Wednesday, December 31, 2008

buying a house part 3

first of all, happy new years. i think i was afraid that 2008 would pass quite uneventfully because, after moving every year and making a major change (school to grad school to job to different job) this year was relatively stable. it's like i'm abandoning my life as an urban cowboy secret agent and *gasp* settling down to one lifestyle. but i guess if i did one thing to upset the status quo and prove to myself that i'm not becoming old and complacent (but still making some attempt to move up in life), it's to have jumped headfirst, almost blindly, into buying a foreclosed home.

today we had our house inspection, done by Mr. Paul Maida, a very thorough and well recommended inspector. he had a funny speech habit of sometimes ending the last two sentences with very drawn out, emphatic syllables, which made you really listen. we scheduled the inspection for 10 am for four hours, but my officemate herb had said that he spent a full four hours on a 1 floor condo, so he naturally spent about 7 hours on our 2.5 story building.

we found a lot of interesting notes about the house. first, when we came in that morning, the dewinterization process, which a plumber had done in 5 minutes earlier, revealed that there were some large cracks in the 2nd floor heating. ie, we saw that water had accumulated in the light fixture on the first floor and was flooding the living room, and when we went up to the 2nd floor, there was a cloud of fog basically because the steam from the boiler was continuously coming out and there was brownish liquid all over the 2nd floor kitchen. naturally we called eugene to complain, and he was fairly upset too. between paul and jordan complaining to him, i felt that i no longer needed to hire a real lawyer.

other problems we found were that the far room in the house had a mold problem stemming from the roof, which was relatively flat and not sealed right. unfortunately there's a nice deck which was not leveled, and also right on top of the sealing, so if we were to truly clean up the room, we'd have to demolish the deck and redo the ceiling. ugh.

but other than that, the inspection went very thoroughly and well. we were tired but satisfied that this house would be a lot of work, but probably still be a good buy.

so at this point, we've finished the inspection, signed and received a copy of the executed P&S contract, and locked in the interest rate with the mortgage company. let's take a break to celebrate the new years, and begin next year with a bang. as long as it's not from the full propane tank that was stored next to the boiler.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

back in boston

nc said goodbye with a full body patdown; boston welcomed me with a spectacular sunset

i'm home (Boston) and i'm feeling fine.

overall, my trip home was fine - no major incidents, some bonding with the family over photography (the one thing they seem to give approval, at least for now) and a lot of gaming (level 22 in two days in diablo 2).

i made it to the airport with the usual rush - a hastily cooked and eaten lunch, followed by the dawdling driving of my dad and my mom telling him to go left or right and to step on the gas.

when i got to the airport security line, the first person checking tickets stamped my ticket and yelled, "We need an escort." so i looked around but there were no wheelchairs or handicapped people around...then a smiling TSA agent came and said, "hello, you're one of the lucky ones selected by your airline for a SPECIAL screening. please come with me."

oh great. they showed me the ticket that had a serial number that indicated i was randomly selected. notice how, since it's the hoidays, there are little friendly christmas tree hole punches to make the whole process jolly.

fortunately i had changed my flight to a later delta direct flight rather than the continental flight that, despite being delayed, was leaving in 15 minutes. and luckily it was only a full body patdown and thorough bag search and not a body cavity check. the agent commented on my camera and asked if i was a professional photographer, while he put my camera upside down on the table, and almost tore the lens cap cover off trying to look through the lens to verify it was actually a lens, and not a grenade. but he was friendly and even got down on his hands and feet to find a quarter that had fallen out of my wallet.

well, the direct flight was nice because i could just sleep the whole trip. when i woke up near the end of the flight, it was dark outside except for some beautiful streaks of red from the setting sun, and i realized that i had a camera that would actually be able to capture a bit of the essence of that beauty.

the remaining sunlight
over our wing
the moon
over boston

Sunday, December 28, 2008

north carolina

when i found that remington grill is not just a chain restaurant, but a chain restauraunt that only exists in central NC, it became a must stop location. i used to go there with my high school tennis team and we'd order the all you can eat ribs until they'd ask "this will be your last plate, right, sir?" and we'd glare and say just cook up some more ribs.

today, it's 72 degrees in north carolina and it feels like a straight up summer barbeque. the whole restaurant was slightly smokey with a hickory haze just sitting over your head. after we ordered our all you can eat ribs, i noticed a selection of beer, and decided that what the hell, having a beer with ribs in a family restaurant is so typical of the south. it's not quite like actually being at a bbq festival, but for being in the middle of a strip mall, lunch at remington grill was pretty awesome.

and have you read this article about a eugenics program in north carolina?

North Carolina may pay reparations for eugenics program that lasted until 1975

they sterilized handicapped or "inferior" people from 1929 to 1975. that's the south that i grew up in. but looking around remington grill, and being in NC in general, maybe it was my imagination but maybe the eugenics program had some lasting effects. maybe that's why there were so SO hot pretty girls in NC. and there are definitely those who obviously were NOT part of the eugenics program. i know it sounds bad, the damage has been done, but NC is now reaping the benefits, hahaha.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

manhattan in pictures

i'm not a big fan of new york but this is a great example of the type of photography i would love to make of boston.

Manhattan in Pictures from Demonicious

i love low to the ground images. especially if they are action shots.

i want to capture peoples' expressions and faces straight on. i'm always afraid they'd get mad about getting their pictures taken though.

there is also a homeless population in boston, and i find them more interesting to photography, but also more scary. maybe photographing them more will change that perspective.

i always look for framing a distant shot like this

new template settings

sorry about the rapid changes and sorry if the colors suck. i'm trying out new templates because i decided the old blogger template was too boring.

my home is boston

being "home" in north carolina is seriously a void that pulls away all my motivation and creativity. maybe it's just that i fall back into a lifestyle where i didn't try to leave the sphere of my home and school and explore the real nc. but nonetheless i feel no drive to either go out and photograph what could be amazing landscape, or to go and explore a more grown up raleigh that sprung up after i left for boston.

maybe there's something to having a large holiday event. that means, you arrive at some family member's house for an evening, have dinner, mingle with family, catch up, do what you gotta do, then the next day it's done and you are free to return to your normal life. there's no reason for me to really stay in my old (but not really the same) room again, live at home for a few days as if that would bring back the olden times. and then when we go our separate ways at the end of the break, it's only to a sense of dissatisfaction and time lost, and an era never to be recovered.

tomorrow i am going to escape the monotony of home and go out with some friends from college. hah, even here i try to bring boston back. but maybe i'm only trying to escape from the guilt that we are failing to fulfill our duties as a family during the holidays. of course i feel guilty for not really trying to be familial. but sometimes i'd really just rather stay in boston. alas, that is the shared sentiment of more than just a few of my friends, and mostly the asian ones.

maybe the disfunctionality arises from the incredible generation AND cultural gap between our parents, who immigrated as poor intellectuals, and us, who grew up embracing american culture and barely clinging on to any old customs and values our parents had. but this gap was also greatly exaggerated by my transition from high school in north carolina to college in boston. so now there is a time, distance, and social distance that prevents me from really finding satisfaction in life in north carolina, which is probably better consigned to my memories of a colorful and hopeful past. my future, and my present, is in boston, and my mind longs for it even on the first night back home.

Friday, December 26, 2008

slumdog millionaire and the art of visual media

i watched slumdog millionaire today. and decided that i'm not going to waste my money on mainstream hollywood pics anymore. because not only was the story more intriguing, but the camerawork was so much more creative, and didn't use any big budget special effects.

and i've realized that just like a good slr makes photography immediately that much bigger, a hd camcorder would make films that much more professional looking. all of my practice with the nikon today made me really able to see all the changes in focus, all the framing, etc in slumdog millionaire. and i think because part of the appeal is the film's artistic camera techniques, the camera work was really, really thorough.

so i decided we'll HAVE to get a hd camcorder, with variable zoom, and all that good stuff. the nikon d90 does take 1280x960 video up to 5 minutes...maybe that'll be a start.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

boston on christmas day

i walked around boston for about 3 hours today. when i woke up it was sunny, and i had to struggle to make myself get out of bed, but i think it was worth it for the sun.

today was a really nice day. it was warm enough to not have to bundle up ridiculously. i walked from the harvard bridge (mass ave) to newbury, then boylston street. when i walked through the boston gardens, john mayer was playing in my ipod - "one day i finally overcame - trying to fit the world inside a picture frame" and i thought how ironic. but it's ok, the d90 images won't come out 3x5.

here is my flickr photostream for boston on christmas day

lost gloves

snowman and family

squirrels are fat enough to survive the boston winter

newberry street, colorful and closed

a father hit his son with a snowball

homeless for the holidays

merry christmas

happy holidays!

a few test shots with my d90:

first closeup subject

closeup and colors

closeup and depth



cable mess closeup

kitchen depth test

kitchen depth test 2

bella portrait

nph musical

i never watched doogie howser but ever since harold and kumar go to white castle, i've been a big neil patrick harris fan. and now there's this awesome musical starring nph:

it also adds to my love of musicals! i think a taekwondo musical has to be in the works.

there are some great quotes from captain hammer:

"i am not the hammer. (walks away. walks back) my penis is the hammer."
"i hate the homeless.....ness problem that plagues our city."
"i might sleep with the same girl twice. they say it's better the second time, you get to do the freaky stuff."
penny: "it's thanks to you." (captain hammer shakes head) "no, it's thanks to me"

and some from dr horrible:

"i have a phd in horribleness."
"it's about destroying the status quo because the status, is NOT quo."
"hey didn't you go out on a date last night? conflict diamond told me you went out with bait and switch." "yea, it was alright. i kinda thought i was supposed to end up with bait."
"what a crazy happenstance!"
"sometimes there's a third, even deeper level, and that one is the same as the top surface with pie."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

buying a home pt 2

i got a call from eugene the realtor today, saying our offer was accepted!!!111ONEOneone he said in his slow, drawling voice, "you know, it was close...close...but we got it for you." that means, fools, you offered about $20k more than the closest. haha, i'm going out to celebrate tomorrow.

but, we've got an offer acceptance, so now suddenly it's becoming super, super scary. the seller wants 24 hour turnaround, so given tomorrow is christmas, we need to send in two things by friday: a signed purchase and sale agreement, and a bank check for the downpayment. this is the moment where i say "i thought my d90 was an impulse buy. but this is on a completely different scale." and i panic because having to sign something and hand over a check is like putting the first nail in the coffin lid. it's not quite done yet, but you are already feeling panicked and suffocated.

so now we have to talk to the inspector to schedule an inspection. and the mortgage agent, to finalize the mortgage and officially put me back into debt. OMG WTF IS GOING ON!?

i have to admit, though, not yet judging whether this is good or bad, that it is more exciting that this all happened so fast. (ok, it's probably bad.) yet i also had a brief moment of panic when i realized that my cash reserves are at a low, and i'd have to be resourceful to put together our downpayment, because i'd recently paid off a large debt that was at 0% interest and could have waited one month more, but that was before i knew i'd buy a house. i hope people don't say one day, "it's people like you who made the economy the way it is, buying houses you can't afford."

holiday movie list

a list to remind myself of more movies to watch over holiday break.

slumdog millionaire
waltz with bashir
the curious case of benjamin button
the diving bell and the butterfly
meet bill
in 2009, "9" (produced by tim burton - looks cool:)

there's one other movie about a girl in a hospital where a soldier tells her a story every night...i forget what it's called, it's bothering me alot. it might have been a never released movie.

1001 nights - randomly ran across this, has full movie online, might be interesting

"hits" from the summer
tropic thunder (maybe....ehhh, it'll take the right mood)
i discovered there's a movie guide on fandango! it's kind of cool to see when all the movies have come out or were popular. so many movies get some ad time then just disappear from the public memory.

christmas movie classics: only counts if seen on TBS or some cable channel - also on fandango's holiday list
how the grinch stole christmas
a nightmare before christmas (another tim burton movie)
edward scissor hands (tim burton!!)
a christmas story
charlie brown's christmas special

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

buying a home, part 1

so i guess i've taken a step into purchasing my first house. i think it might be useful to try to document step by step the process we go through, whether it works out or not, so that if anyone else is doing it, or if i decide to go at it again sometime in the near future, there will be a resource here.

basically, some friends i found a foreclosure property in somerville that is very interesting. i say interesting because i have no sense of somerville/cambridge properties, values, what constitutes good or bad, etc. we (but not me personally) had searched for a long time and last week came across this listing:

PROSPECT ST, Somerville, MA 02143**
Beds: 5 Type: MFR Sq. Ft.: 2,057 Lot Size: 1,536 Sq. Ft.
Baths: 2/0 Built: 1900 $/Sq.Ft.: List Date: 11/10/08 On Market: 43 days
List Price: Price reduced

it's been months since i saw anything affordable that wasn't a 100 sq ft condo. so over a bowl of chili we decided to go take a look, and yesterday we scheduled a visit with the bank's realtor to visit. after about half an hour waiting in the bitter cold, the agent arrives (for his first viewing of the house too) and we take a look around inside the two floor, 1 attic, 1 basement, 5 bedroom (with an additional two rooms in the attic) house.

Initial impressions

again, i would describe it as "interesting." it's an old house, obviously, and with a decent amount of work could be made to be really nice. the heating system is old (there are pipes sticking out of the walls as a radiator system...i have never seen anything like it) and if the carpet is replaced and the walls repainted, i think each tiny bedroom can made to not look like a drab madhouse. but the two kitchens are decently sized and pretty nice, and there are three levels of porches out back.

outside, the house is *immediately* next two a U-Save car rental place. and by immediately, i mean i think one of the vans had backed up too far and knocked over the chain linked fence between the U-Save lot and our walkway to the back yard. On the other side is some sort of condo, but past that is a place called "Creative Ironworks." so not the most friendly neighborhood to raise twin babies (hypothetically), for sure.

Making the bid

after we expressed interest in the house, the real estate agent left us with some paperwork in order to make an offer. We spent a few hours at the office filling out paperwork, doing a preapplication for a mortgage loan, and writing a check. the first check is something to prove we have a bank account and is never used. we emailed the papers and the scanned check to the agent, and now we await approval. upon approval (as in we are the highest bidders and now are allowed to talk with the seller) we'll be able to do an inspection, and be paying 5% downpayment, a portion of that going initially into escrow.

Getting the money

the loan we applied for was through MITFCU, but it turns out they work through Members Mortgage which is a partner for credit unions. I talked with John McSherry on the phone today and we got through a lot of the questions that were on my "Conditions of Approval". Some items include:

- private mortgage insurance is required - because we downpay <20% of the cost, we are required to purchase this.
- proof of debts paid off from loan proceeds - i had indicated that a large sized credit card debt was recently paid off. this actually increased our requirement of proving we have $xx assets on hand, which is still counterintuitive to me. John cancelled that, and put back my debt into the credit report, but that lessened the total cash assets we needed to have by that much. still makes no sense.
- interior/exterior appraisal - will be arranged by the mortgage company after we receive approval of the offer.

So there you have it. It seems like we are just waiting to hear back about our offer, and then we are going to get the house inspected. If nothing major is wrong, looks like we're going to be purchasing a property, which could be a huge headache or an awesome project for the next few months/years.

the dusk of time

i am a silver maned fox. i have one streaking beacon of a white hair right in the front of my hair. i guess it's that time of my life...when you reach the height, and it's all downhill from here. hm, thinking about it, it is my midlife crisis...i bought some expensive things this christmas. but the good thing is, the ladies love a man with some frosting on his chocolate...cream in the coffee, snow on the mountain of black, black, forest of hair.

the mother of invention

over christmas break, i plan to watch a lot of indie movies. they seriously require actual effort and genius to make, rather than just a few hundred million dollars and lots of computer effects.

here's a trailer to a movie that looks really funny. unfortunately they're looking for distributors so it doesn't seem like it's out yet.

the main actor is like a fat, lispy, mulletted leonardo dicaprio. his acting is genuine and shameless (from what i've seen in the trailer). it looks like the whole movie will be good, and the jokes in the trailer aren't the only ones in the movie.

other films i'm hoping to see (but will have to rent or go to the theatres) - this is a list for my own reference when i'm sitting at home with no motivation to do anything:

slumdog millionaire
waltz with bashir

Monday, December 22, 2008

rubiks and legos

this is pretty cool. vision systems + robotics + kids toys = lego's rubiks cube solver.

The Tilted Twister

obviously not a speed cuber, but very impressive, given it takes a scan to initially encode the algorithms. this is done visually based on the colors, so it must have a pretty smart vision system.

and it's all done through lego mindstorms. if you have a kid, definitely, definitely buy him/her a lego mindstorms kit at an early age. it will bode well for the future of all humanity.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


photos from last year's xmas. lets see if they've gotten any fatter this year.

dream diary

ok just because it's interesting and maybe i'll try to start remembering dreams so i can train myself to become a lucid dreamer, here is a summary of what happened in my head last night. it's strange like a huge drama. there are tidbits of everything and everyone who i interacted with/talked about yesterday. i wish i could make a movie out of it but once it's outside of my dream it wont be as interesting.

1 - talking with k.c. in a house while a hurricane raged outside. i think we were talking about c.c. swimming with boys in lakes.
2 - h.c. breaking up with her boyfriend who just turned 18 and wanted sex. she ran out of the building crying. i went after her. when we returned to talk about it, her father grilled me and gave me a lecture about saying hi while maintaining eye contact.
3 - playing soccer or football, and seeing a 12 year old kid with a hand cast catch the ball, and hurt himself. cfm goes over there to check out the rebroken hand and to give advice based his own injuries, which was unappreciated.
4 - playing dodgeball with cfm with three baseball caps. we were jumping around in a large bedroom in the woods, doing matrix style dodges. this might have then morphed into the big house with a hurricane.
5 - mary, sharon, jordan and anye walking up the steps to mass ave. mary asking for someone's iphone so she could check facebook, and asked that our website be made compatible for a smaller screen.
6 - going to a friend's boat and finding that he was having a party. auggie was there (phi sig auggie, not tkd auggie) and we played cds off of a wireless stereo that also had a tape deck.

i dont think i drank anything last night...what an interesting night.

saturday night finds

today i'm just chillin at home because not that many people are around anymore, and frankly, my body's getting too old to party wednesday, thursday, friday AND saturday night. so i'm finding out that a hoodie and earphones are enough to make your couch into a personal theatre.

here is a cool time lapse video of the sunrise over san francisco:

Twin Peaks San Francisco Sunrise (HDR time-lapse) from Chad Richard on Vimeo

aside from being a super beautiful piece of time lapse photography, it also leads me to my other note, that i bought a Nikon D90 camera kit! i bought the body from amazon, and the 18-105mm lens from rene. although it's no D700 which the author of the above video used, it has a lot of other cool features i can't wait to try out. besides, it'll be about a hundred times better than my old point and click. the only advantage that one has is i could use it underwater.

i've been thinking alot about how to make a video or photograph look more professional in the sense that it doesn't look like an amateur student project. here's a music video from gnarls barkley, "Who's gonna save my soul". warning: graphic, kind of gross.

i liked the opening alot. this is another case of the handheld, slightly unsteady camera work, but its angles are precisely framed and repeated that the whole of the video looks very professional. then the part where he tears out his heart starts and it's no longer too interesting. but i want to be able to catch all the right angles, depth of focus, get the face framed in just the right ways as this video did in the beginning.

now for something closer to real life. and to just completely destroy any semblance of artistic merit i had before. Facebook girl

"i poke you, but you never poke back. when i'm on line you never wanna chat. i just want to get in side your world, come on now, you're my facebook girl"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

lessons from starcraft

i'll admit i'm a very late bloomer. i actually attempted to play starcraft once a few years ago, and as i was happily building my little buildings and having my little worker people gather minerals, suddenly a huge horde of computer enemies came at me and raped me. since that day i had an aversion to starcraft, dota, world of warcraft, anything where obviously more 1337 gamers than me would sit at their desks all day. (i know dota and wow are different)

but yesterday after a few burgers and beers, chris, arpun and i decided to play starcraft as a drinking game. (well it became a drinking game later) and i only succumbed because i had two 22 oz beers in me, and also it would be the three of us v 3 computers, and the goal would be to "protect bobby."

i did get the hang of the game, especially after another glass or two of drambuie and tonic. alcohol makes gaming into a parabolic curve of easiness and an exponential curve of enjoyment. one strategy we decided was to zealot rush one or two computer players initially, exactly what had happened to me years earlier. and somehow i picked up on the importance of manic mouse clicks and hotkeys, and when i matched chris and arpun's speed in building my first units, i had a great sense of pride. later, when hyon joined us, i was able to pick up on a little more strategy. in my alcohol induced state of l33tn355, i felt i was able to pick up not the exact details, but an overall strategic sense of how to pwn.

but this morning i thought about the overall lessons one can learn from this small episode.

1) it's better to have played and lost than to have never played at all.
2) know when to retreat back to your base where your photon cannons are waiting.
3) if life gives you an opportunity, it's often good to jump on it, and rush early. then there's usually a binomial distribution, because the next good opportunity will involve a longterm strategy.

maybe tonight i will install starcraft on my computer. or maybe i'll revert back to oblivion drinking games.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


i ran across a promising website with a lot of film content.

Openfilm - user generated films

a lot of footage from vancouver film school. there's also a lot of animated shorts and "making of" documentaries. but so far i have yet to find anything really as intriguing as Validation.

there's something about using a hi-def camera with low-def camerawork and acting. i think it actually makes it more obvious that certain films are *not big budget productions*. the best part of every film i've browsed so far is the opening - the music seems to be good (is vancouver film school a school of film scoring?) and sets the stage for a witty short film, but then the acting and camera work don't come together. yet another reason for me to despise being in my own films.

just like taking a black and white photo makes it look so much classier, i think taking texturized film makes it more intriguing. imitating old video footage, like vhs home videos or really old black and white 35mm film, works to mask a lot of the imperfections in acting, and gives a shaky camera a reason to be shaky. more and more i'm wondering if it would be good to make a film just using my old handheld...then i watch old tkd videos and the quality is just too bad for me to handle.

what does it take to achieve the perfection in my vision??

edit: some of the animation shorts are much more artsy, and interesting. I guess i wasn't fond of the few films that had actual actors and plots, because although they were based on real world (an apartment party, three roommates on a couch), the plots were just so contrived. Rene, here's a video you would like, although it starts to drag after a while:

From wondermark:


it came down as a speckle at first
dimly blinking under the streetlight
before disappearing into the black pavement

we looked up at the sky
there were only clouds and the lights of fenway park
i blinked, and a snowflake
landed on my nose

there we stood under the citgo sign
and thought about the big sadnesses of life
and also about the little joys
we find in life, in each other, in boston

as the roads fell asleep under a white blanket
we walked home, crying a little,
laughing a little
at the first snowfall of the year

Monday, December 15, 2008

holiday laments thoughts

christmas used to be my favorite time of year. i think my childhood was rather rich in christmas spirit even as an immigrant chinese. the first christmas i can remember (in china) was my dad dressed up as a very skinny santa, and my christmas gift being a four layered slice of chinese cake (the ones that are really soft and foamy, with layers of very mild icing). i remember this because of the photo we have which obviously reveals my father as santa's alter ego.

i've continued to enjoy every christmas because every year i was introduced to something new, like pumpkin pie (ok, that was the thanksgiving/christmas holiday block), the shooter game crossfire, doggie bones for my athena and cindy, etc. we always put up the same old sticky, twiggy plastic christmas tree, with color coded steel wire branches that slid into four levels of plastic holders, and behold, the clumpy plastic pine needles came together and formed our beloved (and 10+ year old) christmas tree. we were simple decorators - my mom preferred white lights and a set of simple and glamorous red and white ball decorations to your typical hodge-podge of garlands and figurines. it was classic, and still today we have the orbs, and use them on our real tree.

there came a time during college when going home was a chore. for most students, the ideal thing to do is to buy a ticket for the day of your last final, and hightail it home. but i think by my sophomore year i realized there was more fun to be had at school, including spiked eggnog, a gym with weightlifting machines, crisp boston winters, phi sig, and a girlfriend. as i began to lose touch with friends from home, going home was less and less interesting, as we didn't really celebrate christmas with as much pomp as before. there was one christmas/new years where i actually was so anxious to board the plane and get back to boston that i had a fight with my parents about getting to the airport earlier. boston really draws me's the part of winter that appeals most to me here.

as a student, you constantly wish that the weeks before christmas weren't plagued by finals. seriously, nothing kills the anticipation of the holidays and IAP like four finals and three final projects and two projects due the next monday. it's never stopped me from going to around the world party at phi sig...but hey, it's wednesday, you always have thursday, friday, saturday and sunday to study. and you always think, if i didn't have classes, december would just be one big party. i could attend cocktail parties every weekend, go out for new years (instead of being home), go snowboarding every weekend. i bet it's awesome to stay here for the whole of the holidays, once you start working.

but the sad truth is, when your friends are mostly students, they still go home right after finals. and you are left at home, asking around to see if someone, anyone, will actually be around this weekend or next, and maybe will be here for new years eve.

but if you look around and think about it, we can't make everything into a huge party or a commercial enterprise. if i'm here for christmas eve, it will be with a city that i love. i'll sit with a glass of jack knowing that in just a few more days, people will make their resolutions, and then the whole crazy life starts all over again with spring just around the corner. might as well enjoy the holidays, and even though our childhood reasons to love christmas might not be there anymore, there's plenty else to celebrate.

dreaming of film

current music: An American in Paris, George Gershwin

hm i realized i fell behind a little this weekend, on blogging, cutting weight, advancing my way through life. i did come out ahead in a few ways, but whatever. first, i really enjoy reading other peoples' blog updates, and i think most people put much more genuine effort into them that me. my sad posts about mario mashups are looking quite lazy compared to rene's about music videos. that's why i'm going to squeeze out a few thoughts tonight before i start the weekly grind again tomorrow morning.

today, at rene and jordan's, we watched Paprika today over ribs and handmade pizza, and tsingtao beer. it was an interesting mix of western bbq and foods, and asian alcohol and culture. the whole time i thought the animation style and character design looked alot like the Hobbit from 1977. as a movie, Paprika caused me to start thinking about the link between dreams and filmmaking, a pairing that has more commonalities than you think. in the course of the movie, i realized that a sleeping person is almost a director and actor in the movie of his own dreams. but beyond that simple idea, there wasn't too much exposition about dreams and film; the rest of the anime was strange and disturbing, a vivid expression of japanese beliefs in the supernatural.

the one part i really liked in the film was the moment when detective kogawa explains about the camera line to paprika. that made me remember the lessons on camera and film technique from when i took the film experience, and i realized that i had really enjoyed the film classes we took. maybe it was just a response of an engineering mind to an artistic medium. i am drawn to film because it is something so visual and emotional that can still have such a structured discipline behind it. then, thinking back on it, i took a lot of film classes (4) in order to get my film concentration. maybe i have some experience and background in this field, and should pursue it more.

i guess, looking back on my MIT experience, i actually did take a lot of different classes in the 5 years i was here. i have a minor in BME, meaning i must have taken enough bio/chemistry classes to have actually gained some knowledge as a biomedical engineering student. i took two semesters of chinese and learned enough to write a letter home; i took one semester of japanese, just enough to stand up and shout nonsense in japanese. and as for the rest of my course 6 experience, it's all lead me on one glorious road to my current career path, which i feel is like having done turning kicks for the past three years, and maybe now i realize that i should be working on some other kicks. and in the end, you can always condense my life down to taekwondo.

Friday, December 12, 2008

old skool games anew

us gamers born in the (early) 80s can never get over super mario et al. when i was about 8 years old, the Super NES was released in the US. All my friends had NES's, and i was clammering about getting one myself, but somehow my mom knew that a new one was coming out, and persuaded me to wait, and persuaded my dad to just buy me one when it came out. (looking back on it, that was very atypical behavior for asian parents.) after i got my SNES, i only ever bought a few games, but who needed anything more than super mario world?

playing the snes was all about practice, practice, practice, getting the finger muscle memory down perfectly in order to beat the hardest levels. and there was the occasional cheat, such as street fighter's down R up L y b (which i still remember because of finger muscle memory.) that particular one was such an important discovery to street fighter 2 fans, and i was forever searching for more secret codes at the bus stop. and it would have been a dream to us children to have been able to edit those levels, instead of just using codes to get through them.

so now we're grown and educated, i guess some people are big into editing games, and making mashups of all of the older games we used to play. here is one particularly interesting mix, which includes super mario, sonic, mega man, and EVO.

i've actually never played sonic or megaman that much, but i did play EVO and liked it alot. part of me thinks this video is awesome, and part of me cringes. the mario graphics are still my favorite, and i was never good at megaman because of the physics of it were so different from mario. but in a mashup, everything goes, even the luigi in sonic world.

in my ongoing browsing through reddit at breakfast time, i also ran across this music video. again, part of me loves this video, and part of me wants to throw up. my favorite part is definitely the super anime-looking luigi - when you try to convert mario or luigi into anime realistic guys with strong eyebrowed stares, no words can describe it. the second best part is just the horrible sounding japanese lyrics (and subtitles) to the mario theme song.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

wednesday nerding out

the reason i get nothing done until 10:30 is because while i eat breakfast (until 10:30) i read reddit. it is a geek's haven.

how many internet memes can you spot in the comment thread here:

"My boss (who reads Reddit) fired me because I knew he had a mistress. So Richard, if you're reading this...FUCK YOU"

and how many memes can you spot that were created only within the last 24 hours through reddit? (answer: the huge bathroom reddit thread)

and i always knew computer science was a circus. or that computer science geeks are just kids in large, bespectacled bearded men's bodies. (note: core dump)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

thank god i learned piano

if there's any single reason to have learned an instrument while you were a child, here it is:

remember kids, no matter how much you hated practicing every day, feared getting up on stage to perform a recital, disliked having to lose an hour per week trying to make your piano teacher believe you practiced, it will pay off in the end. one day, you WILL be able to play all zelda theme songs on the piano. and sure, knowing an instrument must be *instrumental* in picking up chicks, especially if you can rock the opening.

then, there's always a career in comedy playing rachmaninoff's prelude in c# minor:

now, i find myself with a new christmas wish list. on it includes:

upright piano (craigslist, ~$150)
hd camcorder (~$600-800)
slr camera with lens (>$1000)

take a hint, secret santa

Monday, December 8, 2008

subway portrait

photo by jess lin, mitstkd

something about this photo from the dinner struck me. it feels so overwhelmingly classic. it's almost candid in being posed. maybe it's the ascending lines of the escalator tunnel or the gritty texture on the ceilings, maybe it's erika's casual gaze and smile that exudes calm in a crazy city, maybe it's the contrast of the red against a bleak boston winter.

i wanted to make it all artistic, because it just feels so iconic. of course i'm no graphic artist so this is almost what i pictured in my head, done in 5 minutes using simply irfanview. i don't know...the photo deserves something more, like being put up on a billboard, or becoming archived in the library of congress under "awesome team outings."

Friday, December 5, 2008

this weekend

i know it's a bit premature but thank god for the weekend!

on the schedule:

tkd followed by a screening of Fight Team (a taekwondo documentary about and by INCTL) then the
Foot Fist Way

Dinner with the Tufts tkd team...then afterparty at my place. We really need to name the pad. the 8th wonder? i dunno

Snowboarding at Wachusett! Dust off my old snowboard...which i've had since freshman year

Thursday, December 4, 2008

the elevator

in my continuing search for meaning in life, inspiration for my future, and value of the internets, i have discovered that is so genius in its simplicity, something that we can all aspire to achieve ourselves and can use as a model for our own endeavors.

i swear. all you need is a HD camera, a decent script that doesn't have to be award winning, just natural, and actors who are not people you recognize. because if i see someone i recognize, i instantly give them a character in my head. but new actors can be anything in a movie, and it makes the movie...more genuine. i especially CANNOT act in anything of my own, i think.


i feel like i just entered the world of online social networking and i have the blogging maturity of a 12 year old and the technical capability of a 40 year old. (40 year old noob, not a 40 year old google millionaire.)

it makes me wonder if i have the artistic ability to transition into the movie industry. everytime i see a beautiful short film i am inspired, but just like everytime i see a well designed blog i sit and admire the person behind it, and aspire to be like them, but then i don't want to put in the effort to mess with stylesheets, templates, formatting, finding art, etc etc. can't my personality just manifest itself? do i even have a strong enough personality, to be worth expressing through anything more than the generic blogger template? it's much too easy to just consume other people's art than to produce my own, yet i don't think i'll ever find peace of mind without it.

looking back on my old old old homepage through the way back machine, i had some creative drive. but now it's the design ability of a 12 year old, in 1998. (12 year olds today are pretty amazing, i bet)

ok i am going to continue facebook stalking and blog stalking people. while laundry finishes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

counting headz

i realized my cousin (whom i've never met before, talked with briefly through email) has been doing film since our parents first encouraged the younger generation to mingle. i guess back in the day her film was still being funded, but it looks like it's becoming much more successful:

Erin Offer's "Counting Headz", a documentary about women's hip hop in South Africa

Coutningheadz Promo

anytime i hear a good soundtrack (hiphop with good beats, for example) i just want to film. something about the music makes a film flow so much nicer. when you're actually doing the camerawork, i guess either in your head you have to have the music going, or be listening to something inspiring, because a film doesn't come together until you put all the clips to music. that's what made my first tkd highlights video so exciting, even though looking back on it now, the sync was off. and that's why whenever i'm listening to let it rain (epik high) i want to make a film...possibly a film about the forbidden love between two people i know ;)

back in early '07, when i was still in california, i had a chance to go to a red carpet opening of her documentary. (not really, it was being screened at indie film festivals in sf. but that would still be cool.) i guess i couldn't really make it because i was travelling too much for tkd already. but now i really want to see it. more, i want to meet someone who's worked and made a documentary that matters to her, and made it into a success. maybe i'll learn something, and one day i can make the documentary that matters to me. but i'll have to get a better camera before then.


smile! (thanks corinna)

the script has such a good, simple recurring theme that branches just enough to build up the plot before wrapping up in a classic romantic ending. very tidy, slightly longer than your typical youtube short film. a good watch for a morning of procrastination and life reevaluation.

not that i am a film critic, but from my brief few semesters of mit film class, what struck me about this clip is the camera work. i stand by my belief that black and white makes everything more professional and classier. but i also really liked the cuts from closeups on facial expression (it is about smiling, after all) to wider shots of the environment the people are in. it was easy to identify parallel scenes - like when newman returns to the places he wooed victoria (theatre, cafe patio), and the similar signs of Validation and Passport Photos.

*spoiler* the only part that stood out was the moment he photographed the woman in the wheelchair. It didn't really jump out until when he met up with victoria again, and she mentioned the word "mother." in my mind that was a classic "stick a plot foreshadowing element in and try to disguise it in a montage" trick, because that's what i do. but it's ok. the film was fun. everyone needs to be validated once in a while.

documenting my life

maybe i've had enough aimless engineering...but suddenly i feel like going into the film industry again. and looking at my life, film school seems like a very possible goal. having gone back and forth from wanting to work for a large software company, wanting to join the suits in business school, and wanting to be a film director, maybe none of those things are too unrealistic.

perhaps it's a fear of being passed by or forgotten, but occasionally i look back and get the urge to watch my life as a movie. and i'm sure everyone wants their story told, even if it is relatively benign. but even in the most usual aspects of our lives there has to be an interesting tale. i wonder how long this will last, but now i have the urge to pick up my camera again and start documenting.

one day, one day, i will put together the tribute to MIT sport tkd, the first years. but maybe i will also create a mitstkd revival film.