Wednesday, December 27, 2006

year in review

Let's see, in the year of 2006 I've managed to get a few things done.

Got that wanting to live alone forever out of the system.
Filled my head with an overdose of knowledge rush.
Finally in a committing relationship.
Nearing the money-saving target.
Watched over 100 movies.
Entirely on Linux.
Set a couple of goals.

I guess I'll call this a good year. And for that I'm really thankful.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Wishing all

a Merry Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Massive Stars in Open Cluster Pismis 24

How massive can a normal star be?

Estimates made from distance, brightness and standard solar models had given one star in the open cluster Pismis 24 over 200 times the mass of our Sun, making it a record holder. This star is the brightest object located just to the right of the gas front in the above image. Close inspection of images taken recently with the Hubble Space Telescope, however, have shown that Pismis 24-1 derives its brilliant luminosity not from a single star but from three at least. Component stars would still remain near 100 solar masses, making them among the more massive stars currently on record. Toward the image left, stars are still forming in the associated emission nebula NGC 6357, including several that appear to be breaking out and illuminating a spectacular cocoon.
NASA apod

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Teen finds, returns $24K in movie theater

...and refuses to accept any cash rewards. Let's just call this the feel-good holiday-season story. With so much negativity in the air we can all use a little positive energy. Let's do the right thing once in a while my fellow humans.
Imagine stumbling upon $24,000 cash. What would you do with the money?

The untraceable wad of $100 bills, rubber-banded together inside a zippered bank pouch, tumbled unnoticed from the purse of RoseMarie Limoncelli, 39, as she sat Friday inside the AMC Fantasy theater in Rockville Centre.

Christopher Montgomery, 19, found the money as he was cleaning between seats.

The Lynbrook student returned it. Every dollar. (read on...)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pandora Stations

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years you probably know of a website that provides great music for free - Pandora. (a personalized radio station, you be the DJ kind)

Here is a place where folks like us go to share said created stations. Highly recommended.

learn practical English

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


update: as of now (Nov 16th 12:32AM) the USGS upgraded the magnitude of the quake just off the coast of Hokkaido to an 8.3!

This one takes the cake.

I have been living in Japan for almost four years but this was the biggest so far, measuring 7.8 in magnitude. I didn't feel a thing being this far from Hokkaido but the tsunami warning in my areas is a first! The local news indicates the quake is measured 8.1 in Japan.

Taken from
The following is a release by the United States Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center: A major earthquake occurred 445 km (275 miles) ENE of Kuril'sk, Kuril Islands and 1665 km (1030 miles) NE of TOKYO, Japan at 5:14 AM MDT, Nov 15, 2006 (10:14 PM local time in Russia). The magnitude and location may be revised when additional data and further analysis results are available. No reports of damage or casualties have been received at this time; however, this earthquake may have caused damage due to its location and size. Earthquakes of this type sometimes cause tsunamis, however the USGS has no information that an actual tsunami has been generated. For information about tsunamis, contact the NOAA Tsunami Warning Centers at

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

down the middle

America, everything dies exactly once. It's a bitch but let it be a less painful one. Go write history with your tainted votes.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Trouble in the 'hood

Niihama, Ehime, my Japan's hometown made national news today.
School principal hangs self over curriculum scandal

NIIHAMA, Ehime -- The principal of a high school hanged himself at his home, apparently over concerns about the nationwide curriculum scandal, officials said on Monday.

Police believe Hiroshi Masaoka, 60, principal of Niihama-Nishi High School in Niihama committed suicide.

Officials at the school said that Masaoka had been worried about a nationwide problem where students had to take supplementary lessons to make up for a shortage of credits needed to graduate.

"Students at our school didn't fail to take the necessary classes. But the principal was seemingly worried over related issues," one official said.

A total of 27 high schools in Ehime Prefecture have reported that their students failed to take the required classes needed to graduate. Niihama-Nishi High School isn't included in the 27 schools. (Mainichi)
Aren't you guys shocked?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

seven/+ movies

Movies I've seen within the past two years that I voted a "7" or higher for on

Half Nelson (2006)
An inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret.
I dug this post up from the grave for a new entry. A little clicking around results in a short film Gowanus, Brooklyn (2004) that quite possibly is the precursor to this quiet screamer of a movie.

Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)
'Me and You and Everyone We Know' is a poetic and penetrating observation of how people struggle to connect with one another in an isolating and contemporary world. Christine Jesperson is a lonely artist and "Eldercab" driver who uses her fantastical artistic visions to draw her aspirations and objects of desire closer to her. Richard Swersey (John Hawkes), a newly single shoe salesman and father of two boys, is prepared for amazing things to happen. But when he meets the captivating Christine, he panics. Life is not so oblique for Richard's seven-year-old Robby, who is having a risqué Internet romance with a stranger, and his fourteen-year-old brother Peter who becomes the guinea pig for neighborhood girls -- practicing for their future of romance and marriage.
If I'd made a film, it would have looked something like this, not that I have the know-how. Wonderfully done. People are capable of displaying very diverse personalities. The characters and events depicted may seem a little stranger than usual, but are they really? I laughed out loud.

The Door in the Floor (2004)
Alternately tragic and comic, an exploration of the complexities of love in both its brightest and darkest corners. Adapted from John Irving's best-selling novel A Widow for One Year, the film is set in the privileged beach community of East Hampton, New York and chronicles one pivotal summer in the lives of famous children's book author Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) and his beautiful wife Marion (Kim Basinger). Their once-great marriage has been strained by tragedy. Her resulting despondency and his subsequent infidelities have prevented the couple from confronting a much-needed change in their relationship. Eddie O'Hare, the young man Ted hires to work as his summer assistant, is the couple's unwitting yet willing pawn - and, ultimately, the catalyst in the transformation of their lives.
Once in a while comes a movie that slips under the radar, giving it elements of surprise. Not the brightest in the sense of heaviness or being smart, but a rare one in today's Hollywood's dogpile.

Contact (1997)
Contact, based on the novel of the same name by Carl Sagan, is the story of a free thinking radio astronomer (Jodie Foster) who discovers an intelligent signal broadcast from deep space. She and her fellow scientists are able to decipher the Message and discover detailed instructions for building a mysterious Machine. Will the Machine spell the end of our world, or the end of our superstitions? Will we take our place among the races of the Galaxy, or are we just an upstart species with a long way to go?
If anyone wants to see a sci-fi that is belivable and heartfelt, this is it. Nothing like the War of the Worlds crap.

Clerks. (1994)
Dante Hicks is a clerk at a local convenience store in New Jersey. On one particular Saturday morning, he gets called in on his day off. Once there, he must deal with multiple problems. The shutters outside won't open. His ex-girlfriend, whom he is still in love with, is getting married. His girlfriend, who bugs him about starting college, has revealed certain, uh...stuff about her past. His boss hasn't come in to take his place. He has a hockey game at 2 o'clock. Another ex has died, and today's the last day he can go to her wake. He must deal with customers that aren't so intelligent. His friend, Randal, a clerk at the video store next door, is even less dedicated to his job than Dante, and is always bothering Dante's customers. And the biggest problem of them all: HE'S NOT EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE THERE TODAY!! Can Dante manage it all?
Lots of clever one-liners. Really interesting dilemmas in everyday's situation.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
Steve Zissou, sea-film auteur a la Jacques Cousteau, has reason to be melancholy: his partner has been eaten, perhaps by a mythic jaguar shark, his wife may be taking up with her ex-husband, a young man appears claiming Steve is his father (Steve hates fathers), his most recent films have tanked, he's having trouble raising money for his venture to revenge his partner, and he's attracted to a pregnant reporter who prefers the pretender. At sea, in pursuit of the shark, will he escape pirates and mutiny, forge the bonds of fatherhood, place his arm around his wife, find the monster of the deep, re-establish box office hegemony, and discover a reason to smile?
Maquinista, El (2004)
THE MACHINIST is the story of TREVOR REZNIK, a lathe-operator who is dying of insomnia. In a machine shop, occupational hazards are bad enough under normal circumstances; yet for Trevor the risks are compounded by fatigue. Trevor has lost the ability to sleep. This is no ordinary insomnia...
Watched it a while back. Well executed ideas. Keeps you wondering.

Dark City (1998)
John's life has become a nightmare. He is hunted by the police for a series of murders he knows nothing about, a woman who claims to be his wife is after him, and so is a mysterious "doctor". But his worst trouble is the strangers, a series of vastly powerful beings who seem to manipulate just about everything in the city, and want him because of the extraordinary powers he manifested. John decides to find out what is happening in his city; why is it always night? And why can nobody tell him a way to leave the city?
Another great Sci-fi. Mind opening as well as intriguing.

I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Determined to solve the coincidence of seeing the same conspicuous stranger three times in a day, Albert hires a pair of existentialist detectives, who insist on spying on his everyday life while sharing their views on life and the nature of the universe.
Need I say more?

Code 46 (2003)
Code 46 is a love story set in a Brave New World-type near-future where cities are heavily controlled and only accessible through checkpoints. People cannot travel unless they have "papelles," a special travel permit issued by the totalitarianistic government, the "Sphinx". Outside these cities, the desert has taken over and shanty towns are jammed with non-citizens - people without papelles forced to live primitive lives. William is a family man who works as a government investigator. When he is sent to Shanghai to solve a case of fake papelles, he meets a woman named Maria. Although he realizes she is behind the forgeries, he cannot help but fall completely in love with her. He hides her crime and they have a wild, passionate affair that can only last as long as his papelles: 24 hours. Back home, William is obessed with the memory of Maria. When the original investigation is inevitably re-opened a week later and William is sent back to finish the work he started, he tracks her down, only to discover she has been accused of a Code 46 violation and any further relationship is impossible.
Unconventional depiction of the future. Although they miscast Tim Robbins for the role.

quoted plot outlines taken from
bold type comments by me

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I've been meaning to avoid politics, except it's on my mind 72% of the time. The mere mentioning of it would render half a night gone thinking and sitting in front of the PC, me angry, in despair. I don't want to turn this little private blog into a vehicle for political propaganda, however small it is, and however little time I actually spend here.

I don't want to lean towards either the left or right. But how can so many millions of people, educated or otherwise, be so blinded, willingly suck onto any spoon-feeding? I can see why some manipulate facts for their personal gains, but what about the vast majority who get zero benefit from these inept deceptions?

Maybe there are just too many dummies out there. Maybe as a species we don't deserve this planet. Maybe they have more simply because they've wanted it more. Remember Apocalypse Now? Beat them at their own game. Fuck it all!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sony's last try

Sony to market PS3 for under 50,000 yen
President Ken Kutaragi of Sony Computer Entertainment announced on Friday that PlayStation 3 would go on sale on Nov. 11 for 49,980 yen, rather than the previously-announced 62,790 more

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

strange dream

I woke up sweating from this weird dream, so vivid I thought the waking up was a dream, not the dream itself. I go to a highschool reunion. Everyone is there, but I am awful quiet because my current job is a secret agent for the US of A. In order for me not to expose my identity, I am given a shot directly to the head, followed by a brief blackout. Then I am sworn in to never betray the country along with my fellow soldiers.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Starry night?

Fix your camera to a tripod, lock the shutter open, and you can make an image of star trails - graceful concentric arcs traced by the stars as planet Earth rotates on its axis. Of course, the length of the star trails will depend on the exposure time. While exposures lasting just five minutes produce a significant arc, in about 12 hours a given star would trace out half a circle. But in any long exposure, the background glow from light-polluted skies can build up to wash out the trails. Still, astronomer Josch Hambsch produced this stunning composite of star trails around the South Celestial Pole with an effective "all night" exposure time of almost 11 hours. To do it, he combined 128 consecutive five minute long digital exposures recorded in very dark night skies above Namibia. In his final image, the background glow on the right is due in part to the faint, arcing Milky Way.
NASA's pic of the day

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

green aurora

What if your horizon was green? If you've got a camera, take a picture! That was the experience of Jeff Hapeman last week when visiting the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. On a quiet night toward the northern horizon over Lake Superior was a long lasting diffuse green aurora. The above image was taken in an effort to capture the sense of wonder one gets when watching an auroral display. Auroras are sparked by energetic particles from the Sun impacting the magnetic environment around the Earth. Resultant energetic particles such as electrons and protons rain down near the Earth's poles and impact the air. The impacted air molecules temporarily lose electrons, and when oxygen molecules among them reacquire these electrons, they emit green light. Auroras are known to have many shapes and colors.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Irohazaka, driving ecstasy

Again oweing up to its Initial D fame, Irohazaka (いろは坂) WAS one of the best known drifting hot spots. Two weeks ago I had the chance to drive it. Here are some facts:
  • "i,ro,ha" is an old Japanese counting method;
  • the curves are labeled in that order;
  • it's a section of the national road #120 (AKA "Nikko douro");
  • it connects the city of Nikko (日光市馬返) and Chuzenjiko (中禅寺湖) in Tochigi-ken (栃木県);
  • the climb (known as irohazaka #2) and downhill (#1) are two seperate one-way roads;
  • the climb section has 20 turns; the downhill has 28; nearly all of them hairpin;
  • it used to be a toll road;
  • it's known to kill, last fatal accident on 8/26;

And here are the pics:

An illustrated map showing both roads.

More pics
(not mine)
Japan Wiki page here
(warning: open roads are for driving; racing belongs at the racetrack)

World Bball pics

A friend of mine got these exclusive shots at some 2006 World Basketball Championship games held in Saitama which I missed with regrets. Saitama-ken is the prefecture just north of Tokyo, which technically is right next to me although it takes anywhere from 2-4 hours to get there. Going up to Saitama isn't that bad since driving there takes no more than 3.5 hours with normal traffic conditions.

. . . . .
Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) of Germany at the line. The cheerleaders appear to have limitless changes of sexy outfits.

. . .
Team USA lined up for the pre-game introduction. Waving and leaving the court after palying a really decent game. 2006 USA Men's World Championship Team Roster here.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

hang your heads

US basketball.

These folks need lessons, but when will they learn them, if ever? Despite the fact that the world's arena is much smaller than the US NBA's, financially speaking, losing is simply that, losing. Where is the drive? The determination? The collaboration? A Detroit Pistons would win. The bling-bling ballers who go into this wanting to put on a show, will always walk out hanging their heads.
"The U.S. has dazzling skill; the Greeks are a dazzling team."
The fact that we already know (repeatedly) the above statement is true only makes matter worse. Teamwork, learn it. And while you're at it, pass the damn ball. And coach, don't tiptoe around the stars. Yes, listen to the soothing words from your groupies and your 12-person care unit after the defeat. It'll make you feel better inside.

First I was mad at myself for missing the Saitama games. For 100 bucks you can watch two games back to back. Now this. I thought our excuse was we didn't care about soccer.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

super typhoon

Not to be a fear-monger but there is a big-ass typhoon headed our way. It's called super typhoon Ioke or known as #12 locally. It'll be the fiercest since 1994 if it achieves a direct landfall.

According to the Saffir-Simpson damage scale the potential property damage and flooding from a storm of Ioke's strength (category 4) at landfall includes:

  • Storm surge generally 4.0-5.5 metres (13-18 feet) above normal.
  • Curtainwall failures with some complete roof structure failures on small residences.
  • Shrubs, trees, and all signs are blown down.
  • Complete destruction of mobile homes.
  • Extensive damage to doors and windows.
  • Low-lying escape routes may be cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the centre of the storm.
  • Major damage to lower floors of structures near the shore.
  • Terrain lower than 3 metres (10 feet) above sea level may be flooded requiring massive evacuation of residential areas as far inland as 10 km (6 miles).

  • There is also the potential for flooding further inland due to heavy rain.
    I hope it doesn't hit here but if it does, with minimum damage and no loss of life, in a perfect world that'd be. I'm so conflicted about these natural disasters, so fascinating yet deadly.

    Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    more pics (summer '06)

    See if you can spot our little friend there.

    In reality this view accounts for 80% of the trip. Car, car, car, and more car; driving, driving, and more driving. Almost a carbon copy from last summer.

    Your typical Japan's warlord's castle. This one is located in Miyagi-ken if memory serves.

    It'd make a pretty decent wallpaper. Maybe I'll find a few for that later.

    summer '06 (cont')

    From left, Shoko, Todd, Lewis. Shoko is a college student and Lewis is serving the country (U.S.) on a Japan's US airforce base. Again, we accidentally ran into a hanabi (fireworks display festival) in northern Gunma-ken.

    The crowd at the hanabi. Some locals in yukata (a summer kimono).

    At a rest stop this is what we found, some ice and snow to cool the kids off.

    Some scenery we snapped while driving. We seem to have done a lot of those aimlessly but they end up being some of my favorites.

    Our dash, it's got a killer GPS satellite navigation system. We haven't got lost with it even once, oh well, maybe twice.

    It does literally everything under the sun. It tells you where to turn, three or four times; it suggests which road to take; it counts distance; it predicts arriving time; it tells you where there is a traffic jam; it shows maps as detailed as you can see outside the car with your own eyes, or zoomed out as far as the outline of the entire country; it dices; it slices... the driver's duty is gradually reduced to that of a monkey at the wheel.

    Here is what happens when we, out of character, tried to plan to go somewhere. It took us literally hours to get to the town, one and a half to get up the mountain, another one hour to hike the hill, which we cheated by paying a toll to get to the top where we were so thrilled to see a crater lake. (Mount Zao in Yamagata-ken)

    And this, this is the best shot we took. Fog so thick you can cut it with a chainsaw.

    Just for contrary, this is what it supposedly looks like. (not our pic)

    summer '06 (pics)

    This is the car we drove during our '06 summer "camping expedition". We made use of the heat on our vehicle energized by the unforgiving morning sun as an effective dryer.

    Some unlikely breakfast. We were very hungry after the first night of non-resting. It turns out in this town upnorth the only foods available this early are in the fish market open from 4:30am.

    A random sighting. We thought it was picture-worthy. Most of our destinations are not planned. Running into interesting things roadsides seems to do the trick.

    One of these sleepless nights we decided to crash in a love hotel to sleep, not unlike dead people hit the ground. Notice this particular hotel lends its guests free cosplay outfits. Wow! zzzzzZZZ

    We came to a lake in Fukushima-ken. There are beaches, rowboats, swan-paddlers, and jet-skis, and burning sensations from the toasted sand. I love the mountain range in contrast to the cloudy blue background.