still works.

K-pop Drum Line

Sometimes K-pop is really weird. I think it's because the industry is more about image than the actual music. Many famous Western artists fall within a defined genre and their musical style is fairly consistent from album to album. Not so for K-pop, or the stuff that's popular now.

Anyway, I'm not sure what the drum line thing is all about but it's pretty cool. I wonder if they already know how to play drums or if there was a lot of practice and rehearsals.


Let's Do It + Bang - After School

Too bad a lot of the girl bands sound alike (and some even look alike).

==========


Let's try again... the above video got flagged.

Government "Accountability"

Unbelievable.

New York Times
In a nine-month study, four fictitious companies invented by the accountability office also sought EnergyStar status for some conventional devices like dehumidifiers and heat pump models that existed only on paper. The fake companies submitted data indicating that the models consumed 20 percent less energy than even the most efficient ones on the market. Yet those applications were mostly approved without a challenge or even questions, the report said.

Auditors concluded that the EnergyStar program was highly vulnerable to fraud.

Maria Vargas, an official with the Environmental Protection Agency, which runs the program with the Energy Department, said the approvals did not pose a problem for consumers because the products never existed. There was “no fraud,” Ms. Vargas emphasized. She said she doubted that many of the 40,000 genuine products with EnergyStar status had been mislabeled.

Really, how hard is it to administer the EnergyStar program? You set some standards, have people submit specifications and tests, then you certify the product if it passes. I'm sure it's a bit more involved in real life but it's not that difficult. It seems that people are just sitting around doing nothing yet collecting tax-supported salary. We really shouldn't let the government run anything other than national defense.

I think Ms. Vargas has no clue about the issue at hand. Auditors basically proved that there is no process to validate applications yet she "doubts" that there are any problems. The comment about "no actual product = no fraud" is so stupid that I can't even come up with the appropriate swear words. Maybe this is why our two refrigerators uses up 1/3 of our tier 1 electricity baseline, even though both are EnergyStar approved.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Censoring the News about Censoring

It would appear that comments that support Google's departure from China or critical of China's government censorship are being deleted from the Internet. Totally predictable.

chinaSMACK (translates posts on Chinese BBS sites)
Yesterday morning, Google announced that they have closed google.cn and are forwarding users to google.com.hk. This is of course big news but the news has been very carefully controlled.

...

Many Chinese netizen comments have been deleted or hidden and most comments that remain visible clearly support the government or are critical of Google. You can see this in the translated comments from NetEase above.

On KDS, a popular Shanghai BBS discussion forum, I was able to find some comments in support of Google or critical of the government before they were deleted. KDS moderators first deleted posts with many replies before deleting the smaller posts with fewer replies. Many posts were deleted while I was still collecting comments from them.

...

It is important to say that many comments (before they were deleted) that support Google did not support Google’s decision to leave China. Many Chinese netizens disagree with the government’s censorship but do not agree with Google’s actions and feel that Google leaving China is a very regrettable outcome.

Imported Engrish

My parents bought this cloth folder/bag at the local Japanese market. I just noticed the writing on the front:


Favric Case
I will pack it with a wonderful memory. I open it, and look.

It would have been a lot nicer if they just left the area blank. And what's with the umlaut? Is that even used in English anymore... on the letter "v" no less. From this photo, we can also see the poor quality of the BlackBerry camera.

Disappearing Act

Hmm, a lot of people I am friends with at work may no longer be there soon. It started two years ago when one person quit then came back as a contractor, but now may be headed to Taiwan. Another friend quit last year out of disgust due to work politics.

Now:
- another person is seriously thinking about taking a job in Asia
- one person is so bored/frustrated with their job transfer that they've been looking outside for several months
- someone just told me that they got "demoted" and their new boss said they can leave if they're not satisfied
- finally, another person is taking a LOA but should be back in several months

An organization and its culture will shift over time but I feel that there has been a lot of changes in finance, especially within the past 3-4 years. Almost all the senior level people (CEO, VP, Senior Directors) are gone... many did not quit voluntarily.

Sigh... it will be a sad day when everyone left are those that you only say hi to in the hallway.

==========

Oops, forgot one more. All the people above are in finance where I work. A friend from high school and UCLA was hired as a principle engineer a few years ago from Conexant. He basically worked 60+ hours per week non-stop for 18 months and finally quit in 2008. When I talk to him now, he is still bitter at the experience.

I guess I'll be eating lunch by myself everyday soon.

YouTube Korean TV Account #1

So it took KBS about a month to find my account. I received notice of strikes #1 and #2 today. Final statistics:

- Account opened: 2/22/2010
- Subscribers: 468
- Total page views: 9,374
- Total video views: 51,537

I've also received about 26 friend requests. Since YouTube suspends the account after the third strike, I deleted all the videos from the account so it will stay live.

Strike 1:


Strike 2:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

20 Inch Waist

Blogging is a lot like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon and yelling out random facts. You're not sure if anyone is out there listening but occasionally you hear something back that's not an echo.

Anyway, how skinny is skinny? There were rumors that Hara has a 20-inch waist. That seems awfully small so for comparison, I measured my thigh and it was ~23 inches. Can you fit a stomach, liver, some intestines, and other miscellaneous organs in such a small area volume?



From this article at allkpop, she says her waist is slightly less than 21 inches.
Goo Hara’s Shocking Waist Measurements Revealed!

KARA’s Goo Hara has recently grabbed the interest of netizens with her impressive 20 inch (~51 cm) waistline.

Ever since the release of their album Revolution, KARA has recently been performing ‘Mister‘ while wearing belly shirts, and Goo Hara especially has been a hot topic among netizens for her tiny ‘ant-waist’.

KARA’s representatives stated, ‘Due to her very small body and thin bones, Hara looks very skinny. She has always had a skinny waist, but the group’s recent diet for their comeback and their busy schedules further reduced her waist. Recent measurements have shown that she has a waistline of just a little less than 21 inches.’

Hara also recently stated shyly, ‘I can’t gain much weight because I have such a busy schedule. Fans often call me ant-waist. It’s a bit embarrassing at times.’

I think she needs to eat more Korean BBQ. I'm willing to treat at my favorite place in Garden Grove (Morangak) in May when KARA comes to LA to perform at the 8th Korea Music Festival. In fact, I'll pay for all 5 of them since they all look like they need to eat more. :)

Twitter and K-pop

I think I mentioned before that I signed up for Twitter a long time ago. I don't really use it since it feels a bit presumptuous to think that people really care what I'm doing every 15 minutes. OK, the real reason is that since I'm kinda old, none of my friends are online that much, unlike the current generation of kids who seem to be texting all the time.

Anyway, I found a webpage that lists Twitter accounts for K-pop idols and Korean celebrities in general. BTW, gasoo (가수) just means "singer" in Korean.

Nicole (KARA)
Hara (KARA)
Gyuri (KARA)
Hwangbo
Tablo (Epik High)
Younha
Jo Kwan (2AM)

These are the one's I'm "following" so far. "Following" is in scary quotes because most of their tweets are in Korean/Hangul though a few speak English fluently (Nicole and Tablo). However, since tweets are limited in length (140 characters), hopefully the messages are simple so I can try using Google Translate and maybe learn some Korean.

BTW, in case my anonymous friend reads this post, Hara is the really skinny one in KARA.

==========

Hmm, or maybe not on the learning Korean bit. I put in one of Hara's tweets (오늘하라구는뭐하고있을까용) into Google Translate and got this: Ohneulharaguneunmwohagoiteulkkayong, which obviously doesn't mean anything; it just romanization of the Hangul characters. I think because the messages are so short, people use slang and drop spaces. This will no doubt confuse machine translators. I tried adding random spaces between characters and got different translations. Also, characters 3 through 5 is her name in Hangul which probably gets translated into something else. :(

Monday, March 22, 2010

I Go Crazy Waiting - Big Mama


기다리다 미쳐 - 빅마마

Really, that's the name of the group and they have awesome vocals. This is their 5th album. I wish they would come to this year's KMF, along with Brown Eyed Girls.

More Stuff from the Chinese Propaganda Office

Here's an article in the New York Times about instructions to news editors during the recent NPC/CPPCC meeting.
What Chinese Censors Don’t Want You to Know

A set of Chinese government censorship guidelines recently leaked to the Internet provides a rare and intimate window into the thinking of propaganda officials. The list of prohibitions issued to editors ranges from the extremely broad, such as the injunction against “negative news,” to the bizarrely specific, such as the ban on the blooming of a particular flower in southern China.

Following are excerpts from media guidelines that the Communist Party propaganda department and the government Bureau of Internet Affairs, conveyed to top editors before this month’s annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

...

1. For news on the electoral law during the two meetings, only use articles from Xinhua News Agency and People’s Daily.

2. Do not report on news of people from all walks of life demanding that officials make financial disclosures.

4. Do not feature news articles on the diary of a bureau director. News must not carry photos of related figures or contents relating to individuals’ private matters from human flesh searches and the like.

5. No negative news allowed on the front pages of newspapers or the headline news sections of Web sites.

10. During the two meetings, do not feature or sensationalize news about petitioners.

12. Do not sensationalize or feature reports on the joint editorial of 13 newspapers advocating reform of the household registration system.

15. Do not report on cases of detention center inmates dying during sleep.

17. Do not hype or feature news of Li Changjiang and Meng Xuenong resurfacing at the two meetings. [Mr. Li was ousted as head of quality control in 2008 after a scandal involving tainted baby milk powder that killed six and sickened 300,000 children. Mr. Meng resigned as governor of Shanxi Province after 267 people died in an iron ore mine disaster. Both have since assumed new posts.]

Pathetic. How these people can call themselves "news" editors is beyond me. Yet they have the chutzpah to complain about government censorship in Western media.

BTW, #4 was talking about this (from EastSouthWestNorth):
A director of a tobacco monopoly in southern China has been suspended after his diary was published online detailing his sexual encounters, drinking binges and taking bribes, a Guangzhou newspaper reported today.

Han Feng's diary has become a hit in online forums across the nation, according to Information Times. Han was suspended from his sales director job with the Tobacco Monopoly Bureau in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on February 22, said a bureau director surnamed Liao.

In 140 entries between September 2007 and January 2008, Han describes his life and work, listing his lovers, income and health. One entry read: "As to playing women, Xiao Pan is hooked, Tan is regular, and Mo is in the queue. This year I had abundant romantic encounters but had to pay attention to my health."

Since this is a family blog, I won't share what he wrote but you can click on the link to read yourself. Basically he doesn't do much work, gets drunk almost every night, sleeps with a bunch of women (he is married), and takes bribes. Probably typical of most government officials and appointed company executives in China.

China's Propaganda Machine "In Action"

I really don't get it. Who is their target audience for statements like this? Their own population? Western conspiracy theory enthusiasts? Shameless.

BBC News
China denounces Google 'US ties'

China's state media has attacked Google for having what it said were "intricate ties" with the US government.

Google provides US intelligence agencies with a record of its search engine results, the state-run news agency Xinhua said.

It also accused Google of trying to change Chinese society by imposing American values on it.

Google denied that it was influenced by the US government, a spokesperson for the company was quoted as saying by AP.

"Google's high-level officials have intricate ties with the US government. It is also an open secret that some security experts in the Pentagon are from Google", reporters from Xinhua wrote in a commentary.

The attack comes as Google prepares to announce whether it will pull out of China because of internet censorship there.

Don't they see the irony of a "state-run news agency" complaining about Google's "intricate ties" with the US Government? Seriously. Maybe the CCP leadership believes their own propaganda so much that they don't have a clue about democracy. By calling senior management at a private company "high-level officials", it reflects a world view where all important positions are appointed by the government. Everything in China is "intricately tied" to the CCP and any perceived dissent is not tolerated. Therefore, if someone says anything negative about China, they must be agent of the US government or part of some global anti-China movement. I guess you're not allowed to have private opinions in China.

Being a US Citizen, I think I can get a job at the Pentagon/NSA/CIA if I really wanted to. Does that mean every company I've worked for in the past is now "intricately tied" to the US Government? Ridiculous.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Potential New Toy

Ever since the Apple TV came out, I've wanted to buy something to connect to my HDTV. However, the Apple TV only plays iTunes content and doesn't really store that much stuff. When I moved to the new house, I looked into a few Windows based media servers but I haven't bought anything yet. I recently talked with a coworker who bought a HP media server and was happy with it.

Right now I have my media spread across two computers with music/music videos on my Mac and everything else on the Sony Vaio. Each computer then shares its external hard drive (500GB on Mac and 1TB on PC) so other computers in the house (4 more) can access the files. I think this would be much better to centralize all the media files in one place. I have ~150GB free on each external HDD now and this would add another 1TB so I can move a bunch of stuff I backed up to DVD-Rs back to live access. It's ~$510 on Amazon.com though I think I can get it for $454 through HP's employee discount program. Since it doesn't play files, I still would need a computer or some other media player connected to my TV.

Alternatively, I can just start deleting stuff after I watched them. I have a tendency to "collect" stuff, both physically and digitally. Each 60 minute TV show (less commercials) is ~350MB and movies run anywhere from 700MB to 1.3GB. A lot of the Korean TV shows I record rips to ~850MB if I use a decent data rate of ~1.5Mbps. If I want to keep everything, then I probably need the server and additional HDDs as well.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

JeepSpeed (half) Build Day

I received a text message from Randy yesterday asking if I wanted to work on the truck this morning. Since we're so far behind, I figured we should work on it as much as possible so I headed off to his parents' house at 8:30am. It's been about 20 months since we acquired the Jeep.

We were supposed to work on the front suspension today. As usual, we grossly underestimated the time requirements, mainly because the car wouldn't cooperate. Our first mistake was buying an out-of-state car. This particular Jeep Cherokee came from Illinois so the bottom has a lot of rust. We're not really worried structurally since we're replacing a lot of pieces but a good percentage of the nuts and bolts are corroded and very difficult to remove. So instead of mocking up and installing some of the front suspension pieces, we spent 4 hours removing the original shocks and springs. Throughout the entire time, I was worried that the spring (under tension) would fly out from the suspension and kill/maim me or something. Fun.

Oh yeah... it was just Randy and me again. Well, his dad, like always, was a huge help. Without his expertise and tools, we probably wouldn't even have the car stripped even.


Front suspension at ~9am. We moved some of the jacks around and removed the front tires. Did I mention that the car has 4 different brand of tires?


Front disc brakes. Lots of original rust and grime plus new rust from the car sitting outside. There was also a lot of spider webs and rodent droppings. Randy's parents live in La Habra Heights so maybe there are field mice running around. I hope they didn't decide to build a nest anywhere in the car.


It's all about the tools. We couldn't remove the steering linkage until Randy's dad let us use his puller. it attaches above the linkage and a bolt underneath pushes against the output shaft from the power steering box. Even with the tool, it took both of us pulling/pushing on a 4 foot long bar attached to a socket wrench to get it to move.


More tools. The steering linkage was attached with a 1-1/2 inch bolt. Randy's dad brought out a set of huge sockets which included a 2-1/2 inch socket. The socket in front is a 15mm metric socket. Crazy.

Even though this was an American car (Jeep Cherokee), a lot of the bolts were metric (13mm, 15mm, 18mm) instead of Imperial (9/16", 1/2", 5/8"). Weird.


One of the bolts underneath the car was heavily rusted. After 30+ minutes, we managed to move it but the welded nut in the back broke free. There was no way to loosen the bolt so Randy's dad pulled out his acetylene torch and basically melted off the top of the bolt. Tools... very important.


Another stubborn bolt was the one attaching the front left shock. It didn't look rusted but it wasn't coming off. Since we didn't need to save anything, we decided to slice off the top using an angled grinder. I tried for ~30 seconds and let Randy finish.


Bolt removal FAIL. The two bolts we cut. The torch basically melted the top off the offending bolt (gray slag pile). Now we have to find some replacements but at least we were able to remove the bolts.


My hands after ~4 hours. Since we were working on the front suspension, everything was super dirty and my hands, arms, and pants were covered with black grease/dirt/grime stains. This was before we "rubbed" WD40 all over the roll cage to stop it from rusting further. Hmm, that probably made my hands a bit cleaner.


Rust on the roll cage... my Z is parked in the back. BTW, WD40 is awesome. It probably helped us remove most of the nuts/bolts. Auto mechanics must go through gallons of this stuff.


End result. The shocks and springs are out but I had to leave. We'll try to attach some of the new suspension pieces from Full Traction next week (yup, $1800... though we didn't get the coil springs and leaf springs so it may have been a bit cheaper).

Portland Trip for Addie's 3rd Birthday

I went up to Portland last weekend for Addie's birthday party and to do maintenance on all my sister's computers at her house. I left Friday morning and flew back on Tuesday morning and went straight to work. Most of my time was spent configuring a new iMac with both OS X and Windows (using Parallels), reinstalling Vista on another laptop, and enable file sharing across 3-4 computers. Good thing I did this at my house before since it was a bit confusing.

Some pictures:


Red TriMet train at PDX. Since my sister was in a meeting when I arrived, I took the train to her office in downtown Portland. The fare was $2.30 and it took about 45 minutes. This is one of the newer, more aerodynamic trains but it didn't go any faster than the old trains. My sister and Rebecca have lived in Portland for 5+ years and they've never been on the train... this is my 2nd time.


Portland city hall. Not very impressive.


Signage for a Chinese restaurant in Portland. I've always wanted to take a picture but the sign was a bit crappy before. This is a newly replaced sign with much higher visibility. Sigh...


Rose Center. This is where the Portland Trailblazers play basketball (NBA). I only remember Clive Drexler but I think he's long retired.


Cupcakes! For my niece's birthday party, Rebecca got cupcakes instead of a regular cake. The store is called Saint Cupcake and they make them fresh all day.


We got 36 cupcakes (12 large/24 small). They were really good. $62.


The party was at a bouncy house place. My sister rented out the entire place for 2 hours. One of the inflatable things was a huge firetruck with a 2 story slide. Here is my 15 month niece going down. I think she liked it.


Only 3 other families showed up and all of them were boys.


One of the "activities" was airbrush tattoos. I think Addie got 5 or 6 of them... kinda like Kat Von D.


Sydnie

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Let's Go! Dream Team 2

I recorded and upload two episodes of this show. It's some kind of sport competition show with Korean celebrities. This was a special with K-pop girl bands.

Episode 18 (1/7)


Episode 19 (1/7)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

PS3 Games

I bought several PS3 games in rapid succession and now I need to find time to try them out.


I've actually played this one a lot and finished the game using one out of the 4 character classes. It was pretty good at the beginning but got a but dull after awhile. There are 3 DLCs for it so I may buy one to make it interesting again. [8.8]


This is a pretty cool game. I had downloaded the demo but waited a long time to buy it. I'm only several levels into the game so far. [9.5]


I'm about 80% done. The cinematics and graphics are amazing. The game reminds me a lot of Tomb Raider except you're a guy so no pointy Lara Croft breasts... the graphics/polygon count on the original TR wasn't that great. [9.5]


That's right... I bought the old one. Modern Warfare 2 is out but I read that the single player campaign was really really really short. The action is all in the multiplayer mode. I've played a lot of CounterStrike and I always get my ass kicked. Now I'm 5 years older, I doubt my reflexes are good enough to keep up with kids less than half my age. Sigh... I just started the game last night and I think I got motion sickness already. [9.4]


This one is still in the wrapper. I didn't even know about this game until I heard it from Elim. He has it for the PC and highly recommended that I buy it. Maybe I'll try it out tonight since I'm too depressed to start my tax returns. [9.3]

Here is a list of my other PS3 games if anyone wants to borrow them... although I don't think any of my 3 or 4 readers own a PS3.

- Gran Turismo 5 Prologue [8.5]
- Grand Theft Auto IV [10.0]
- Metal Gear Solid 4 [10.0]
- Dirt 2 [8.4]
- Resistance 2 [9.5]
- Fallout 3 [9.4]
- Katamari Forever [7.0]
- inFamous [9.2] (checked out)

The [x.x] numbers are review scores from IGN. At $60 per game, I usually wait for a few reviews to come in and for the price to drop. Most scored 9+ with the two driving games at 8.x. The Katamari game did not review well but I have two previous version on the PS2 and loved it.

Screwed by Lender AGAIN

Sigh... I just looked at the tax forms to claim the $8000 credit and it look like we won't be able to claim it. To get the credit, you need to send in the closing statement from escrow and ours only has my name. Initially, all three of our names were on the purchase but the lender was giving us a hard time. In order to speed up the process, we decided that I would take out the loan which also required taking my parents off the title. So now, my parents are nowhere on the transaction so I'm pretty sure if they try to claim the credit, it will get rejected. My AGI is too high so I'm not allowed to take the credit either. How come I'm always on the wrong end of this wealth redistribution thing?!

Adding insult to injury, the initial lender that caused all these problems (Provident Financial) just sold my loan to CitiMortgage after only two months. Arg!

No Flag

Army Times
The many nations helping Haiti recover from the devastating earthquake that struck there have set up their own military compounds and fly their flags at the entrances.

France's tricolor, Britain's Union Jack and even Croatia's coat of arms flap in the breeze.

But the country whose contributions dwarf the rest of the world's — the United States — has no flag at its main installation near the Port-au-Prince airport.

The lack of the Stars and Stripes does not sit well with some veterans and servicemembers who say the U.S. government should be proud to fly the flag in Haiti, given the amount of money and manpower the U.S. is donating to help the country recover from the Jan. 12 quake.

The Obama administration says flying the flag could give Haiti the wrong idea.

"We are not here as an occupation force, but as an international partner committed to supporting the government of Haiti on the road to recovery," the U.S. government's Haiti Joint Information Center said in response to a query about the flag.

Two thoughts:

1. Liberals really really want to be liked. They seem to always worry about what the rest of the world things about them. For me, that's a "nice to have" and should rank way after national security and economic/financial interests.

2. Beggars can't be choosers. Hey, if you're government is so screwed up that it can't handle an emergency, you shouldn't whine if another country puts up their flag while helping you survive.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

PDX in the Morning

I was up at 5am this morning to catch my flight from PDX to SNA. Right now I'm at gate C4 waiting... if the flight leaves on time, I should be at work ~10am. I watched "Up In The Air" this weekend; the part where he gives traveling advise was pretty funny.

Oops... boarding time.

Taiwanese

There's another group of Chinese people that I hate about as much as the CCP. These are the people that do not consider themselves Chinese but rather Taiwanese. I received a forwarded email that included a PDF from TACL (Taiwanese American Citizens League). I've never heard of this group before... but it looks like an advocacy group of the DPP. For the 2010 US Census, they want people to check the "Other Asian" box and write in "Taiwanese" instead of checking the "Chinese" box above.



I hate this type of useless BS political theater. Does it make one bit of difference if you put down "Taiwanese" instead of Chinese? Is the PRC-ROC issue going to be solved if you check a stupid box on the US Census form? Let's be clear, this Chinese-Taiwanese distinction is purely political. Almost all these "Taiwanese" people are ethnically identical to the ~1 billion Han people in Mainland China and across the world. When I hear "Taiwanese," I think of the original/aboriginal inhabitants on Formosa Island, not the Hokkien/Hakka speaking immigrants from southern China.

Actually, I don't care if they want to identify themselves as Taiwanese, Cantonese, Sichuanese, or Shanghainese. It's the denial of their Chinese ancestry/history that pisses me off. Other than politics, are they any different from their relatives in southern China? Especially offensive to me are the radical Taiwan Independence people that want to exclude "non-Taiwanese" people from Taiwan. Effectively, that would leave people like my dad "homeless" since he arrived in Taiwan after 1945; he can't go "back" to China since our family fought the Communists. Luckily we have citizenship in Canada and the US but this would impact a lot of people that kept the CCP away from Taiwan for the past 60 years (with help from the US).

Even though I was born in Taiwan, I'm checking the "Chinese" box on the Census form.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Visiting PDX

I'm up in Portland again this weekend visiting my sister's family. They're having a b-day party for my niece and I was invited... they also needed me to buy, setup, and repair some computers.

Since my sister had a meeting during my arrival time, I decided to take the TriMet train from PDX airport to her office in Central Portland. The fare was only $2.30 but the trains were really slow, not like the Hong Kong Airport Express at all. I also had to switch trains once and it was freezing cold outside. Right after leaving her office, we went to Washington Square (mall) to buy some shirts for me (using Christmas present return credit) and a new iMac for them. I bought a Tommy Bahama shirt at Macy's that had a regular price of $138! Wow, I thought it was handmade by Tommy himself. Fortunately, it was on sale and we had a 20% discount card... still, it was pretty expensive.

At the Apple Store, my sister ended up buying the cheapest iMac, which was still $1199. Since she bought me along, I got to use my work discount and saved her ~$100 on the total purchase. Other than dinner, I've spent most of the evening setting up a new 802.11g router and the new iMac. I'm actually typing up this post on the iMac. It's pretty cool and the 1920x1080 display is really nice. I want to get one as well but I already have too many computers at home. My sister is getting there... they have 5 computers for two adults.

Tomorrow it the birthday party at a inflatable bouncy place so I probably should get some rest. I'm actually more worried about fixing a HP computer that has Windows Vista but is acting up. I'm probably going to try and install Windows XP Professional instead.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Run - Epik High


Run - Epik High

Cool video. I bought the album from iTunes Store and it included a PDF of the CD booklet as well. I think I posted before that Tablo (one of the members) has a BA and a MA from Stanford University. He also composed all the music for this album.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fansubs

Since I watch a lot of Korean TV and I don't speak Korean, I depend on subtitles to understand what's going on. Some channels will provide "official" subtitles (KBS World) but for the rest of the shows, I have to wait for various "fansub" groups to translate and subtitle each show. It's a lot of work and I really appreciate their efforts.

Since it is so time consuming, often it takes days and weeks to translate and subtitle a particular show/episode; even the official KBS translations are about a month late. Understandably, viewers waiting for subtitles will sometime be impatient and ping the translators for status on latest episodes. Since these "fansubbers" usually follow an idol group, there's bound to be a lot of young fanboy/fangirls which probably makes the requests more irritating.

Anyway, what I see more and more is some pretty arrogant and nasty notices and replies to subtitle requests. For example:
Don't even think about complaining. If you think you can do a better job, then join the team and help out instead of running your mouth. You can't understand Korean? You don't know how to time? Then be quiet and take what you can get from the people that do know how to do these things. We're not your slaves.

Or this on a YouTube channel:
If there is one person who demands for a faster reup, the next episode will be delayed by 3 days.

Of course, I don't know the history behind these specific cases but the messages seem rather angry and immature. It's cool that they're subbing for non-Koreans fans but I don't understand the attitude. Maybe it's a power trip thing or their main reason for subbing is to look for acknowledgment. Almost always, these are high-school or college kids since they always seem to talk about papers and exams as well... I guess old people like me who work don't have time for this. I would hate to have to work for these people when they grow up.

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Maybe it's simply part of human nature. I guess I felt this way sometimes too when I was volunteering for NewSong. For months and months, I would put in 12+ hours each weekend moving, setting up, and tearing down sound equipment in addition to actually running the sound board during service. Often, I don't get any acknowledgment or even a quick "thank you" from the paid staff. Even worse, we sometimes get whiny and demanding musicians or congregation/staff criticizing the sound quality. During those times, it's hard to remember why I bother to help out at all.

I think what I learned is that motivation and expectations really matter. If you're doing something for attention or appreciation, sooner or later you are going to burn out. What I also learned is that very few things are life-or-death important. If I don't run sound or play bass, someone else will step up and fill the gap. Maybe these frustrated fansubbers need to take a break. If they don't subtitle an episode, then someone else will... or not... and it will be okay either way.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Census 2010

In addition to the irritating hip-hop-like commercials about the Census, I received a letter in the mail today.
Dear Resident:

About one week from now, you will receive a 2010 Census form in the mail. When you receive your form, please fill it out and mail it in promptly.

You response is important... blah blah blah.

Why did they even send this out? Do we have too much money in the government? Why not just send me the Census form in about a week? Maybe the Census Bureau is helping out the soon-to-be-bankrupt Postal Service with some useless mailing. My guess is this exercise costs us taxpayers about $20M. I hope someone at least got a nice kickback dinner out of it.

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It's not just me complaining...

Kansas City Star
Benjamin Franklin, father of the first U.S. census — which cost $44,000 in 1790 — famously said that “a penny saved is a penny earned.”

Were he alive today, Franklin might have a less flattering saying for the bureaucrats running the 2010 census, which is costing taxpayers $15 billion — and rising.

That’s $48 per person counted, compared with $16 in 2000 (about $20 adjusted for inflation) and about a penny in 1790 (or 24 cents after 220 years of inflation).

Holy crap! $15 billion?! Why do we let the government manage anything? These are the same people that want to manage your health care. There's 3 people in my household. I'll count'em for $100 and save the government some money. Sheesh...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Freeloaders

No, I'm not complaining about taxes again.

We went to Soup Plantation for dinner tonight. I think a family of 4 walked in from one of the side doors and sat down right next to us while one of the kids went to use the bathroom. While waiting, the father got up and came back with a few muffins and some soft serve ice cream cones. I guess that only cost SP a few cents but it was kinda weird.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

C-pop MVs

I'm still clearing out boxes at the new house. In the process, I found some Chinese pop DVDs so I ripped a few music videos and uploaded them to YouTube.


我要的選擇 [MV] - Jolin Tsai 蔡依林


謝謝讓我愛上妳 [MV] - Yang Pei-An 楊培安
From the pick guard, it looks like the guy is playing a Taylor guitar in the MV. Cool...

2010 KMF

It's time for another Korean Music Festival.



It was pretty cool last year but I was a bit disappointed. I know it's a Korean event but if you're going to hold it in the US, chances are not everyone speaks Korean. When the MCs talk, it would be nice to have a summarized translation at the end or subtitles on the screen, like they have at operas.

Anyway, they've announced some of the artists already. The ones I know so far are:

- Wonder Girls (Sun Mi left so they have a new member)
- 2PM
- Kim Jong-Kook (I bought one of his albums before)
- KARA (Nicole will be one of the MCs)

I'm surprised Nicole will be a MC since her Korean is not so good (she's from Glendale). Maybe she will speak English instead.

Last year, I spent $150 on two tickets in the Terrace boxes for seats that were $150 each. The list price on those seats are the same again this year. To see anything, you have to get real close which means more $$$.


돌아올지도 몰라 - 2PM

Internet Addiction, Korean Version

BBC News
A South Korean couple who were addicted to the internet let their three-month-old baby starve to death while raising a virtual daughter online, police said.

The pair fed their own premature baby just once a day in between 12-hour stretches at an internet cafe, the official Yonhap news agency reported.

Police officer Chung Jin-won told Yonhap they "lost their will to live a normal life" after losing their jobs.

He said they "indulged themselves online" to escape from reality.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Swine Flu

Wow, I haven't heard much about the swine flu in the news lately so I thought the hype was over... evidently not so.

allkpop.com



SNSD’s Yuri diagnosed with swine flu

Yes, just when we thought Super Junior’s Eunhyuk would be the last person to be diagnosed with swine flu (H1N1), we’ve got more! This time, it’s SNSD’s Yuri!

On the night of March 4th, Yuri showed symptoms of cold so she went to the hospital to get a check up. The next day, the results were out and it was confirmed that she has been diagnosed with swine flu. She is currently resting in her house, and all her schedules will be canceled until she recovers, including her performances of Oh! on this week’s music programs.

It’s very unfortunate that the swine flu is still crawling around in 2010. Let’s hope Yuri has a quick recovery!

Fighting the Japanese

Reuters
The government must immediately invest some of its new wealth in ensuring that children take regular exercise, Beijing Sports University president Yang Hua told the sports group of the largely ceremonial advisory body to China's annual parliament.

"It is time for the Chinese nation to improve the physical fitness of our next generation," said Yang. "If we miss the next three to five years a whole generation will be next to useless.

"If there was another war against Japan, would the younger Chinese be able to fight the Japanese one-on-one?

Granted, this is some guy in the CPPCC, which only "advises" the NPC. There seems to be a lot of wacko ideas that come out of the CPPCC each time they convene. Why the focus on the Japanese anyway? My bet for the next war with China will either be with Taiwan or USA (or both).

IIRC, the Chinese weren't all that ready to fight the Japanese the last time during the Sino-Japanese War/WW2. The US and Allies had to help defend China and still they got their asses kicked for many years. I'm not questioning the heroics or the patriotism of those that fought... my grandfather was in the Nationalist Air Force. However, the Japanese (initially) were better trained and equipped. Exercise for kids probably won't make much difference. Isn't that what boot camp and military training is for?

Equipment Malfunction

video

Hmm, her voice comes through the sound system pretty clear so she's probably lip-syncing. I thought that was illegal in China now after the Olympics fiasco.

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Oops, I just realized the video is kinda small. Here's the original. I re-uploaded it since the original video was hosted in China and slow to load. In case you still don't see it, the microphone is held backwards, i.e. she's singing into the antenna. Most of these vocal microphones have a hypercardioid pickup pattern so you shouldn't be able to hear her that much... thus the suspicion that she's lip-syncing. Pretty embarrassing.

As a sound geek, I wonder what she was using for monitors. I don't see in-ear headphones and if there were floor monitor speakers, there would be a lot of feedback with the microphone pointed like that.

Korean Language Lessons

I've bought a few books and checked out stuff online but without structured classes, I'm getting nowhere on learning Korean. Unlike Chinese or Japanese, there are very few junior colleges offering Korean classes. I looked online and found Language Door but they're expensive and got pretty reviews. The Korean Cultural Center has a language program that looked pretty good but it's on Tuesday nights near mid-Wilshire in LA, which is probably a 2 hour drive from work. UCI also has a good program but it's during the day and I think it's for "real" students only.

Saddleback College is probably the only local college offering classes at night. I think I checked out the schedule before but the classes were down in Mission Viejo. Now it looks like they've moved their Korean classes to a new learning center on the old Tustin Marine Air Base which is only 10 minutes from work. That may be an option for next Fall semester though the class is two nights per week and seems like a lot of work.

There is a Korean co-worker that wants to learn Chinese. I guess we can teach each other but her Korean is probably way better than my Chinese. If she doesn't mind talking like a six year old, then we can maybe work something out during lunchtime.

Jobs in Asia

A co-worker, who actually quit last year and came back as a contractor, is close to closing a job offer in Taiwan. Interestingly, it's an internal job that I found for him on our website. Since he was going to look for a job in Taiwan anyway, this works out perfectly.

I feel a bit jealous... not for the actual position since I don't have any marketing experience and my Chinese is probably not good enough for work purposes. I think it's because I'm bored at work and this is something new and sounds pretty exciting. A good friend from UCLA has been teaching English in China for the past 15 years; I'm planning to go see him this May to check out what he's doing. I've also thought about taking a LOA/sabbatical from work but who knows if they'll take me back afterward... though for sure I'll lose my current FP&A job.

Of course, if I really want to go to China, I can probably go work for PMI in Chengdu for zero salary.

2nd YouTube Account

Ever since I bought the DVD recorder, I've been recording and uploading a few KBS TV shows that have English subtitles (Star Golden Bell, Happy Together, Let's Go Dream Team). I created a 2nd YouTube account on Feb 22 since a lot of accounts get suspended; I didn't want to lose my original account which has two strikes against it already. Anyway, it's only a matter of time before I get caught but I've been "lucky" so far. However, as the number of viewers and subscribers (125 currently) increase, it's more likely they'll find the account and suspend it. The account also has been linked to a few meta-search sites, even in other languages (Chinese and Japanese)... maybe I should make the video description even more obscure. I have 39 videos uploaded (in parts since YouTube limits videos to 10 minutes) with 7,820 total views so far. Hmm, I wonder if that will only count as one strike...

Here's part 1 of the latest Star Golden Bell upload:



The show is pretty funny... to me anyway since I "know" a few of the idol singers and see them on other Korean variety shows. They even have members from S.E.S and Baby VOX on this episode.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dr. Al Gore?

Online poll from knoxnews.com

 

Maybe they can revoke his shared Nobel prize with IPCC.

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Hmm. The % number on the poll appears to truncate instead of round. I was wondering why it adds up to only 98%.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Show Your Work!

Dr. Phil Jones, the "scientist" at the center of Climategate, testified in front of a government inquiry panel in the UK yesterday. He's accused of violating FOI (Freedom of Information) laws by refusing requests and hiding data when AGW skeptics requested his research data.

During the inquiry, he said this:

Daily Mail
Last month, the Information Commissioner ruled the CRU had broken Freedom of Information rules by refusing to hand over raw data.

But yesterday Professor Jones - in his first public appearance since the scandal broke - denied manipulating the figures.

Looking pale and clasping his shaking hands in front of him, he told MPs: 'I have obviously written some pretty awful emails.'

He admitted withholding data about global temperatures but said the information was publicly available from American websites.

And he claimed it was not 'standard practice' to release data and computer models so other scientists could check and challenge research.

OK, I'm just a lowly ex-engineer but in all my science classes (physics and chemistry), we were always told to show our work. In the various lab classes, we had to record our data and turn it in with our write-ups. I'm pretty sure the TA's never checked our work but it's there if they want to. I thought nothing was accepted as "science" unless other people can validate your work.

If we're going to spend trillions of dollars and cripple our economy to "save the Earth," I would like these scientist/activist, who have received $ millions in public funding, to at least show their work.