Wednesday, March 28, 2007

a greener world

maybe it's just that i read more ecoblogs and notice environmental news more than other (political? scientific? entertainment-related?) news, but does it seem that the whole world is becoming more and more environmentally conscious? it's probably nothing to celebrate about, but i can pretty much swear that there's been more news about corporations changing for the better recently than before. either Al Gore and his documentary has actually really made a worldwide impact, or interest tracking technology has so pervaded our lives that "THEY" know i'm interested in positive environmental changes and have screwed with my radio and web news to reflect my interests. all for a nominal fee...your soul.

but this morning i was distracted as i drove out of the garage by news that Burger king is going to start using more free range chicken eggs and uncaged pork. immediately following that, there was an announcement that San Francisco is banning plastic grocery bags. of course then digg, treehugger, consumerist, and boingboing all report on those stories. i know that these sites are all closely related and probably get posts from each other, but still the fact that such stores are all on the top of the bloggable list is impressive.

other news: walmart is leading the way for large retail companies to join the green revolution. it's harder to hate walmart.

as such, we're still wasting away the planet's resources. but i guess it's a start to start hearing it all over the news.

windows movie maker

wow. i never knew, but windows movie maker is really easy to use. it's my new best friend. one, it's fast. it loads clips, makes their audio, and exports them fast. much faster than's a tradeoff between customization and ease, i guess. but mostly, it actually creates the clips of each time you click record. so basically for everybody's matches, i can take around 5 or 6 clips, which will be neatly cut at the right moments, and put them on the timeline, and save them. it takes about 10 minutes per match. and unless i actually decide to do highlights again, this is all i need.


more for my own future reference, and since i havent bothered to learn how to use bookmarking software, here are a few interesting links about video editing software, specifically for windows movie maker now that i'm using it more:

DIY Guide to Windows Movie Maker - browsing the contents makes me think it's a layman's guide.

Adobe Forums: Creating wmv file - looked like there was some technogibberish. forums are good because they'll have actual examples of people's failures and successes.

Avid vs FCP vs Premiere - i've also begun to use avid...and suck at it.

Digital Video Computing Limited - looks like they have a lot of info on avid and adobe

so now i'm doing actually looking at old videos and seeing what i look like, how much i suck, what i need to change (which is like everything.) but i guess taekwondo is like school. you can't really cram the last three days and expect to pass an exam. it's kind of how forms is like flossing. you can't not floss for a month then do it twenty times the night before your doctor's appointment. so it's a good thing that i have mouthwash!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

eta 4 days

i've arrived at the foot of the mountain. no, i think i'm at the last plateau before the summit. so maybe i've been taking the winding lazy path up recently...and there are definitely times when i've slipped and fallen back down. and then there are times when i've looked up at a vertical face and thought, i'll never be able to traverse this point.

i don't know what i'll do when i get to the summit. even from here i'm looking back down toward the road home and wanting to take it all the way down. and to never turn around to start climbing again. and from here i see another peak, and yet another, looming larger in the distance, but none have ever been my mt everest as this collegiate nationals has been, and i don't think any will ever be unless i really make the push for national taekwondo achievements. and i don't know if i have the legs, the joints, the heart for those mountains.

maybe the meaning of beyond the break is actually after the final climb? what is life after collegiate nationals? what have i been doing for the last EIGHT months, but blindly pursuing a dream, not to win, not to place my flag on the peak, but just to be able to make the race to the top? and from there i will jump just to see how high i can reach before falling. and whether from this vantage point i can find the right path, or even the right compass direction, because there is no one road but every direction is a destiny from there. and will there be more mountains, or maybe a lush rich valley, or just fog and clouds?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

google tv

i can watch live tv!!! on google!
Add Live TV to your Google Homepage

This is stopped so you dont have something blaring if you're reading from work...but its literally like watching tv. i wonder if it's scheduled, like live CNN?

of course, here's the actual live tv link:

Live TV

Its good to be able to watch animal planet again. all i need is food network, discovery and tlc. but you can't ask for everything. i guess the internet is finally starting to bring everything together...once i get my iphone i won't need tv or even internet.

strawberry season

spring is awesome. even if there's no boston winter and a haymarket to make you really appreciate fresh produce, just seeing the 2 for $4 strawberries at ralphs made me pop my smoothie.

which means i'll be having banana strawberry and yogurt (dannon light and fit, 20 for $10) smoothies soon. just in time to slim down for the beach. (nah, more like for cutting weight.) and to top it off i made it into whole foods at 9:54, just before they were closing, and found that they had wheat berries (wheat seeds) and i hope to be able to actually grow wheatgrass. and the oj was 40 cents off. lol


so what's up with the guys at trader joes? they're super anal about not letting people in when it's closing. i practically had to run through the door last time at like 2 mins before closing, but the whole foods guys were super cool about it. i mean both are so corporate anyways it's not worth saying one group is more down to earth. but whoever can provide me with wheatgrass, man. from what i read it reduces your blood pressure so much a lot of people can't even handle it the first time, they just pass out or go into a trance. sounds kind of like...weed grass.

driving pains

man i am irritable today.

i was on my phone while driving and basically completely overshot oceanside. then the highway from that point basically has no places to turn around. i passed one road thinking there's no way that'll let me turn around, because i don't see anything but mountains for the next couple of miles, so no overpass. i didnt even see the road, until it turned left and went under the highway.

then there was some sort of traffic stop, and the traffic basically stopped, and two patrolmen were scanning the cars for any hispanic looking people. one was stopped right in front of me, and had to get out his id, while all these old ladies drove by to my left. then there wasn't a uturn for another like 5 miles. i was 16 mi past oceanside by the time i started heading back.

then i got lost getting there. i need a gps system.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

income tax refund

remember that old commercial, i forget what it was for, maybe h&r block:

(guy playing guitar)
"i need my tax refund
my income tax refund
i NEED my tax refund...right now!"
(boing! guitar string breaks)
aw man!
"i got my tax refund
my income tax refund
and i GOT me this NEW guitar....."

living green

today was a day i wish i had my camera. i had some random sightings of things i wasn't expecting to see but which were very relevant to recent happenings in my life.

during work i just had this intense desire to leave, because i suddenly got spring fever. i do miss north carolina, if not for the suburbian life, but for suburbia itself - the cookiecutter plots of homes in raleigh and cary did come with a sizeable backyard, and the clay soil could be worked to grow a good number of crops. it made it that much more interesting too. so today, i don't remember why but i started thinking about wheatgrass, then that just led to a strong desire to plant herbs.

mmmm....wheat grass...

so today my schedule was actually very busy. at the risk of sounding like some busybody housewife, this was my plan: i went to work "early" (8 AM) so i could leave around 11, leave early around 4 to go turn in my recycling cans, maybe catch some surf before going to costco, buying gas there which is the cheapest around at $3.05 a gallon (blech!) and then going home for sprint workouts.

this spring obsession gave me an extra detour around the clairemont area to the local home depot, and i'd also check out local recycling centers because i'm sure the one near vons is ripping me off. like a penny per can, goddamnit! (yes i'm a treehugger who reads the consumerist. so what)

well i made it to costco and home depot, but not to the recycling centers. i'll just keep carrying the bags of recyclables from work around in my car like a bum.

but then at home depot, as i was looking for charcoal i saw these puzzle mats, like the ones you use in taekwondo, but a bit smaller, much more thinner, but puzzle mats nonetheless. they were for covering your kitchen or your garage, etc. and the price was $12 like a regular mat...but then i looked and that was for a set of 6...i thought maybe i could create a taekwondo ring for the ucsd club after all! i was really really tempted to buy them....costco is a wonderful place even though their onions cost a hell of a lot more than ralphs.

and now looking into it more i could so make my future living room or basement into a taekwondo ring, as well as a child's playpen:

Puzzle mats!

and again i wish i had my camera because the costco ones were pretty cool. not really for taekwondo, but still running into it was so random.

Then, i go to home depot and i basically go crazy on plants. it's literally been 6 years since i've done any gardening and i used to be a little kid obsessed with stuff like compost and growing companion crops, and i had a huge bulb collection. yes i was a nerd in many ways. i even had a garage composter once when i just started, didn't really understand the idea of compost, started throwing eggshells and bones into it, and a week later the garage was filled with flies and maggots.

but tomorrow i'm going to want to leave work again...this time because i want to get home to put in my basil, oregano, and peppermint. i think, if i can make myself one nice tomato and basil and mozzarella sandwich, or a good pizza, and just a single mojito, i'd be satisfied. hellz yes for planting season.

I also realized that it's the first day of spring, and since la jolla has decent weather and no risk of cold snaps, now would be a good time to plant tomatoes and other crops. i don't think we'd have room or the time to care for an actual tomato plant, but i was very very tempted to fill up the largest planter, and see what happens..

so the last sighting of the day was when i went to the track to do some sprints. the first thing i see as i go down the stairs is this big tire, and i immediately thought of the 300 workout. i literally thought there were some huge fucking guys doing tire flips earlier during the day...maybe for track? maybe for football? but actually i don't think a single person would be able to lift that one. next time i'm seriously going to start the 300 workout, just with a smaller tire.

happy first day of spring. hopefully we'll get some sun soon in "sunny san diego" and then it's surf time.

Monday, March 19, 2007

made up words from the simpsons

from wikipedia via digg comes this midday procrastinator:

Made up words from the simpsons

I can't believe that d'oh is now in the oxford english dictionary.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

hollywood's sparta (SPOILERS)

i went to see 300 yesterday. and here is what i have to say in one breath: with enough suspension of disbelief and ignoring the existence of an ancient war movie formula ala braveheart, the movie was hyped in my mind and i hated the audience but nonetheless was greatly entertained by it, yet did not want to brawl in the end.

so i will point out some of the more entertaining moments, not necessarily meaning entertaining parts of the movie but of the process of watching the movie and what went through my mind even though i should have just sat back and shut down my brain so i could truly enjoy "Z00". (it looked like a Z)

SPOILERS below, how come there's no excerpt option in blogger like there was in my old MT blog?


the first thing that comes to my mind after looking back on the movie is that it reminded me more of athenian society rather than what we think of sparta. not being an expert on the subtle differences between each city state, i read up on Spartan society and it seems to confirm that hollywood loves glitz and glamor, and would even go to adorn a society that gave the meaning to the word "spartan" with elaborate robes, gold coins, public grounds adorned with marble and fountains, and HOT HOT WOMEN with wonderfully revealing togas.

fast diversion: there was a small amount of gratuitous nudity including some very hard nipples, but there were definitely many 12 year old boys who were in the theatre unsupervised. not that i'm a prude but i wonder how come i never snuck into a theatre like that?

of course if you didn't see a hollywood's rendition of sparta but literally saw plain, practical earthy spartan homes with wooden furniture everywhere and strong but ugly women, would you pay to see 300?

so then, despite the common idea that sparta was about self denial rather than luxury and beauty, there were some beautiful people in the movie. also, there's definitely a pretty boy, the captain's son, who i swear is a model and not an actor and basically stands around with makeup around his eyes and cheeks having this pretty boyish smile, and you wonder, why didn't they toss his ass when he was born? you just know (SPOILER!) he's going to die a tragic death that will render the captain's heart apart.

now speaking of throwing babies off cliffs, which is how the spartans were seen practicing eugenics in the movie, there's the question of the councilmembers. i don't recall sparta being a democracy, so hollywood probably put in more familiar aspects of ancient greek history - ATHENIAN FORUMS - in as a ruling council of the free state of sparta. so many contradicting words is so hard to say in one breath. but the councilmembers are all lumpy old men, who look like what you'd think were plato and aristotle - and who look like they should have been tossed out at birth because they were physically too small. none of them look like they ever went through spartan training, except for the good old council member and the evil young councilmember theron. who looks like he was a soldier but pussied out, and now hangs out with the old flabby guys to feel better about himself while the other 8-packs go off to war.

another question i had, especially in the beginning of the movie, was why the hell was there a huge bottomless open pit in the middle of town where all the kids play? and why didn't they just throw babies into that instead of some remote cliff?

there was one moment in the theatre where everyone actually cheered. (except for the end of the movie which i think is stupid, there are no actors there you're cheering for.) if any scene it would have been where the queen stabs the traitor. that part was fucking awesome. then it was kind of funny how all the old men started chanting "traitor" like a bunch of monkeys, as if they were doing a victory chant in honor of the traitor. wtf

click for the full image...this one's cooler

this scene was awesome too. i think in all action movies the moment when the underdog first kicks butt and makes the big guy realize he's fucked are always my favorites.

can you believe who plays xerxes? rodrigo santoro. compare:

On the right is xerxes, at the moment when he says something like "here boyfriend let momma give you a backrub". i swear the whole time xerxes looks like he would snap his fingers and say "oh no you didnt". and leonidas looks exactly like zeus. he has like a 2 inch long goatee.

ok so all complaints and jokes looks aside the movie was very beautifully shot. the fight scenes were just as good as i thought they'd be, probably better because they were actually less violent and cheesy/dramatized than i thought. they did use a lot of cool special effects like you see the actor doing his charge and then you see him get impaled or have his limbs cut off (not to mention a few close up beheadings where you can see the spinal cord.) ok maybe it was violent but still very artistic. you almost feel like dying in that war felt good, the chops were all so clean.

now, there was a row of kids behind us who were like 12 and super annoying. that's the one moment i wanted to start a fight. but basically in the last scene, (SPOILER) where leonidas and his prickly 300 shield ball were surrounded by xerxes and he's got something up his sleeve because he kneels down and xerxes thinks he's won. and these kids are basically shouting "IS HE REALY GIVING UP?????11" yes kids, the movie's over. now leave. then some guy jumps out of the shield ball and kills the messenger and they do the last stand thing and these kids are like "OMG THAT WAS SERUSLY THE MOST COOL THING EVER!!!111!" and in my mind i was ramming the blunt end of my spear into his eye.

overall, the plot was straightforward, but there were too many formulas in it. first, the death wheat fields, which i guess are from the elysian fields of greek afterlife:

but we've seen this in gladiator. the imagery is too familiar.

and there's the final war chant, in which delios leads the full spartan army into battle, and he's giving the big speech of the survivor. that was just like in braveheart where robert the bruce, after surviving wallace's betrayal, led the rest of the troops. this secondary leader who leads the rest of the troops to eventual victory after the first leader's martyred death was too familiar of a theme with me.

but finally, my overall impression is that the movie was great fun. i would not purchase it. and despite all my griping, i loved the movie as a pure action flick, i love historical movies even though they're not even trying to be historically accurate, and i love movies with swords. and big fucking greek warriors spearing everything in sight. and a hot redhead oracle. and lots of slow mo of body parts being cut off. and the idea of spartan life is cool - no bullshit, especially when some traitor is playing politics - just stab his ass. and even though i didnt feel like brawling (i'm too disciplined about martial arts) i will be doing the workout that they did because the guys had a 2400-pack between the 300 of them.

thanks to ImDB and IGN for all the info.

Friday, March 16, 2007


i find myself becoming more and more like an engineer socially. i've always thought i'd become someone who's open and social and whatever, and i was always proud not to meet some of the typical stereotypes about smart people or nerds, etc. but maybe it's something to do with working at an engineering company...there's no reason to become any other type of person, and recently i have this subconscious feeling that i'm introverting into more of a grinch.

i guess it comes from not having to deal with customers, real people, etc. that's what we engineers love about our jobs - we work on a computer all day, we can do whatever the hell we want to it and there's no worry of it complaining (other than the WARNING: SEGFAULT and ERROR MSG = -1 that i get all the time). so i guess as an engineer i get spoiled. who needs real people anyways?

i think taekwondo kind of adds to that. taekwondo social groups are not like real life social groups. there's an inherent structure to it where you understand what part of the hierarchy you're in and don't have to do much to appease it. the real world is NOT like that. there's also an overlying focus of a taekwondo group - taekwondo - that makes other matters less important. so even if you're a grump you can go to taekwondo, be one of the instructors, do kicking all the time, and revert to a 3 year old's social skills, and it'll still be ok.

as an engineer, i find it hard to talk to new people, such as important visitors to the office on whom i won't elaborate. it's probably a good thing that i have "too much work to do" so i can be excused from meetings. but in life, that's not the right way to do things. maybe i need to go back to business school and force myself to become a smooth talking ceo candidate?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

frequent flyer

i've been doing so much travel scheduling recently that i've come upon some interesting websites. aside from the usual travel websites (travelocity, kayak, priceline, etc) i've found an airline prediction blog that may be very helpful:


basically for the ardent taekwondoist, travel is about monthly trips to tournaments. it's hard to plan your trips too long before it happens, because you don't necessarily know the schedule, but get too close to the date and the fares spike up. despite trying to buy tickets ahead of time, you still never know when the best time to buy is - i've definitely bought thanksgiving tickets when i panicked and thought fares were rising, only to have them drop in the middle of the next week.

recently i've noticed this little chart called the fare history chart, from

It reminds me of playing the stock wish you had bought earlier, you're sure you're at the peak of the prices now and it wouldn't be wise to buy, but WHAT IF the prices keeps going up?

so now, even though i already bought a ticket, i'm going to keep watching farecast (hehe what a clever name) and see if it WORKS. if it does, current predictions are that my fares are dropping $50 or more in the next week, and i'll probably be sad but not that sad because my tickets were around that price anyways. but if it does work, then i'll try to play the airline pricing game. now be glad that the stock market doesn't have a simple fare predictor like this one, because then you'd get fools like me trusting a little indicator for all their decisions.

travelocity unblacklisted

traveling is tough. i'm making reservations for flying to boston on may 25, basically my birthday but mainly for liza's wedding. it's about two months away, but because it's memorial day weekend the prices are already averaging over $400.

i made a sacrifice and will be taking tuesday morning off so that i can fly back from boston on the redeye at 6 am. i can still get some shuteye, i think.

however, getting a ticket has been hell. trying to use rewards miles is worthless, because no airline will give you a flight you want - friday evening to monday evening, which is probably what everyone wants to fly without missing work. i was even (probably stupidly) willing to fly two redeye overnight flights. but without that, and could only get me these bogus northwestern flights that didn't really exist, and expedia kept telling me that the price of a ticket has gone up since i last clicked OK.

that's when i switched to internet explorer, because of something i heard about airlines putting cookies on your computer. i also switched to travelocity because, even though their outsourced customer service sucks ass, i knew i wasn't getting any better on anywhere else, even kayak. =(

so it takes a good reservation on an airline on which i have many points already to make me take more than a second's worth of look at travelocity. but what really got me happy was the phrase "Lucky Day! We found an even LOWER price for your flight!" and i looked and saw that the price was $376 after taxes, where i'd been expecting $415 after taxes if i was lucky. Lucky day!

i guess maybe i got lucky this time. probably they're screwing me still because i'm paying like $70 for taxes and i've seen that value fluctuate from $30 to $70 for no apparent reason. but i doublechecked my schedule this time and i didn't get any unseen 12 hour waits at the airport, and even the return flight is direct from boston to san diego. so at least this time i feel decent about purchasing the ticket.

so recently i've spent:

$468 for nationals ticket
$268 for portland
$381 for boston

= >$1100 for travel from March 30 - May 30. I need to win the lottery.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

track workouts

i think my athletic habits switch around now and then much like my eating habits. i've always had something against running, like running isn't very entertaining (compared to other cardio workouts such as basketball, ultimate frisbee, or even sparring). and i never liked running because it either involved a stationary treadmill, or hard pavement and the unyielding whims of the weather.

but actually having an outdoor track that people use can be fun. unlike the lonely track at MIT which for some reason always makes my feet heavy, the ucsd track was fun to run in yesterday. maybe it's because there were all kinds of different people there so you don't feel as lonely. maybe it's because the track is sunken so there are tall bleachers all around it, and it seems almost like a colosseum. maybe the san diego weather is nicer to run in.

i can say that i'm relatively in good shape. i feel that my recovery is good, because i was surprised at how fast i stopped being tired after sprints. of course, i was tired as hell during those sprints, and i only did like three sets, and i normally jog at a snail's pace. but my goal is to start doing more track workouts, maybe on off days, or even before taekwondo, to get that aspect of fitness better.

my knee is starting to bother me, though, so i started thinking about how to exercise without hurting it, and that's what's brought me into the new athletic habit phase. (other phases included surf/bike, rock climbing, full body lifting, and leg circuit training.) this one is a track/field and resistance training, mainly focused on building explosiveness. some of the actual track exercises that i found online - nine exercises for sprinters - are very similar to regular taekwondo warmups, but are done on a track scale:

Tuck Jump 2x6
Rocket jump 2x6
Lunge jump 2x6
Line hop 2x8
High skips 3x30 M
Long skips 3x30 M
Straight leg bound 3x30
Forward weight throw 5
Overhead Weight throw 5

but i also wanted to do resistance training with flex ropes, or whatever those rubber things you use for resistance are called. one, it'll probably help strengthen my knee, and i have a huge fear of acl/mcl injuries, and two, i saw people kicking and sprinting with them and it just really seems cool to do resistance sprints.

for an even more hardcore workout, checkout the regimen followed by the actors from 300:

The 300 Workout

ode to yogurt

the joys of eating yogurt
a child's treasurehunt
where every dig yields a delicious reward
but is there a hidden strawberry?
alas, today's search is not fruitful

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

midday diversion

Pattern thingy
like those kaleidoscopes we played with as a kid, but really mesmerising.


Tomorrow is Pi Day!

What are you going to do?

Monday, March 12, 2007

daylight savings

i understand now why my computers havent been updating their clocks, even though everything says it connects to some global time server. maybe this is too late for many of you but understanding things in hindsight might help us become more wise.

Daylight savings time arrives early this year

that's why people were making such a big deal on this particular daylight savings day, because it changed this year and all the computers that already exist will not be doing it correctly. is this a permanent thing? i guess you're supposed to download patches and things to upgrade your system. but whatever it is, in three weeks when my computers jump again i'll be confused as hell...again.

monday mornings

its monday morning and i'm at work at 9 am. oh wait, there was daylight savings time, it's actually 10 am. according to npr, daylight savings time is everyone's least favorite time change. what other time changes are there? i guess feb 29th is the second least favorite?

there's something about california that makes people drive nice cars. in LA last weekend i saw two lamborghinis, one at the street corner, one at a gas station. then this morning i see another one pass me on the right. i think i'm beginning to catch them in my eye - once you see a car that's lower than usual, sleeker than usual, more beautiful than usual, you realize it's a lamborghini, or a ferrari which i also saw this morning. of course there's the dealership next door - bentleys, mazerati's, whatever else nice cars are there. but i remember when i was a kid the diablo was my favorite car in my car collectors cards. i always imagined i'd have $200k to buy one.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

life in paradise

ok so it's not hawaii or costa rica or something like that but today was a pretty damn nice day in san diego. the weather was in the mid 70's, which (haha) was a little chilly when the wind blows. but the sun was out and it smelled like the time when spring transitions to summer, and the smell of suntan lotion and a chlorine pool made it feel great.

at one moment i was looking at the palm trees and ridiculously southern californian landscaping in the pool area and realized that i could close my eyes and pretend this was some sort of high end resort in dubai. there's palm trees, water, warmth, and really close by an actual ocean. even though i couldnt smell the salt i knew i would be able to find surf somewhere close by.

it's one of those days that makes you get up, be excited about life, then decide to not do anything important today at all.


if you've ever gotten really into sudoku and started doing it and timing the results, here's another type of sudoku i found:


it just proves that i'm a huge nerd.

but i found out a thing that's interesting. when i scan a row or a column or a single 3x3 box for missing numbers (in normal sudoku), i pick out the missing ones by sight or feel, not by counting 123_56_89. because in scidoku there's some random jumble of 9 letters that's used, and i was able to start figuring out the missing letters really quickly even though i can't recite them in a row right now. funny how the brain works. which side does the math again?

gas woes

it's amazing how prices of gas have suddenly shot up in the last month. looking over my gasoline prices recently you see that over the last few months i had been doing ok finding low gas prices thanks to gas price tracking software but suddenly in march, my average price per gallon goes from $2.50 to $3.04. and yesterday when we were driving to LA, it seemed that the mobile station in la jolla wasn't expensive ($3.14) because that was the price everywhere else.

of course, according to npr, california has about 20% higher average gas prices than the nation. until we find a new source of fuel (like a huge asteroid made of tylium we remain dependent on fossil fuels.

but the one good thing about high gas prices, since i'm fortunate enough to work about 4.6 miles from my home, is that it is fueling the growth of biofuels. one blog that i read regularly is Treehugger, which obviously has a huge environmental bias but is interesting nonetheless. they've been recently posting a lot of user-made videos about the environment, which i have yet to watch. but through this blog and various digg, which has a great search engine, and boingboing posts i've been looking into alternative fuels, just for hypothetical reasons.

The biggest hype recently is about biofuels, especially producing ethanol from corn.

Ethanol dazzles white house, wall street
Bush wants world to cut down on fuel through biofuels
Redesigning crops to harvest fuel

Recently the biofuel engineering field has grown so much. because fuel prices are so high and there's so much political attention on alternative energy sources and oil independence, biotech companies are popping up left and right to invest in corn-to-ethanol technologies. among other ways to make biofuel are using trash, including all the turkey remnants after thanksgiving.

Anything into oil
Plasma process converts garbage into clean energy
Generator eats garbage, poops energy
Guide to alternative fuels - what's with all this association of garbage energy and poo?
Venture Capitalists Want to Put Some Algae in Your Tank

However, the more I think about it the more I realize that biofuels will be just as disastrous for the environment and the world as gasoline addiction. we're not solving the root of the problem by developing alternative fuel sources such as ethanol, but we're simply creating a greater demand for different fuel - it's like instead of changing bad eating habits, a fat boy starts eating too much meat instead of too much sweets, or something like that.

well that fat boy is the direct cause of some crises in tortilla loving countries like mexico, and beer loving countries like me. corn has actually been diverted to producing fuel instead of more important things, like low priced tortillas which are a staple in many countries. see what I mean, making biofuels is still "fueling" our addiction to consumption, and not solving any problems at all.

First tortillas, now beer

so to balance it out here are some articles on the dangers of biofuels:

World must wake up to the dangers of biofuels
US Focus on biofuels is foolish

I think, short of moving back into a nomadic lifestyle or at least a village based native american/indigenous society, we need to make changes that actually lower our consumption. for example - even though i live so close to work, i still drive every day. i'm looking forward to when I can move back to boston, because there will be no car ( boohoo ) but the old bike and the T will provide all my transportation needs.

but if we really are going to make money off of ecotechnology, we might as well make it truly alternative, rather than diverting corn and agricultural products into making a more profitable, just as harmful product. if i had a house, i would definitely invest in solar power:

Selling homeowners a solar dream - this looks like a sweet solar renting deal
Solar heater - chinese homes already do this

what about hydrogen? seems like a long tech shot...but both hydrogen and solar are at the top (9 and 10, but probably most realistic) of a top ten list.

Professor demonstrates new hydrogen fuel system
Top 10 Future Energy Solutions

and LEDs and alternative light sources, which are the beginning to curbing our consumption of energy.

City tries to cut energy bills with LEDs - Rick, you better get on top of this
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
World's smalles LED light goes into production

Thursday, March 8, 2007

money matters

financial matters on a small scale are usually a waste of your time. what i've learned today is that no small amount of playing with money will make you any headway. the only way to really earn money is to EARN real money, like on a million dollar investments. other than that, things are chump change. and they usually bind you to a year's commitment for a total of about $40.

consider this: a few nights ago I decided to take out a balance transfer loan to pay for my student loans. now i realize this is just putting me under more risk for a long period of time. If i miss a payment, which i hope i won't, my promotional apr goes out the window and i'm stuck with a credit card debt of $5000. had i stayed with the student loan, i'd have a slightly higher interest rate, but far less risk.

the selling point was that i'd go from 5% APR to 1% APR (plus $75 transfer fee, which is about 1.2% APR.) So I figure that if i pay off the 5% loan right now, and use my citibank savings account, which pays 4.75% APR interest, i can slowly make money over a long period of time. now, the promotional 1% APR ends Dec 1, 2007, so I wrote up a repayment schedule to have paid everything by then.

Assuming a savings cash flow of $1500 per month, and a repayment of from $725 to $735 per month, I will be getting $133 in interest by December 1, and paying $22.12 + $75 for the credit card loan. If I stayed with the campus loan, I would pay $111.35 in interest, and will earn $106.91 of interest. The problem is that the interest i earn isn't very different, and the $75 fee was expensive. Overall, by this hairbrained scheme, I profit $40 by December.

Also, I tried comparing the credit card loan with a faster repayment schedule. If I pay off my loans by August, meaning $1450 per month for 4 months, I will have paid $61 in interest and earned $63 in interest by December. So I'm going to be paying $30 more in interest (from the fees) now by taking out the credit card loan, but earning $70 more in interest from my savings account. So that's about the same difference, only I have to pay twice as much per month.

i'm sure it's possible to make money on 0% APR balance transfers. That's not what I did this time because i didn't have any good offers, and even if i did, i'd end up with some 12 month commitment with a savings account in order to make up the money spent on the transfer fee.

The big lesson is that, these credit card loans aren't worth the trouble. They won't help your finances if you already have a decent student loan rate. If you're late on a payment, all this calculation is moot and you're stuck with 19% APR on a credit card debt. For that extra $40 maybe I should have stayed with the nice campus loan - i'll probably blow this interest money on beer next week anyways.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

confessions of a taekwondo addict

yesterday at practice the taekwondo club gave me this black instructor's uniform. you know, kinda like the more traditional instructors wear, that people like me have grown up thinking is silly and outdated. well, i have to admit that after a while it grew on me. it's never going to be a competition uniform, obviously, and people who wear red and blue uniforms with stripes on the shoulders and down the legs are idiots. but having gone to a saturday practice where the instructor was this older korean guy in a black dobok calling out good drills has given the "black instructor uniform" a bit more street cred in my eyes.

but i still have problems with it, such as it's not as comfortable as my nike competition uni. or most of my other unis. it's definitely for some old master who stands around and teaches rather than participates. and i don't really like how it makes me stand out. maybe in a more traditional taekwondo setting where students expect the head instructor to look and act differently it'll be better, but i like to blend in, and kick with the crew. besides, i couldn't wear my warmup with it, so i basically felt like i got no workout.

but that brings me to another topic - what makes a taekwondo club a good club, from both the perspective of a competition oriented person (like me) as well as the perspective of the general public? eugene and i had a long conversation about this last night after tapex. the problem is that a taekwondo club has to have a lot of the expectations of the general public as a traditional martial arts club, in order to attract a large loyal audience. and from that group you can build a competition team - the "real" taekwondo club in my eyes. and i've realized this from maybe last month, that pure competition driven classes will simply make most of your members disinterested, because not everyone can be hardcore about competition.

not to be a martial arts hata but there is a certain unavoidable elitism that you get ingrained with when you train in olympic style taekwondo and start doing a lot of competition. because you can tell who the real athletes and martial artists are, and which clubs are building real taekwondoists and which clubs are just american adoptions of asian curiosities. ahem. but still, props to those clubs because somehow, there's membership loyalty and a sense of structure that's keeping students, and the general public, interested, and unfortunately if that's what it takes to keep a club going, that's what has to be part of the compromise.

alas, i hate to have to follow the traditional martial arts club models - where you have an old venerable master who is the political head, and everyone wears ratty fold-over giis. but structure is important and currently we (UCSD) are still lacking in structure. so my hope is that we can get some sort of general taekwondo curriculum and demo team going soon. because the more a club can appeal to the public's perception of "martial arts clubs" the more you can retain interest, and add a glamorous (and competitionwise useless) demo team to it and you're bound to attract all kinds of flashy martial arts enthusiasts. and despite the potential influx of ego which i look foward to quashing, it's from this that you have to get your actual competition team. and having that source is better than nothing, right?

so come on ucsd, give us our recognition so we can reserve better rooms, better timeslots, and advertise. and come on people, skipping practice isn't the answer to getting better grades. eating too much isn't an excuse to leave practice early. and not going to a tournament because you haven't been to practice will only lead to not going to practice because you don't have a tournament to train for, so come to practice.

Monday, March 5, 2007

musings between work and practice

the second episode of my webzine, or maybe webcomic is better. because it's taken me that long to finally run across a bad pun or joke and i don't actually have any other way to express it. but definitely going to fresh markets makes me eat healthy. or maybe it's just that i'm sick of lean cuisines and the such, and i'm still in my trippy partial vegetarian fad. (it's a backlash to when i was on the atkins.)

but look at what you get to enjoy as a "vegetarian!" given the lack of meat you look for delicious ways to compensate:

again, the most delicious, spreadable, perfectly sized avocados, for only $1 for 6. i've gotten into the habit of just spooning out slivers and placing them over toast much like the little slices over sushi. maybe that's just me being weird with food because i'm still in cutting mode...or, in taekwondo season.

the other thought of the day is a small bit of self congratulations on being money savvy: (yea right)

How to profit from 0% APR balance transfers

and no it's not some spam link i'm posting, it actually makes sense and has made me take a second look at all those fucking annoying "You are prequalified!" balance transfer checks they sent me.

I actually looked at one of the ones they sent today...and called Bank of America, asked about it, and was given a better offer. So i made a balance transfer of $5800 for 1% APR until Dec 07, and $75 fee. I think if i keep it going i MAKE money from this money...but knowing me i've fucked up majorly and instead of having a nice student loan now i have a straight out bank loan. WHAT HAVE I DONE?

but if i dont screw up and do things right for a change i'll have found the answer to all debts in america. provided you were going to pay it off anyways, but now you just get an even better rate, at least for a short period of time.

the dollar store

the wonders of traveling are that you get to go grocery shopping at cheap markets. in order to make my two hour each way drive worth it to go to temple city, CA for taekwondo, i used the trip as an opportunity to restock my fridge. when i stopped at this sketchy gas station somewhere in santa anna, there was a predominantly mexican supermarket next door so i went there to get my monthly supply of fresh low-cost immigrant picked produce.

when i went in the door it was pretty easy to notice that everyone i passed turned and stared at me for a second longer than people usually do. i guess i'm not as dark skinned and mexican looking as john wong. but hey, chinese people like cheap produce too, and even though we prefer to live in neighborhoods like la jolla, we try to shop as cheap as we can when we can.

so i ended up spending like $4.50 for a bunch of veggies. granted i got a lot of low-value stuff like cabbage..but i still don't ever anticipate being able to pay less than $5 at star or ralphs...for anything.

but the kicker is this. when i went to taekwondo later, there was a 99 cent store next door, so i went to get some food and water because i was hungry and hadn't eaten dinner. and this was one of those buy EVERYTHING 99 cent stores, from party supplies to groceries to wine. for future reference, it was on temple city blvd and las tunas rd in temple city.

i got a loaf of bread, a thing of orange marmalade, and a two gallon jug of water (which was 2 for 99 cents) but no fork or knife because i didn't want to get the party pack of 30. then i walked through their wine section and realized...this is a 99 cent store. wine for a buck? i have to try it. i asked the cashier "is this 99 cents?" and she said, "what's the name of this store?"

so now i have two bottles of their white wine - with funky labels such as "el bastardo" and "white lie." nice, sounds like a perfect frat party wine. imagine spending $20 on alcohol for a whole formal's worth of wine, and it's not cheap boxed wine, either.

i opened the el bastardo last night, and turns out this is really TASTY chardonnay. maybe i don't have the most refined of palates, but if i didn't tell you it was cheap wine you'd probably think that it was a decent, drinkable dinner white wine. i had it with a lean cuisine of turkey and green beans. almost like a thanksgiving meal, but for the po' folks.

the thing about wine is that it makes me eager. in real life, and in the video game world. (yes, i was drinking alone, while playing video games. fuck off) i was playing elder scrolls iv: oblivion, and it came to a point when i could no longer really control the character well - my understanding of what was happening and the need for stealth was gone. in one fight i simply charged in, started slacking and hacking at the enemy and just stood there taking hits like a drunk ass...and i killed him and won. and that's what 99 cent wine does to you and your character.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

sorry about the downtime. it's been a busy week, building usb drivers and teaching taekwondo and the such. that's life. at least, this weekend is 80 degrees (yet the water temp is still 57.)

i'm in between tournaments, so that means i'm enjoying plenty of food and drink. a part of me knows that i'm going to let go once i retire from competition, because even though i know there's like only 3 weeks until the next bantamweight weighins, there's basically 0 motivation for me to cut weight. that just means i have to train twice as hard, and that's why i'll be going to LA tonight to spar.

my goal has been to get my taekwondo legs back. as in, when i was in the INCTL for some reason my muscular development through taekwondo was different. maybe it was the constant biking? even on the flat roads of boston, the sheer mileage probably had an effect on my leg strength. anyway, now i think i've slowly started to lose leg muscle again, so my goal is to become like Dae Sung Moon.

sabumnim asked me for my INCTL record today, and in trying to remember what medals i've gotten over the last 5 years, i've come up with two things. one, my record is not that impressive. maybe by the sheer bulk of tournaments and competitions i've done, i've become something of a name at MIT, but looking over it, my resume is still littered with silvers, bronzes, and "competitor, 2005 Collegiate Nationals" rather than "Gold Medal, etc". of course, i like it that way. it's more colorful than someone who's pure "Gold", which really tells you nothing about their person. and maybe it's the thrill of winning and threat of defeat that makes it all that much more interesting - i would rather be remembered for heart more than achievement.

second, i've dug up my old collection of The Tech articles that have taekwondo results. I think i have an almost complete collection since 2002, when my ex-girlfriend gave me a scrap book with all of 2002-2003 collected. There's sort of a blank for 2003-2004, then I picked up collecting the articles again from 2004-2006. And looking back is like seeing history in your hands, but with your name in it as well. the papers are by now browned, wrinkled, starting to need some archiving and preservation like the declaration of independence. and even in the writing you can relive all the moments - from the time of my FIRST tournament at Yale 2003, which i remember almost better than my last tournament at Columbia 2006, to the moment our club was recognized, to winning collegiate nationals at Bridgeport. And excuse me for being purely selfish, but it's amazing to read about myself, and see from one article to the next, how i go from green belt to blue to red to blackbelt, winning and losing throughout the years. i think this would be true for anyone.

if i could i would share these articles. if i could only get old copies of the tech, i would send them out to the current MIT team and say to them, "See here! This is your legacy. These are your founders, your teachers, and your current peers. Don't let them down! Rise up and join them and become a part of the history and name of MIT Sport Taekwondo." And that's how nationalism developed and took over the world. All in the name of a few memorable years.