Wednesday, August 31, 2005

katastrophic Katrina

In awe of the marvels of mother nature one can only wonder what humbly microscopic lives u and i have been leading.

It's hard to believe something this beautiful so destructive.

...................................... maybe not so hard after all.)

Pics taken over the eye of Katrina onboard the
NOAA-43 Hurricane Hunter. pictures link

Watch this clip from CNN. It just breaks your heart. The reporter could barely speak through sobbing at the end of the interview.

At times like this one wishes there were God. The worst is yet to come.

photos link
videos link
CNN coverage
NOLA coverage
Yahoo coverage
Katrina help wiki
Metroblogging NO
WWL local news updates
Wikipedia page on Katrina
BBC animated guide: Hurricanes
useful resources on boing: click click
Hurricane Hunters Why and How, Wikipedia
blog community affected directly, indirectly, or reporting

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Blogger Image Host or ImageShack?

Storage Cap300 MBunlimited1
Max File Size
Per Image
vague21024kb (1mb)3
Direct Linking4noyes
Image Types SupportedJPG, GIF, PNG, TIF, BMPJPG, GIF, PNG,
Oddityall images will
be resampled6
region restriction7
Post-upload Managementon your own9managable10
Extrassome FTP integrationlots of upload integrations11

1 You can upload as many images as you want, as long as each one adheres to the Terms of Service.

2 When you upload an image, it is resampled and resized according to the size you choose in the upload form.

3 Each image you upload must be less than 1024 kilobytes in size. If your image is greater than 1024 kilobytes in size, it will be resized automatically. Your connection will most likely time out if you try to upload an image greater than 3 megabytes.

4 Directly displaying images hosted on other server. Blogger do not allow images hosted on its server to be displayed anywhere else except on blogspot.

5 bmp, tif, and tiff images will be converted to .png automatically.

6 No matter how small the file size is, Blogger WILL reduce the original image into worse resolution. In other words, once you uploaded your image, it's not the same anymore, so don't delete the original.

7 In some parts of the world ImageShack hosted images can't be loaded, e.g. several African, South American, and Asian countries including China and Hong Kong.

8 For $0.01 a credit, registered users are able to batch-upload all their images at a single time, utilizing FTP, Zip Upload, or the WinXP Publishing Wizard. YOU DONT NEED TO BATCH-UPLOAD IF YOU INTEND TO USE IT FOR BLOGGING. THEREFORE THE SERVICE IS FREE.

9 The fate of your images is as good as anybody's guess. There is no mention on Blogger help if you can remove anything after it's uploaded. If you lose the URL to your image, you may as well re-upload it. So, how do you solve the storage cap problem? Sign up again.

10 If you register(free), you can always go back to a list of all your images and delete them, but ImageShack offers unlimited storage, so you don't really have to delete anything.

11 For Mac users, Widget; for Windows users, Quickload and QuickShot. There are also Firefox plug-ins allowed for easy one-click upload.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Nurburgring: real vs. virtual

BILL THOMAS switches from the safety of a video game to the perilous reality of lapping Germany's daunting Nurburgring at 200kmh.

It wasn't really a journey into the unknown, more a journey into the perfectly familiar. After playing Sony's new driving game, Gran Turismo 4, for longer than I'm prepared to admit, lapping the world's most treacherous circuit, the Nurburgring Nordschleife, with a Logitech Driving Force Pro steering wheel clamped to an ironing board placed in front of the television, it occurred to me that it might be fun to try the real track and see how fast I could go. I'd never been there before, so I'd be driving blind, with no previous knowledge - other than about 100 laps in the game.

If you've never heard of Gran Turismo 4, or the previous generation Gran Turismo games, all you need to know is that they are probably the best driving games ever created and the latest version pushes the PlayStation 2 platform to the limit.

It's an extraordinary piece of work - not the most sophisticated physics model ever created but challenging and difficult. The graphics are almost photo-real, there are 650 cars to drive - everything from a Honda Zot to an Audi R8 Le Mans car - and one of the 50 tracks is the Nurburgring, modelled to an accuracy of about five centimetres.

It's the central feature of the game and GT4 freaks around the world are honing their racing lines around it as you read this. It's quite a challenge. The Nordschleife, or Northern Loop, located near Koblenz in the Eiffel Mountains in north west Germany, is 21km long and has 73 corners, with a total elevation change of more than 300 metres. Nicknamed the Green Hell, it makes Mount Panorama look like a kiddies' go-kart track. It's where Niki Lauda had his terrifying accident in the 1976 German Grand Prix and it was dropped from the Formula One calendar the following year.

It is dangerous and freakishly difficult, a track where the driver can make a real difference: men such as Fangio, Moss, Nuvolari, Carraciola and Clark were legendary here. Today it is used for occasional races, including a couple of 24-hour events, then is booked for most of the year as a manufacturer test track. For the remaining time, it is open to the public. read more.

Friday, August 26, 2005

sideway rain

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.

Opening narration from Love Actually (2003)

Typhoon number 11 is coming down like an ocean drops from the sky, horizontally. edit: This one is no joke. I actually got my storm guards up and there is no letting up, no sleep as it pounds my windows through out the night into the next day. Damn it's 6:00am now. Somehow it synchronizes with the other tropical cyclone.

When I came home I thought well what perfect stormy evening to put on a movie. So I decided on Love Actually. The first time I saw it, I was in a theater with Jackie and Claire. Jackie thought it was pretty decent, Claire was crying like a baby, while I shot crap about it. Now after a second viewing, I know why I thought it was utter crap. I felt vulnerable.

It was right around Valentine's Day. You see, in Japan there is always a delay in importing foreign films. It was made for Chrismas 2003, but we saw it for V's D 2004. The way they opened the movie with a scene where there are hugging and kissing people in an airport just set it off for me. I used to go to the local airport to study. I love the airport. I think the partings and reunions make life that much more worth living. I watched people for hours greeting each other. We're a spoiled species; until we part, we'd never know what our heart truly desires.

The second component that further distanced me from the movie was the Christmas theme. Christmas is a personal favorite, not uncommon at all. But on top of that, I've had the toughest Christmas the year before. I just break down a lot easier during the holiday season than any other time of year. I am a sucker for it.

But this time, the second viewing, drew tears from me. No, some of the acting is still dreadful. Some of the plot still forced, some of the shadow from Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) still too obvious, and some of that wholesome try-to-do-too-much still bothers me. I'd rather they focus on a few of the relationships. It feels like blood that is spread too thin in a giant of a body, but more comfortably, finally.

Wouldn't it be nice if the real life prime minister stood up to the mo'fucker? For once, wouldn't that just be splendid? I gave the movie a 6.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

soaring gas prices

Gas prices bring on new ways to cut corners

As she folds clothes at a Laundromat near her home in San Pablo, Calif., Thamara Morales, 30, counts up the ways high gas prices have changed her life.

There are no more pizza outings on Friday nights. "It's cheaper to cook at home," says the $12-an-hour clerical worker and mother of two. read more

I know the gas prices are skyrocketing, but they're nothing compared to Japan's. A liter of gasoline at the cheapest gas station nearby is 123 yen (≈ $4.24 per gallon). Here are my gas-saving driving tips:

  • Do NOT use the brakes. Under most circumstances, the brakes are unnecessary. Make sure you leave a lot of space between you and the car in front of you. Use rolling instead. Only brake when at the stop lights or when there is danger. Get used to looking farther ahead while driving*. Tailgating is for noobs who don't know how to drive.

  • Observe your speedometer, don't exceed half the speed your car can supposedly go. Say, if your speedometer's range is from 0-150 mph, try not to exceed 75mph. The faster you go beyond a certain speed, the more gas your engine burns. There is an optimum speed for each car for better milage turnout. It's usually lower than that midpoint.

  • Windows up, airconditioning off at all time except when moving slower than 35mph (roll down your windows). Air drags are always underestimated. While you're at it, turn off all electronic devices. Radio is OK.

  • Easy right foot. Avoid flooring the acceleration at all cost when possible. Steady acceleration (1/3 into the depression most) and no sudden movements. No redlining! No engine idling! Absolutely no revving, donuts, or burnouts!

  • Drive a stick-shift/manual/standard transmission. Oil-change, rotate the tires regularly. Check all tires' air pressure. The closer it is to the manufacturer's standard (printed on driver's side door on the edge, can be seen while door is open), the better the gas milage.

  • Last but not least, clean up your stupid car and your trunk. Less weight equals less gas!

*In the olden days when car brakes technology was horrible, there were better drivers beacuse the average brake distance was so bad it took 1/16 of a mile (≈100m) to go from top speed to a complete stop. Now if that doesn't make you vigilant I don't know what would. I once drove all the way from Boston to New York City (215.9 miles) on the expressway braking only a handful of times (more than five less than 10). Once into the city though it's a different story.

Monday, August 22, 2005

"Planes, Trains, and Plantains: The story of Oedipus"

Know your enemy, and enjoy the process. Abso-phucking-lutely hilarious‼

VH1 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock

Top 20:

20 Alice Cooper
19 The Clash
18 Ozzy Osbourne
17 The Ramones
16 Cream
15 Pink Floyd
14 Soundgarden
13 Queen
12 The Sex Pistols
11 Aerosmith

Top Ten:

10 Kiss
9 Guns N' Roses
8 The Who
7 Van Halen
6 Nirvana

Top Five:

5 Metallica





drumroll please





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3 Jimi Hendrix

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2 Black Sabbath

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1 Led Zeppelin

source: VH1, click link for the rest of the list(1-100).

Friday, August 19, 2005

BBC Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets

What makes us human? What gives us that edge over other animals? What draws the line between intelligence and basic survival? The heart of an explorer! (besides self awareness.) If nine hours of driving per day for nine straight days is bad enough, wait until you see our next possible space-step, we'll visit the planets.

Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets by BBC
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Program 1

The interplanetary spacecraft Pegasus and her five-strong crew are launched into Earth orbit. Their epic six-year mission has begun.

Their first encounter with Venus lies just 41 days away from Earth.

Although it's Earth's nearest neighbour, Venus could not be a more different world. With clouds of sulphuric acid, surface temperatures pushing 500°C, snows of metal that encrust mountain peaks and atmospheric pressures that could destroy a submarine, this is a hell-hole of a planet.

Astronauts Zoe Lessard and Yvan Grigorev make the nail-biting descent in a landing craft called Orpheus.

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Program 2

Just over 200 days of travel from the Sun, Pegasus reaches the largest planet of the Solar System, Jupiter.

Danger lies in a menace lurking at Jupiter's core - a churning mass of liquid metallic hydrogen that inflates a magnetic bubble around the planet, producing levels of radiation 500 times the dose that would kill a human.

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comment: I was skeptical at first since I've always been more interested in outter galaxies. I like the cosmos in a grader scale. The solar system fails to fulfill that need. But these two programs made me a believer. I know we must take one step at a time. So let that step begin with a great concept that takes the shape of a docu-drama. The acting is very good, but no Oscar material. Each of the astronauts has unique characters which later on carry a more important role during the six-year voyage. There are scientifically proven facts and there are dramatizations, with elements of educated guesses. I've watched them twice while sleeplessly staring into the night sky of Hokkaido. Brilliant!

graphics: Absolutely top-notch.

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- - - - - -IMDb link - - - - - - "discussion" - - - - - -


A few of my sister's colleagues are very interested in Japan's current outlook, as perceived, concerning some international issues and its own. Here are their questions. I tried my best to answer them but whoever comes across this and wants to correct me or say a few things, feel free.

Apathy, would be the one word that answers all your questions about Japan's current state. Apathetic, would be the one adjective to describe all their feelings towards most anything. But I'm not gonna get away with a couple of words. Now can I? Just kidding. To my own surprise, that's Japan in a nutshell. But don't rule them out just yet. There are lots of things I can appreciate about Japan. Otherwise I'd not have spent over two years here and planned for a few more. Here goes.

What are some popular sentiments about Koizumi's apologies for Japan's atrocities against China, Korea and others during the 20th Century?
First of all, I don't claim to know a lot about Japanese politics, since I don't really care. I know that sounds ignorant. But I care a lot more about US since I know much more. Truth be told it is my home, well one of two. I watch/read/hear US news ten times more so than I do Japan. But I'm probably still a bit more opinionated than your average Japanese citizen. Back to your question. Apologies were skillfully delivered. Koizumi said nothing more than he feels sorry for what happened in the past. He said no more, no less than what he has always said. Through translation though, everybody took the convenience to interpret it the way they see fit. In return, the general public did not react at all, not a raised eyebrow. They also know that something has to be said at that time so the angry crowd could move on. In fact, Koizumi has apologized to China, Korea, and other Asian countries in the same way for some 20 times. I kid you not. You may say it being a half-ass apology is no good. You may also say it's getting repetitive. Let them move on too.

Where do the Japanese people stand with regard to nationalism (are nationalist sentiments rising or waning vis-a-vis the election of a hard-right mayor of Tokyo)?
There is hardly anybody who sides with the hard-right. Although they seem that way simply because they like to be told what to do. They are very submissive as a people. They love their country. There is no doubt about that. But don't we all. The future of this country are more concerned with their popular culture hence leave all governing obligations to its older generations, plenty by the way. Unfortunately, the rule of thumb for a submissive citizenry, the hard-right rules. Look at us, we ain't submissive, but we don't do any better. Kansas School Board, Intelligence Design, frustration; president taking a five week vacation amid Vietnam caliber deepsh!t, damnation.

Has your brother ventured anywhere near either Nagasaki or Hiroshima? If so, do some of the residents of those cities still harbor any anger toward what the US government did to there neighbors/friends/family/ancestors?
I've been to Hiroshima but not Nagasaki. Hiroshima is the notorious gangster town. I'm not sure it has anything to do with the bomb, but people are certainly a bit tougher there than other parts of Japan. I've been to the peace park where they've left a half standing wreckage of a building remain the same since the day the bomb fell from the sky. That reminds everybody how it was. And I applaud that. There is anger, especially around the anniversary each year. There are also protests, but at a small scale and they are insignificant. If anything, Japanese adores the US, be it culture, language, Hollywood, pop images, etc. Japan can't have enough of US influences. However there are the propaganda vans (usually they're for election campaigns, party promotion), with a PA system louder than any bullhorns, you see sometimes. They express how they do not enjoy foreigners, including and mostly referring to Americans, living among them. It's hardly a popular sentiment.

Does Japan have any desire to distance itself from the US (on account of its leadership and foreign policies)?

Japan once and still tries to make English their official language. They embraced Richard Gere when he came over promoting the one movie (Shall We Dance) he stole from Japan. They welcome all things US with open arms. The only time the public show any sign of non-favoritism is when Japanese soldiers were sent to Iraq to die. They were against it. And that's the first ever and only time I see any opposition.

How would one characterize Japan's acquaintance with Islam?
That's one of the many good things about Japan. It has almost zero bias when it comes to religious matter, or alternative life styles. You don't get beat up just because you look a certain way or act differently. Although the way they deal with these things is through apathy or hush-hush, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
Edit1: It is difficult to be homosexual in Japan. There are a few gay people on TV but they are just there to be amusing nothing more nothing else. The homosexual scene in Japan is almost completely underground. In regular Japanese societal gays are shun and marginalized. Young people can dress and do whatever they like but they'll never be able to find a real job unless they conform to social norms. The worst thing to be in Japan is handicapped. In Japan if you are a handicap you are supposed to stay home and have someone take care of you. The negative attitude towards handicapped people is changing thanks to western influences but try using the train in Japan if you're stuck in a wheelchair.

(note: I know this sways away from the original question but is somewhat related. My take remains unchanged.)

its business outlook;
Auto industries are doing great. Electronics sectors are dominating the world, with Korea and west Europeans sneaking up of course. That's all though. That's all they have and it's almost plenty enough. Except it isn't. Take "Uniqlo" for example. Uniqlo is a low end clothing chain that would never have made it to a giant in Japan 20 years ago. Their stuff is like Gap back home, except it's even cheaper, to Japanese anyway, and needless to say quality is more than compromised. Japanese like to dress up and put their money where their body is. They have the most expensive bag, watch, shirt, skirt, boots, you name it, they have had it, well the majority. The only reason that Uniqlo is doing so well, it's because of people's shrinking bank accounts, lowered consumers' confidence and steady incomes. They have reached their economic apex. From here on it's downhill. The markets are saturated. But this is coming from a guy who doesn't know that well about these things.
Edit2: Japanese jobs are moving to other Asian countries (mainly China) at an alarming rate. Japan will have to change its economy from manufacturing to services and information technology if it hopes to maintain its world standing. Manufacturing requires raw materials which Japan doesn't have while the other two mentioned sectors require human resources. Japan will also have to change it's educational approach from producing factory workers to producing innovators and a dynamic workforce.

its current work ethic;
Its work ethic second to none. Its productivity on the other hand, plain sucks. Let's compare work ethic of New Yorkers and that of Japanese. A New Yorker works 8 hours per day, gets most of her work done. A Japanese works 12 hours a day, goes home and sleeps for 4 hours, gets up butt crack of dawn the next day to work that hasn't been finished due to exhaustion at work. But choose your poison, would you prefer New York's cut throat step on bodies to your way up, or Japan's gentleman's agreement of survivor's mentalities - outlast, outwit, outplay the next person in silence? I can't stress "outlast" and "silence" enough.

where does Japan stand when it comes to North Korea and its leader, what do the intelligentsia of Japan think should be done in terms of North Korea's and Iran's nuclear issues?
Japan is taking the position it always takes - wait. The general public thinks that there is likely to be a way to avoid wars. They honestly don't like wars. It's true! They would much rather play golf on the weekends, read comic books on the train, and watch variety shows on TV. A recent study shows that Americans outnumber Japanese three to two in thinking of a likely conflict that will eventually lead to war with North Korea. They don't have a stand on Iran as far as I know.

what would surprise the rest of the world most about life in Japan in the year 2005?
That's a tough question to answer. I've been here for quite a while. Nothing surprises me anymore. Maybe a person who's fresh off the boat would have a much more interesting answer.
Edit3: Yes, that is a difficult question... But I would have to say... How crappy a typical Japanese home or apartment is. They wouldn't need so many nuclear reactors if they actually used insulation. The building costs would be a little higher but in the long run people would save tons of money in heating and air-conditioning bills. And with the negative out of the way here's a positive surprise: 24 hour beer vending machines. I'm not a heavy drinker but it was a nice convenience. In all the places I've lived in Japan I've never had to walk more than 200m to buy a beer in the middle of the night.

Are global acts of terrorism affecting Japanese society?
Miniscule if any. They have their own terrorism to deal with, both international and internal, mostly latter. Since the Aum cult's attacks on Tokyo subway, they have been doing a lot of drills and preparations for such emergencies. And if any country is constantly ready for disasters, natural or man-made, it would be Japan.

What are the sentiments of the Japanese people when it comes to leaders in the West like Tony Blair and Geo. W.?
They seem to like these "leaders". Average Japanese don't have much of an opinion on those idiots. They don't agree with some of the ways they deal with the Iraq's situation. But it's not strong enough a feeling to get in the way of their daily routine.

Sorry, I tend to bitch when asked this sort of questions about Japan. There are a number of things that are very fascinating here. It would be a different topic though.

(Edit 1, 2, 3 are Rock's input. A buddy of mine, former English teacher in Japan, Canadian, not the movie star bodyslamming can-you-smell-what-the-Rock-is-cooking Rock)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wallpaper fetish continues

wallpapers I made from pics taken in Hokkaido on this trip:
widescreen 1280x800
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other pics

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en route, the beat-up road

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skies, clouds

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sunset, sunrise, set again, rose again

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sheep, Yorkshire Farm, cows

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Elephants once roamed this land.

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off-season for Santa

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nameless lake, fishing

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road maps of Japan (worth every penny of the 1000yen), me and my shoes been thru a lot

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driving ecstasy, temple, love, wood, waves, little red bridges, view tower, lamp, sundial