Monday, July 30, 2007

currency of life

I've realized that money means nothing. Coming from a relatively poor chinese family, I've always learned that saving is important, and that reckless spending, even nonreckless spending, is hard to justify. Even up until college I was frugal. There are two distinct monetary moments I remember. When I started regularly paying off credit card bills when living at phi sig, there was a day when I realized my bills were consistently $200-300 or more, and I thought then that I was definitely moving up in society, because my bills were SO high. (now I think my bills are about $1000 per month.) Another time, I had gone to Tanglewood with some friends, when I realized the ticket to get in was $18 at the door. Of course I couldn't back out or make my friends leave, and I wasn't going to sit outside and wait for them to finish the concert. I paid the $20 ever so reluctantly and it literally felt like i was wrenching a body part from my wallet. But after the concert it was almost a release to have paid that money.

Money. I believe that once one has fulfilled a (relatively high) goal of achieving some small measure of wealth, there is no need to make further money - any more is limited by diminishing returns. I think that once your personal value goes beyond a certain number, say $100000, the numbers really don't mean anything anymore. But no one is every really rich if, socially, they are deprived of experiences that human beings really need to thrive. And often, it is the poorer people that actually are wealthy in social capital, because they are freer to experience the world as it should be. But I have no illusions that money isn't everything and that it is possible to be happy without it.

Over a lifetime, one will inevitably go from spending $3 average on a big mac as a kid and thinking "mcdonalds prices are going up, uh oh" to spending an average of $15 per person and thinking that it is a "great deal". In the end it all comes down to dollar signs and symbols that only abstractly represent some sort of wealth. Originally, after the barter system was replaced with a coinage system, money represented tangible assets such as heads of cattle, but now I feel that society has lost the true meaning of the dollar. For the rich or rich wannabe, a tiny cocktail that costs $15 is no surprise. Money has become dispensible. But the wealth that it buys is now invaluable - social capital.

And that's what I really seek. To be rich in social capital makes all other concerns pointless.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It's funny that surfing, eating, being at the beach, and everything I do all the time seems so much better when friends are with you. Sometimes I wish that I could have Boston during the week and San Diego during the weekends. At least, weekends once a month or something like that..kind of like a vacation.

Actually I've decided that I will really miss California. Maybe it's one of those situations where you're always longing for the thing you don't have, but soon I think San Diego will be just a memory that I'll miss. And it's not necessarily that I liked the weather that much, or that downtown or the suburbs themselves were any special, or even the fact that there is surf here. But I think that any place or experience ultimately gets defined by the people you end up knowing during that time.

If I were to stay in San Diego, I think I would be very happy with the way I get to see my friends. I am perfectly fine driving up to LA once in a while. The distance makes each visit to Costa Mesa, then to Inglewood, and now up to Culver City, a more worthwhile and meaningful trip. Now that Hyon is living in LA, there would be a network of Phi Sigs, going from San Diego all the way up to the UCLA area. Anyone could make a roadtrip through SoCal and have a place to crash every night.

And that's exactly what Beeg did this weekend, basically roadtripping over most of California with Tiff, Susan, and Patricio. We celebrated Hyon's birthday Friday, complete with a 5 am trip to BCD Tofu house. And that's when I realized that my understanding of California has begun to solidify. I am able to take people to good places to eat, sleep, party because I have experienced enough of California to start to play host to a very very small fraction of it.

On the way home was an interesting mental game of communication as cars. I was following Tiff as she drove down to SD, and later I went ahead to lead them to Sei's. But during that time in my mind I amuzed myself by thinking of how to communicate to them purely by responding to a lead (for example, changing lanes) and using the blinkers and high beams to signal things. And I realized that I'm one of those people that would imagine and overanalyze any such signal, much like people read into nuances over AIM a bit too much. For example I'd think of a complex way to indicate that we should change lanes (when I was in the back) then I'd also think of ways to tell them that I was going to change lanes to get ahead of them, but that they shouldn't do it too. Of course, the other car probably didn't notice anything.

This morning we made it to La Jolla Shores beach. Beeg and I were both amazed at the surf today. La Jolla Shores' turquoise waters were clear enough to see the shadow of the surf board five feet deep. Then we played at the Cove while waiting for the rest of the group to return from lunch. I think I have some prescient ability to find members of a part that are separated, because we randomly parked after not being able to call them on the phone, and there was the other car parked right across the street. So now I have gained the dangerous trust in my ability, if planning doesn't go well and a party gets separated, to find them and reunite the lost.

After thoroughly enjoying the food offered by Convoy ktown restaurants, we said goodbye over bags of spicy chicken. It's back to life as usual, I guess, Your usual week of labor so that weekends like the last could happen.

the west coast chill factor

Maybe it's also a korean chill factor, although hyon's roommate proved that not all koreans are like that. But I've definitely come to appreciate truly chill people.

I've always been an intense person, sometimes in an up and down way, but I like feeling so pumped up or dedicated to something that it's almost scary. Like cutting weight. Or getting road rage. But then sometimes I wish I could just let it all go and honestly be able to chill, because I reall respect those types of people, who can give to friends freely, forgive mistakes, and always be down for anything.

and whats with those surfers who are so antagonistic? chill, bra. not everyone is as good as you so give me some fuckin slack. its sad to say that surfers who ask if youre ok first if you crash, they are the exception, not the norm.

Friday, July 27, 2007

is it the weekend yet?

No fool, it's thursday. And you skipped taekwondo to go to sushi deli. Which was delicious, and cheap. But who could resist starting the weekend early? Not the AT&T salesperson, who, as I strolled in the door at 7:55, was so eager to close shop that he simply replaced my burned cellphone charger with one they had in the back shelves. That's why you stroll in at 7:55.

So tonight at 11:59 it's going to be the Simpsons movie at edwards mira mesa! I'm excited and not at the same time. They've been advertising it so much, with 7-11s turning into kwikimarts all over california, it's hard not to want to see it. But then somehow I feel that it's going to be two hours of the Simpsons. The movie had better be damn good, because you could sit through hours of the Simpsons just watching reruns and it would be still hella entertaining. Yes I said hella, damn you Paul.

On the other hand, I think HogWild said it the best:

"The Simpsons has outlasted the popularity of beepers, Arsenio Hall, Milli Vanilli, and the Commodore 64 computer."

But even with the late beginning to my Friday (I'll probably roll in around 11 am tomorrow) I'm going to have to make like a bush and get the hell out of the office early. (wow that works on two levels!) Because I give myself about 4 hours to make it through LA traffic, so I can get up to Irvine, pick up Ed Song, go to LA, meet up with Hyon Lee who is now living in LA for the next year, bringing the grand total of Socal Phi Sigs briefly up to 4. Also, Beeg is coming down after an 8 hour drive from SanFran, with his board, and we'll hit up some bars friday night and the beach saturday. That why I can't wait for the weekend because it's going to be HELLA sweet. (I hate you Paul)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

political punditry, stewart style

There is a light in today's political darkness. It airs daily on the Comedy Central and is hosted by "either the most intelligent funny man on TV or the most funny intelligent man on tv", Jon Stewart.

Yes, I'm talking about the Daily Show, the people's source for trustworthy and entertaining news in this time of political and media incompetence.

Because I have no cable at home (though we get two channels, but I'm not big on TV) or newspapers my news sources are NPR on the way to work, digg (which is mostly geeky timewasters), and lately, the Daily Show through the Comedy Central dot com.

Sure, you might say, "That's an awfully skewed source of news. digg and comedy central can't really even be considered news. And it's probably leftist just based on the medium." But you know what? When I watch Jon Stewart I'm hearing all the same headlines I get from the radio, but now, with the help of vastly out of context video clips, is suddenly funny and surprisingly relevant. That's right kids, politics is fun!

But despite Jon being a comedian, I feel that he truly believes in the responsibility of the media to inform and help the people. And by making fun of it, I think the Comedy Central is actually working out better as a media outlet than, oh, say CNN. (but the most notorious, according to digg users, must be FOX.)

Well you can decide for yourself. Comedian Jon Stewart is the only one NOT a clown on crossfire:

"If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you're more than welcome! ... You're on CNN! The show leading into mine is puppets making crank phone calls!"

so basically I'm addicted to the daily show now. i can't get enough of jon stewart's horrible impersonations. Click here to get your Daily news.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

best fight scene ever


it's one of the worst fight scenes ever, from strike of the panther. read the article first and then watch the movie with the sound off. maybe the sound on, but i'd think that would make it too painful to see all the way through. a fight clip hasnt made me laugh like this since the englishmen fight in bridget jones' diary. yes, i watched that movie. rene zellweger's a great actress.

and i just noticed that one of the people in that scene (the bridget jones scene) is gaius from BSG!


actually, the worst fight scene ever is undefeatable which I had seen on some other digg site earlier. the slomo in the beginning is awesome. and at one point you can see the guy grabbed the wrong part of the arm of his attacker, and they both spend about 5 seconds correcting it before he commences eye gouging.

i should put up my fight video filmed in the z center oh so many years ago.


There's something to be said about the excitement one has upon discovering that he has ice cream in the freezer. Yeah, because I never actually have ice cream or cookies, today when opened my fridge to look for food I was exceedingly happy to remember that I had bought french vanilla ice cream. Yet I still have no other food. If I had a whole fridge to myself, which I will soon, it will be a colossal waste of space.

The other thing that is nice to have are clean sheets. I figure that I might as well wash them before packing them, possibly for long term storage. Then I figured I might as well enjoy the cleanliness before I pack them, even though they won't be as pristine when I seal up the box. It's the same as washing your car or fixing it. Right before you decide to sell your car, it's time to get a tune up, wash it, fix the dents. But why not do it while you still own it, and can enjoy it? Just like a house. Before you sell it, you do some remodeling. Why not put in that extra fireplace while you're still living in it?

I guess humans are creatures of habit. And lazy. And once in a while, easily made happy by the discovery of a box of ice cream. I read a short work of nonfiction that described some psychology study about how we always misestimate the affect certain events will have on our happiness - the results showed that a good event will be "good" for less time and less intensely than we expect, but also that a bad event will make us unhappy for less time and less intensely than we expect. But I think sometimes events that you don't expect anything at all will make you happy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It's almost August, and I've been trying to find a day that would motivate me enough to start blogging again. That day hasn't come. But I think the tidbits that have happened every day since BEFORE senior nationals have slowly accumulated into a story worth telling, and at the risk of losing a whole sunday afternoon during which I have had nothing else to do but air my sheets in the sun, here is in brief everything that has been.


Nationals was as hectic as usual, and even more so because our crew was divided over two days. Maybe that made it a bit better in terms of not having to run around watching ten matches at the same time, but it made us have to deal with sparring, warming up, writing down brackets, etc. for two days instead of the usual one. Day two was delayed ridiculously. Most of our matches started at, maybe 6 pm, forcing Conor to have to debate whether he'd have to miss his airplane to actually spar. To quote Alicia, "It gives new meaning to fight or flight."

The day before, we all had a nice dinner at the Spaghetti factory that turned into a reunion of three sort of separate, sort of cohesive groups of people. During a tournament, spaghetti always tastes so good.

Alicia's visit to SD

Alicia visited me in San Diego afterwards, which was great because that trip had passed way too quickly. Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring our free Southwest drink coupons. Not that we wanted to put anything else in our stomachs after the usual post-tournament binging.

We had a good time winetasting at Orfila Vineyards, and bought a great bottle of Gewurztraminer. Their brandy infused port tasted just as good as it did last time i went.

We also went downtown, where I was, in a drunken stupor, amazed by the extremely low prices at Sushi Deli. It's great sushi, at ridiculously low prices. I am amazed. I will be going again next week, maybe more than once.

Surf addiction

Since taekwondo is somewhat on the backburner now, I've been able to find time to participate in my other love in sports: surfing. (tennis and racketball are kind of a given, not a love). And as I wonder how I'll be able to live without the rolling waves in Boston, I've taken every opportunity to go surf this past week.

Except I think I'm surfed out, at least for the time being. On friday I had some runins with a few dick surfers who actually yelled at me for running into them. Well, I feel bad for not being as good as them, but hey, the wave hit me by surprise, ok? I'm sorry I have a real job and aren't as good on the board.

So instead of sunning myself, I'm letting my blankets soak up the rays today. That way I will have nice sunny bedding on the way back to Boston.

Friday, July 6, 2007

buying happiness

people say you can't buy happiness, but i don't think that's true. definitely when i'm stressed the only thing that can make me feel better is shopping. yeah i sound like a woman but there have been times after tough exams at mit where i felt like i needed to waste the rest of the day at the galleria. actually during that time it was more that i went to petco to buy more aquarium supplies. i was a fishtank addict.

now my big goal i'm looking forward to is stocking up my new apartment. since i'm practically moving to a completely new place empty handed, i'm going to be buying a ton of things. mostly it's the kitchen that is going to need novation (renovation, but not re-). i also will be getting a couch and tv for the living room at some point...but those aren't as essential. so today i went to linens n things because they had a sale, and got a toaster oven and vacuum cleaner. these are things i've never owned in my life before...and it's exciting.

yes i know buying happiness is only a temporary thing, i'm under no illusions. it simply means i will be seeking out new things to buy in the near future. such as, a baby grand piano. maybe i SHOULD get that four room apartment, so i can make one of the rooms a piano room.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

happy 4th...or is it?

it's fourth of july and i'm at work because i'm a nerdy workaholic and i have to finish some stuff before taking a vacation next week. but still i'd rather sit at my computer and blog about the state of our nation this 4th of july.

if you're like me and get your news from the internet and various blogs rather than networked news channels, you'll see that there's a lot of bullshit going on in washington, especially from our number 1 failure Dubya and his sidekick, or is cheney the real evil behind the scenes?

and there's been action for impeachment. yes, the american people are actually sick of bush and cheney, and congress might grow some balls and actually take action. but honestly i don't think there's any real point in doing it now. unless you get a real statement out, ie someone actually goes to jail, these calls for impeachment will end up just a handwaving gesture to appease the public until bush finishes his second term, happily retiring to his ranch much like paris hilton has happily retreated to hawaii after her sad excuse for a jail sentence.

i'm no political pundit so all i'm writing is purely a subjective, probably ill-informed opinion based on what i read and hear. after all, life for the average (relatively well off, middle class, white or as close to white as possible) american is just fine. but there's a gut feeling that the way the us is going probably won't be good for us in the near future, or for our children. what happens when the US becomes a surveillance state like britain has unknowingly become? what happens when our foreign relations are so down the drain that there's a large possibility of another real terrorist attack? in fact, just because of that fearful attitude, our lives have already been compromised. but we've been at it so long that americans are used to widespread id checks, long airport lines, internet surveillance.

so what do we have to celebrate for this 4th of july? i almost refused to celebrate today...partly because i shouldnt barbeque because i'm cutting weight, but also to complain about the US. why should i be patriotic? why should i salute our flag, which is being used to run illegal wars, abroad and at home? why should i be proud of a nation that originally voted this idiot into office, and still supports him to some degree?

but then i realized that to celebrate the fourth purely for our times is arrogant and unjustified. the 4th of july is symbolic of the history of the united states, and the original founding of a great nation that has only recently strayed from its path. this date represents the genius and foresight of our fathers - washington, jefferson, adams, madison, hamilton. it does not represent any sort of bush at all. i will salute their ideas that america was founded on the principle of freedom and democracy. jefferson was the original american advocate of small government and feared exactly what would happen today. his secretary of state and next president, james madison, stated that a president should be impeached if he is suspected of protecting anyone associated with him for a crime he had a hand in. just like libby. (from daily kos) so it looks like the fourth of july represents everything right about our nation...and everything wrong about today.

so celebrate the 4th like you mean it. drink the beer and eat the burgers, but remember what they are for. this nation needs it.

i swear allegiance...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

july 1st

today i finished the manga "monster" by naoki urasawa. it is absolutely riveting. i couldn't put it down for the last week or so. at first i was able to read about one volume a day, but yesterday and today i went through four or five. and for a little while in the afternoon i was lost between reality and some strange mix of international espionage, murder mysteries, child psychology, and tidbits of moral lessons about family and normality. and for a while i couldnt distinguish between la jolla, ca, and frankfurt, dusseldorf, and other eastern european cities.

and then i was reading some articles about basic science questions and was once again shocked at the incompetence of basic american science knowledge. which means, i realized my own knowledge was sufficently deficient that i needed badly to get to a library, pronto. that's how i rediscovered the "public library", and got a library card to the san diego public library system.

at the la jolla library, i searched for the fundamentals. a post-mtv, blog generation internet addict like me has less of an attention span than a high schooler, so i decided the best way to approach my reeducation would be to search the children's section for science fundamentals books. and that's what i got...the thinner, more pictures available, rudimentary explainations, the better. of course i threw in a few history/social science books (the atlas of our presidents and their times!) and i wanted a book about all of america's wars, but they were only available at the downtown library.

so now i have my summer reading. i ended up reabsorbing some basic physics over a glass of whiskey at the pool. i'm hoping that between manga and science, i can eventually become a great doctor like monster's kenzo tenma. the moral of this story is: find the library. turn off that computer.