Bored in Narita

Just a quick hello from Tokyo. 🙂 I’m waiting for my connection flight back to SFO. It has been a pretty neat week. 190 digital pictures and about 120 pictures on film. You’d have to be patient till I compile them into web pages. When will they have power outlet in the economy class cabin? Then I would be able to work on them in the unbelieveablely long flight… 🙁

Bangkok is not the hottest city I’ve ever been (Phoenix was hotter temperature-wise), but it was the most unbearable heat I’ve ever endured. Is it because of the humidity? Not sure, but my brain simply stopped functioning after a couple of hours outdoors. 🙁 Later I realized the best way to co-op is to get up early and do all the outdoor stuff before 11am, then go hide! 🙂 Come out again in the afternoon around 4pm like some kind of caved animal. ha.

Phuket was ROMANTIC! The most relaxing beach resort I’ve ever been to. I’m yet to formulate a reason why it is so, comparing to Galapagos, Baja California -Cabo San Lucas, and southern California.

Anyway, my minutes is running out. Will report more when I get back!

Testing New Lense

Christmas came to this house early! Just received a NIKON 24-85mm zoom lense from Mi! The best travel lense! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! :* You are THE B-E-S-T!!!
Finished one row of color negative to test the lense.

Will take the entire Thanksgiving week off! Leaving for Thailand on Saturday. Happy Turkey Day, everyone! See’ya all in December.


KFOG’s Ten @ Ten

KFOG is my favorite music station. In the morning it has a program called “Ten@Ten”. What they do is to mix 10 top-of-the-chart rock songs of a particular year (from the 60’s till now) with certain famous or period sound-bite from that year. This one hour program in itself is almost a mini-documentary. For example, if the songs were from the 80’s, they will mix in some famous speech quotes from Ronald Reagan; if they were from the 70’s, Nixon; etc. They did a wonderful job in mixing various clips to express something without interjecting their own voice. For the Nixon era, they mixed Nixon’s two statements, one from his public statement to the country, one from the Watergate tape. The affect was so crystal clear. It was more vivid and to the point than the three hour long movie.

Today the year was 1992. They used some sound-bites from ordinary people. They sounded like from local TV-news clips, where reporter surveyed people off the streets and asking their opinions of current affair. One guy was saying, “man! Economy sucks! Man! You know why? Cuz we buy VCRs, TV’s and shit, but we arent buying missles, Man! The US don’t make VCRs no TVs, we make missles! That’s why our economy is going down the pipe, Man!” Immediately we know what was happening in 1992. The US was in a pretty bad recession after the bloated economy of the 80’s during the Reagan years. People were blaming the Japanese for taking over the world economy. Doom’s day was a popular expression. Everyone believed the US was done for good. The Japanese had won.

Sounds familiar? I’ve been curious about people’s attitude in the early 90’s for a while, because I think our current situation strongly resembles that period. Economy, US foreign policy, and the Gulf War aftermath, etc. etc.. Even the names of our President! 🙂

Then a woman’s voice came in. “I was really upset when I first saw homeless people on the street when I moved here a year ago. Shocked and upset.” The reporter asked, “..and now?” “Now I simply stop thinking about them. I’m complete desensitized.”

It must be from a San Francisco local news piece. This reminded me then the homeless was a big deal. Newspaper and TV were constantly reporting them. Police was out chasing them around. Social workers started to setup shelters, and were asking everyone to help. Everyone thought it was un-natural, it wasn’t right to have people live on the streets. It had to be FIXED. So they must started appear then. Wow! I totally forgot. Now homeless people became a fixture in San Francisco. It seemed they had existed since the day when the city was born. Imagine there was a time when everyone had a piece of roof above his head, and everyone was fed…

The last piece I heard before finally pulling into my office parking lot was a young man interviewed by a reporter, who asked the young man, “So who do you think should be our next President?” “A black lesbian mother!” The young man yelled it out with a loud laughter. “Why is that?” the reporter asked. “Cuz that’s the best kind of people to take care a family. My mother used to tell us don’t go on feeding other people if your own family is starving. There are people in this country are not fed!”

There you have it: my favorite music station. 🙂 What this morning’s show made me think was that when the time is hard, people need to find someone to blame, and they withdraw into their own world. They become more practical, less idealistic. And they want to change things. But economy is a moody beast, isn’t it? It is as natural as a forest, it thrives then there will be a forest fire. At the bottom of things, there is really no scapegoat. We have no choice but to ride the waves, don’t we? No one will be rich forever, and there will be no eternal Empires. We go up and we go down. Isn’t it? But then again, maybe the search for scapegoat is also part of the wave…

Making Sherry

In my Chinese weblog, FZ asked me about sherry. Her description got me interested and I did some search on the net. Found a little interesting article on the making of Sherry, along with it a brief history of Sherry was given as well.
Making Sherry

The fact that sherry requires “aged sherry … to ‘educate’ a younger wine” sounded familiar to me. I remember hearing a similar process while visiting Champagne cellars. But I don’t believe that is how Champagne is made. I wonder if there is another wine that goes through this similar process by using an aged wine to educate a younger wine. Whiskey, perhaps? If not, then one of the cellars I visited must have been producing sherry on the side! :O But which one?

Now i’m curious…

Then again, it probably won’t be called Sherry. It sounds like Sherry has a similar geographical prestige/restriction just like Champagne.

Sea Legs

Russel Crowe’s new movie is out! “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”. I’ve heard the review on NPR this morning. It sounded very interesting then. Now I just read Anthony Lane’s review on the New Yorker: RULING THE WAVES by ANTHONY LANE, Patrick O’Brian’s epic series comes to the screen. Anthony Lane is ever so entertaining. I was having a ball reading this review. Listen to this:

The year is 1805, the Royal Navy is in its pomp and prime, and what Jack commands is not so much a vessel as a floating town: a kingdom in miniature, governed with sage severity and equipped not merely with cannons and muskets but with everything from violins to goats. “This ship is England,” the Captain enjoins his men as they prepare for conflict, and there is a ringing Shakespearean clarity to his call.

Based on this paragraph alone, I want to see this movie already. What’s more, Paul Bettany, who played Russel Crowe’s imaginary roommate in “A Beautiful Mind” is once again playing Crowe’s best friend in this movie, as the ship’s surgeon–Stephen Maturin.

Another funny narrative by Lane…

So it is at the start, with the Surprise off the coast of Brazil, easing through the kind of sea that would cause Homer to nudge you in the ribs and whisper, “Wine-dark. Told you so.” Through the fog come the French, and battle is shortly joined, with the British ship caught unawares, wounded down to her rudder, and forced to turn tail. After a refit, carried out afloat, the chase is on, and the Surprise must pursue and trap her assailant, the Acheron, which is preying on defenseless whalers and generally being too French. [snip] At which point conspiracy theorists everywhere will splutter into their black coffee, aghast at the thought that Hollywood is doing Washington’s bidding and throwing mud at France.

If all these still can’t convince you to go see it, how about the ending paragraph of Lane’s review?

What the novels leave us with, and what emerges more fitfully from this film, as if in shafts of sunlight, is the growing realization that, although our existence is indisputably safer, softer, cleaner, and more dependable than the lives led by Captain Aubrey and his men, theirs were in some immeasurable way better/richer in possibility, and more regularly entrancing to the eye and spirit alike. As Stephen says of the Iliad, “The book is full of death, but oh so living.” Just so; if you died on board the Surprise, it would not be for want of having lived.

Since so far I haven’t heard one good review, either from movie critics or just people around me who have seen it, on Matrix III; I’d much rather go see this “anti-chick” (since the entire movie has no woman, who is not allowed on Royal navy ships) movie. What does that say about M3? 🙁

Car Trouble

(photo by mfd)
I have an Acura Integra LS ’95. This little white car has been with me for eight years. It is goog-looking, practical (huge trunk space!), loyal and quiet. Never complained when i left him (yes, it is a he) in SFO parking lots week after week, or took him up the mountains to brave the snow storms, playing among those big fellow (sports utilities) like a little kid. I fed him gas weekly, and changed oil roughly once every three months. He never ever threw a temper or went on strike, until recently…

He now has 137,900 miles under his belt.

A couple of months ago, one Friday night when I walked out of office finally at midnight, my car won¡¯t start. Lived 25 miles away, Gui and Matthew came to my rescue. With the suggestions given by Bonnie who was still on Yahoo Messenger at the time, the three of us (three engineers at that!) managed to jump start my car after 10 minutes studying each other¡¯s manuals and locating our batteries and performing this task without destroying Gui and Matthew¡¯s good battery. 🙂 I drove home safely. The next morning I drove to the garage and was told that normal Integra battery was supposed to last 50 months max. My poor little car had managed to perform superbly with the same battery for SEVEN YEARS!

I was so indebt to him.

After that, he returned to his daily task at taking me to work and back, out to play on weekends, etc.

Yesterday morning on my way to work, when I got off the highway and stopped at a traffic light, I saw something alarming risen in front of my eyes. A small puff of really light steam hovered above the front of my hood. It was very much like the hot air came out of a car¡¯s tail pipe in winter mornings. Could it be from the car in front of me? I wasn¡¯t sure. I scanned my dashboard carelessly, and out of the corner of my eyes something didn¡¯t seem right. I scanned the needles once more. Gas indicator, low but not in the red, check; engine rev at 0 since I¡¯m idle, check; mileage indicated this tank of gas had run 304miles, normal, check; WAIT! What was that?! The temperature needle was only two scales away from H!! Omygosh! What was going on?! My car overheating?! My car?! The only time I remember experiencing overheating was when Cam and I drove to Yosemite climbing up this 45 degree uphill short cuts, his ancient Honda civic had to pull over cuz the temperature gauge was in RED! Oh shoot! What to do what to do? Should I shut the engine? Now? The traffic light changed and I hadn¡¯t made up my mind so I followed the traffic continued on. The temperature gauge miraculously went down to a quarter! Geez! Driving, good! Stopping, bad! By then I was three blocks away from my office. I prayed all the way and watching the needle oscillating between halfway and dangerously close to high as I alternating between speeding up and slowing down approaching intersections. No red, no red. I murmured as I pulled in our parking lot. My poor little white angel made me proud.
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After the Storm…

It seems this storm is officially over. 🙂 I’ve never been so happy to watch my website traffic slowed to a halt. heehee.

The culprit was an intro of that Chinese blogsphere sex symbol, which made to the largest Chinese news site: One should never underestimate the power of traditional paper-based media, combined with popular web search engine that lies!

And here is the damage report:

Yesterday’s statistics:
Hits: 56£¬217
Files: 51£¬348
Pageviews: 17£¬624
Sessions: 12£¬430
KB sent: 345£¬473

Average daily statics prior to yesterday:
Hits: 1,822 – 5,826
Files: 1,192 – 3,610
Pageviews: 560 – 1,946
Sessions: 143 – 202
KB sent: 12,411 – 35,387

As you can see, it was roughly 10 times my peak traffic.

Looks like my current monthly transfer allowance could withstand another 10 days of such abuse. Yipee! Hat’s off to my web hosting company: One on One Internet, which weathered this storm with style. Thank you!

Under Siege

(* problem solved, see detail at the end…*)

That’s how I feel right now, like a trapped animal. Not sure where to turn.

This whole thing is so absurd.

There is this Chinese female columnist who writes a sex column for a relatively famous Chinese newspaper. She started writing a weblog detailing her personal sex life starting this summer. Her weblog was THE most famous in China, and because of it, weblog became mainstream in one summer in China.

I liked her writing, she is honest and a marvelous writer. So I praised her once in my Chinese weblog. The entire post was less than 50 words, one paragraph only. That was three weeks ago. During this past weekend, I started to notice that people who ended up on my Chinese weblog page by searching for her name or her blog name on google. I thought it funny. The traffic wasn¡¯t too much higher than normal so I didn¡¯t pay much attention to it.

Lo and behold, today my website traffic is 900% the normal and fast approaching 1000%. Now I got worried and dug out the actual google query that led them here. Guess what?! My Chinese weblog was number one on Google query result page if you search for HER NAME or HER WEBLOG NAME! WHAT the F**K! :(((((((

Google is so seriously busted.

Now I don¡¯t know what to do. Imagine all those people expecting some juicy details ended up on my boring page! Imagine all my precious bandwidth eaten away by all these stupid clicks!

I took down my Chinese weblog and replaced it with one page disclaimer. On it, I copied that paragraph which caused me all these trouble.

Still, those clicks kept on coming in. I¡¯m watching my bandwidth quota disappearing into nowhere with astonishing rate¡­

I¡¯m blocking Google bot for sure. Not sure how much longer my monthly quota will sustain the rest of the site. Oh Well! Moral of the story is: Never underestimate the power of Chinese people. If everyone of them makes one click on a link to your site, that makes 1.3 billion hits!

It turned out that Google allows the webmaster to remove any page from Google’s index. If you had ever had the same problem, go here. Register and list the page you want removed. Before doing so, make sure you put in the following meta tags in the page you want to remove.

Disallow indexing and archiving:
replace square bracket with angle bracket.

Google will remove them from their index within 24 hours. Whewww! That was close… 🙂

Lost Weekends

I think it was last Friday, Jen and I sat in the cafeteria, eating lunch. Jen looked out of the wall to wall windows, and said, “This weather makes me more sentimental.” It was drizzling or about to drizzle. She continued, “I found myself cry more watching movies now than in the summer.” I looked up, at her and at the gloom outside, “Are you sure it is you? Maybe it is the movie. I, for one, can’t think of one sentimental movie came out during summer seasons.” She gave me a shocked expression, then laughed.

And today I saw this article from this weekend’s New York Times:Lost Weekends, By VERLYN KLINKENBORG. Hilarious!

For as it happens, the only meaningful season in Hollywood — the only cinematic one, that is — is the so-called Christmas season, a 12-week stretch beginning in October when the studios put forward what they consider to be their most important films. It almost feels like a natural phenomenon, the clustering of serious movies at the end of the year — like the migration of geese or the beaching of whales.


From Burning Man to Running Man

dc sent in the latest snow report just now. One foot of snow in the Sierras! 🙂 Along he sent me this link:From Burning Man to Running Man by John Perry Barlow.

‘If someone like Karl Rove had wanted to neutralize the most creative, intelligent, and passionate members of his opposition, he’d have a hard time coming up with a better tool than Burning Man. Exile them to the wilderness, give them a culture in which alpha status requires months of focus and resource-consumptive preparation, provide them with metric tons of psychotropic confusicants, and then . . . ignore them. It’s a pretty safe bet that they won’t be out registering voters, or doing anything that might actually threaten electoral change, when they have an art car to build.’

Eloquent and funny, it is a bit long but an enjoyable read. It sort of reconfirmed my own thought lately as well. But Barlow put it in words far better than I could have.

…I found myself fundamentally questioning the Bohemianism to which I have been firmly committed since I reacted to turning 14 in a hick Wyoming town by buying a motorcycle, …

Indeed, Burning Man strikes me as only one of many reality distortion fields within which the counter-culture, myself totally included, has sought self-ghettoizing refuge. On reflection, I realized that I felt much the same about the massive protest marches that failed to impede in any way the Administration’s unprovoked assault on Iraq. We all had a grand time gathering ourselves by the millions, but we were up against opponents far more practical and smart than Dick Nixon or Spiro Agnew. The current Dick knows that the best way to deal with dissent is give it a spectacle to exhaust its energies on. He knows that we’re suckers for a good show, especially one where we get a starring role, so he gives us unmolested stages upon which to mount our extravaganzas and goes on about his corporate affairs.

There are more funny paragraphs regarding the California recall and Governor Schwartzenegger. So go and read it!


Mi and I first met Thoth a few weeks back in Central Park. He was just setting up shop. A couple of women tourists were talking to him enthusiastically, asking for his autograph, and taking turns posing pictures next to him. A few others were flipping through a scrapbook he placed at the beginning of his line of paraphernalia. I poked my head in and read a few clippings. He called himself Thoth, and he was one of the top 20 famous faces of New York City selected by a well-known magazine. According to those newspaper and magazine clippings, he was quite a celebrity with the media, and a fixture in the Park. Many photographers have taken pictures of him. He displayed them all in the book.

Mi and I were curious to hear his music. We walked around the proximity waiting for the tourists to disperse so Thoth could start his performance. Finally he was left alone. He took his sweet time to prepare himself and the surroundings. Kneeling on the floor the Japanese fashion, he settled on reading a small book. From afar the color theme of the book reminded me of Tibet. His sincerity indicated it was the beginning of his ritual. It was followed by meditation and praying. We were standing around, watching him. He stood up, lighted incense one by one, while walking in some kind of dance steps. Finally he picked up his violin, stood up erect, silently he waved the bow around him, eyes closed, mouthing some soundless phrases as if calling the spirits to gather around.

When the music finally bursting out from the violin, it felt like a joyful eruption of a lively volcano. The music sounded Irish and cultic, he danced while playing, and suddenly his beautiful singing voice joined in. His red silk cape, his extravagant feathered headdress, and now his singing all reminded me of Farinelli. Mi started circling him like a lion circling its prey, taking pictures. That day I was assigned Mi¡¯s Leica M6. So I shoot a few frames as well. The location was a underpass with ruined wall paintings, resembled a ruined temple. The sound affect was lovely. For a few moments, one could be fooled to believe it was a real concert hall from ancient times. And we were privileged to witness a god singing.

When the music stopped, people started walking up dropping their dollar bills in his small bowl. He settled back to his sitting cushion and started making notes on that same small book he was reading at the beginning, completely oblivion of these by-standers coming and going. As I walked up to surrender my dollars, he suddenly turned to me, looked at me straight in the eyes and said, ¡°Thank you!¡± I was so shocked and all I could manage was a smile before fleeting the scene. Later I was a little shamed of myself, when would I ever gain the courage to converse with strangers?

Mi went back in the following two weekends, hoping to find him there. The past Sunday Thoth finally showed up at the right time when the late afternoon sunlight was still beautiful. Among the series, I liked the cover the best. Thoth¡¯s torso formed a human arrow, half guiding half inviting the audience to see the light, to hear the higher being, through Thoth¡¯s body language, through Thoth¡¯s music. The frontal view resembled a face with his breasts as eyes. Shiny metal chains that Thoth wore as decorations resembled a kind of ¡°headdress¡±. It strongly recalled an image impressed upon me during my childhood. It was from an ancient Chinese legend. A general was killed brutally, his fellow general who was also a music lover decided to revenge his friend’s death. During the fight, he lost his head, refusing to fall, his breasts formed eyes, his belly button formed a mouth, his torso became a new head, he continued his battle cry, and he continued to fight.

There is something very similar between Thoth and that Chinese ancient general. And Mi¡¯s photo vividly says it.

More photos of Thoth by Mi: Thoth
The Story of Xing-tian ÐÌÌì(in Chinese): ɽº£¾­(Ê®)ÎÞÍ·¾ÞÈËÐÌÌì

A Beautiful Evening

In the afternoon, we went on a short hike in one San Mateo country¡¯s open reserve, to see some interesting cacti atop of the mountains.

Afterwards we stop by a new plaza Gui has been telling me. They were selling penthouse lofts, which looked beautiful from outside and on paper: sky lights, walk-in closet, marble tiled master bath, powder room, etc. etc.. The price shocked us. ¡°It is only $585,000 for a 1485 square feet one bedroom suite,¡± says the brochure. 1485 is spacious, but $585,000! And ¡°Only¡±!?

Why what we like always seem just slightly above our financial means? So close, yet so far.

While we were having dinner in a pasta place in the plaza, and I was brooding over the injustice of the material world; Matthew suggested maybe we could change our jobs to be stock market traders. To get more money you need to go closer to the source. ¡°Never!¡± I shook my head. Gui remembered the little episode right after my graduation. Out of sheer accident, I was recruited by the president of a small but respectable trading firm, specializing in trading futures, the riskiest but definitely one of the most lucrative trading options. I turned it down then.

Looking back now, I¡¯m surprised at myself. Even then, as a poor college graduate, I knew money was not all I wanted. I was hooked instead on the lifestyle advertised by the consulting company I went to eventually: travel the world and the idea of doing something new every few months. Boredom was far scarier than being poor. Okay, maybe not being poor, but being not rich. 🙂

Well, at least that is the more glorified version of what happened.
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The Hours

Finally watched The Hours with Gui and Matthew Friday evening. I’ve been reluctant to see it because some friends had complained it being too long, but others loved it.

It was surprisingly lucid and smooth. The complicated stories of three women from three generations were masterfully waved together, and three seemingly separate plots tied nicely together at the end.

I love this kind of ending. A good ending makes a good story.

A few things that Gui pointed it out made the movie seemed even more interesting than if I had watched it alone.

-The symmetry of two fictional suicides.
Virginia Wolf let the woman live in her book, and killed the poet, the visionary. Meanwhile, the poet in real life, who did commit suicide just like in Virgina’s book, chose to kill the woman(the character based on his mother) in his book. This little detail provided a kind of balance to the entire story, even though it made the movie a little eerie.

-The conversation between Virginia and her niece on death
“Where do we go when we die?” “We go back to where we came from.”
“That’s an interesting explanation.” Gui commented.

– The conversation between Virginia and her husband
“Why must someone die in your book? Why can’t they all live?”
“Death will make the living value life more.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Gui said, “We value life just the same without death.”
“Maybe not.” I countered, “Death defines life, provides limitations. The limitation gives life meaning. Otherwise, if we all live to the eternity, what’s the point?”
“I’d be happy to take eternity.” Gui laughed..
“Hmmm. I’d take eternity provided I still have the choice to end it.” I offered. “I need to have that choice.”

Yes, that’s probably the main point we took away from The Hours. “It is about choices.” The characters, either fictional or not, they chose to live or they chose to die. It is their choices. That’s why this movie is not as depressing as I had feared. Its suicides didn’t reduce the meaning of life, it adds more weight and dignity to it. Like Lara Brown said at the end, she chose to live.

Whenever the discussion of choice comes up, I always think of Steinback’s East of Eden. The old Chinese housekeeper Lee’s words on that sentence from the Bible.

“The King James version says this: thou shalt rule over him.’ It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin.”

“Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible — It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order.”

So Lee got interested and started learning Hebrew so he could read the original version of this line. After two years of study, he found out, it was actually:

“Thou mayest.”
…there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with that will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”