Far Far Away

The best stories are always in a place far from where you are, either far in distance or far in time.

"Once upon a time..."

"In a galaxy far far away..."

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning."

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters..."

Why is that? Why are the best stories far far away or in the beginning of time? Maybe it is the same reason why I don't think of myself as living in a layer of air - or a fish thinks that it swims under water. Maybe it is the same reason I have a hard time seeing my own nose. I am so used to the miracles around me that I overlooked it. The same marvel would take a fresh set of eyes to discovery then retold to me. I could, of course now sit here and wait for someone to tell me of wonders...or, I could travel to another country and check out other people's lives.

By the way, did I mention I am going to Hong Kong next weekend? I hope I find the country interesting.

Intelligent Design

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last month, you would have heard about the debate between Intelligent Design and Evolution. But I am not here to talk about which is real science or not, nor am I here to comment on which is better for future science. I am here to talk about this article. I am here to talk about my suprise at human nature.

Since the beginning Dover school board members insisted that their version of Intelligent Design has nothing to do with Creationism - that they had no intention of mixing religion with science nor promote any particular faith to small children. William Buckingham who is leading the school board even said, under oath, he has never given interview to two news paper reporters mentioning creationism in classroom. That is, until a video was presented with an interview and his own mouth using the word "creationism" in context with teaching it in place of Evolution.

I am a little suprised. I guess I know Christians aren't perfect by defination but I really do believe Christians are better than average - even after this particular incidient. After all, he is just one man. I think Christians are generally better people, that might be why it came out as a shock that he would lie in a court to promote his faith.

I don't quite understand this. If you believe someone knows everything you do, why would you lie to promote his faith - when He is going to know about it? Even more curious, why would he lie knowing there was a video interview record of the session?

If anyone has an insight or can explain his behavior, I would like to hear about it. Until then, below is something interesting parallel to Intelligent Design.

Here is an open letter from FSM - Flying Spaghetti Monster concerning the issue of Intelligent Design. I did not write it, but I find the paraody article funny. If you want to know what FSM is, here is an article on FSM from Wikipedia.

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence. What these people don’t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.

I’m sure you now realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory. It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.

You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.

In conclusion, thank you for taking the time to hear our views and beliefs. I hope I was able to convey the importance of teaching this theory to your students. We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

Sincerely Yours,

Bobby Henderson, concerned citizen.

The ruling on Intelligent Design vs Evolution will be handed down by the end of this week. I wonder which would win? I also wonder if Flying Spaghetti Monsterism has a place in science class rooms...

Coffee and Tea

There is nothing better than a cup of tea in the afternoon.

Unlike a cup of coffee, the aroma of tea is usually unassuming. The tea's smell is between itself and the bearer. She doesn't force the whole room to notice her existence nor try to grab your attention aggressively. When you part with her, you don't have to worry about your hands shaking, nor would you be forced to come back because you must. Rather, like a true love, she is willing to allow you the freedom to leave, taking in faith that the relationship would last.

She is good for you too. She eases your thirst of life with her gentelness unlike her dark-skinned cousin that is much more demanding. In fact, her dark-skinned cousin makes me nervous and jittery, I even seem to go to the bathroom more often when she is around.

At night, while the gentle lady would put me to sleep, the cousin would try to talk to me and keep me up till she is satisified. Don't get me wrong, many people fight to court this young exotic beauty. Her exuberance in life invigorates them. Her forceful personalty makes them alive. Her perfume they wore as a mark of trophy.

I must admit it is good when I am with the exotic cousin. Not one to be shy, she would chat excitedly from the moment you met her. Her hold on people is clear. She speeds up my heart, makes me sweat, and generally takes over my life while i am under her presence. Yet once away from her, I would feel lost, a sense of deflation in my heart. She takes my free will without me giving it away willingly.

It is hard to argue with a beauty.

The gentle lady on the other hand takes a while to know. Her shyness means that it takes some time for her to get to know you. More often than not, we will simply sit there quietly for a few moment, enjoying each other's company before we converse. She steeps into your soul. She is not one for men who couldn't slow down and appreciate beauty. Those men who had to utilize every second, who live on the edge of thrill, who had to be grabbed at the throat tend to be admirers of her dark-exotic cousin. I must say as wonderful and exotic as she is, she is simply not for me. I prefer the calmer view on life, the steady strength of support, and the simple faith of trust.

I enjoy all my conversations with the gentle lady, sometimes with words, and other times just sitting there enjoying her company. In the end, I hope you have the chance and pleasure to meet her. Just remember, she is shy, so take care to give her some time to collect herself. I imagine you would like what she has to say.


I wrote this piece of writing a while back. The last post "Hey, you." reminded me of this particular work. Some people are constantly on the edge, bigger than life itself, and very exciting - just like coffee. Other people has unassuming nature like the lightness of tea that steeps.

You can't experience tea right away, you must let it sit. After awhile, when the time is right, then you can experience the fullness of its ways. Often, the people that steeps are good for you, the richness is multi-layered. other people are like coffee, forceful and a bit demanding. often, they are not as good for you. over a length of time, they tend to drain you. even worse they tend to over power you and make you loose yourself. what is more, they usually over-reach themselves. presenting you with an attractive aroma at first, but once you taste it you realize the bitterness is nothing like the rich smell. i always feel a slight disapointment when drinking coffee.

Hey, you.

Sometimes you read an article and it simply connects with you - like it is looking you in the eye and talking to you privately. Writings that brought back old memories and feelings and one can only be thankful of the human conditions which it inspires. I don't really know the person who wrote it, or who she was writing to, but the writing spoke to me - it incompasses both things i want to say and things that i think people might say to me.

Hey, you.

I don't know what you've been up to lately, what's keeping you busy. I'm just certain it's not bumming around -- that's so not you. I know you love the pressure, being rushed, on the go, on your feet. Constantly.

I bet you're still as hectic as you were before. People calling you up when we hang out, coffee and movie dates getting cancelled at the last minute, me picking you up at 2 AM, you missing out on deadlines, cutting classes but still acing subjects. That was some world you had there, and although I never liked being caught in that web, I sort of miss it, no matter how crazy (and HUGELY different) it was from mine. Perhaps because it was exactly that. Cra-a-zy.

I never got to tell you, but being around you was a strange feeling. The kind you get from a love-hate relationship. I loved the fun, but the spontaneity was off, a bit extreme. I was cared for, but I felt strapped down, suffocated. I loved the talks, but I hated the melodrama. So they say I'm a whiner =D

I still think you were a great friend, amazing in fact. Warts-and-all. I hope I was the same to you.

And I know it's been a while. A long time, actually. I've changed and things have changed for me, both for the better. You too could be a totally different person now. I can't really tell.

Knowing you was good while it lasted. I'm beyond grateful.
Cheers to what was, regards to what is.

~Hot Chocolate


How curious, the longer I have known people the more beautiful they become. The change is gradual and unassuming. Yet the change is real none-the-less and manifests itself when least expected. Just yesterday I was struck by the sight of our AutoCAD designer. Never mind that she is 8 years older than me, nor the fact that we don't talk very often. She was standing by the door, getting ready to go home, with a radiant smile that softens the modern office decorations around her. I then took the time to look around the office, out of the faces unblocked by computers; I find that they too look better than when I first met them on the job.

How did this change occur? It can't be inner beauty surfacing, since some of them I really don't know very well. Is it the wonderful diet surrounding restaurants provide which might be both balanced and nutritious? Could it be the 8 hours a day exposure to artificial fluorescent light that makes everyone's skin less dark? Maybe the company established a new over-time compensation plan covering cosmetic surgery that I missed?

Now where did I put my company memo...

Perhaps simple visual familiarity adds to beauty. John Keith once said, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty". Maybe it takes a slow mind like mine some time to register the reality of this world. The more I see these people, the more real they become, and the more beautiful they grow.

This in itself constitutes a good reason to travel. Seeing some other people in another country, 'make' them more real. Intellectually I know the people in another country are real. Their joy equally bright, their suffering equally sharp, and their blood no less red. Yet if even the people in my office take time to become real to me, what does that say about other people whom I have never met?

It is hard to ignore people, but it is easy to discard numbers. When we are dealing with not hundreds of people, but millions of people - we generalize. People become nameless and faceless. Some of us even do it on purpose; we walk down the street looking at the ground and not at the sea of people. "I don't see you, you are not real", the Ostrich says.

Lastly, there is always the possibility that everyone looks better not because of any perception of mine. Maybe everyone looks better because it is almost time to go home.


I sat on the train and kept my head down.

Today is yet another Wednesday. The sea of crowd seems slower and heavier. I can almost hear the collective consciousness whispers, "Two days down and two more days to go."

The sea of commuters is carried by sheer momentum towards their job post. It is what we have done on Monday and Tuesday, so it is what we shall continue to do on Wednesday. I couldn't recognize when it happened, but at one point in my life, life style became a habit. I eat 3 meals a day because I have done so for 24 years. I am not hungry, but I eat, because everyone else does. To be honest, two meals a day would be perfectly fine by me. Like the tides pulled by the celestial moon, we are pull by a force and our action evolves around that strange force.

I thought about it and wonder what that strange force might be. The answer that came to mind is weekend. Thursday and Friday accelerates towards weekend, time are pulled and becoming faster. Wednesday time is the slowest because it is the furthest point from weekend. Thus we have the high tide and low tide of life; thus we have the dance of human nature.

I raised my head, risking irritating looks from others, and looked into some people's faces.

Everyone looks tired. I know I am tired. I also know I am tried from "nothing". I haven't done anything yet, the magnetic train carried me from home to work, I carried a light business case, and the 6 hours of sleep carried my body. Are other people also tired from the nothingness in life or do they have a better reason? Are there other things that we carry which weight us down?

Some people live for weekends, others live all the days of their lives. It would be nice to live all the days of our lives. Then again, perhaps not right now, there is work to be done for the next 10 hours.


I haven't talk about myself lately, which is entirely inapproperiate, since this blog is supposedly about me.

Lately I have a strange urge to drop my engineering job and learn how to bake bread. I see advertisement in no less than 3 bread stores asking for helpers. I think it might be a sign and I don't know how much longer I can resist "the calling". Bread is just so delicious, its fragrance when it first come out of the oven reminds me the smell of home. Someday I hope to travel to Europe, not for the sight seeing, but to taste their famous varity of bread. Well, that is not entirely true, I also hope to drive on the other side of the car, that would be oh-so-very-neat.

I am still stuck on chapter 1 of Robert Jordan's new book, the knife of dreams. The words just crawl across the page for me. I don't know why. What I have read so far, the whole 48 pages, are superb though. I think I just have issues.

On the gaming side of my life - one of my friend bought the dvd version of Final Fantasy XI, a mmorpg game. He sent me the password for a free 30 day pass which is very nice of him. I will check it out sometimes.

Another friend got me a copy of World of Warcraft just 2 weeks ago. I didn't like WoW much because I am forced to connect to a chinese server. My typing speed in chinese is pitiful so the game is not very enjoyable for me.

I also got my hands on Lunar Silver Star Story Complete and Lunar 2 Eternal Blue Complete. These two are the most famous RPG games from Sega-Gensis Days. They have been remade for playstation so I had to pick them up. So far I check out the intro to the games but haven't actually played them. I have a very bad habit of buying things but not actually use them -_-.

Also, I am researching how to run my own private server for Ragnarok Online, a very well known MMORPG game. I couldn't believe this but running a private server for RO is actually legal. Someone reverse engineered RO and recode it for personal use. The setup for RO is somewhat complicated but I am spending a bit of time each day figuring out the command structure. I think it would be really neat to make my own world and walk around with no one else in it. Knowing me, I will probably feel lonely after a couple hours then abandon the game. But in the main time, it gives me something to do.

I have given up trying to save the computers in the office. Every other computer has viruses. Not just spyware or tracking cookies, I mean full blown viruses. I can clean one computer in an hour, but by tomorrow the virus will be back. What kind of programs are these people using? Even worse, maybe it is the website they are visiting. I could block bad sites with background programs but that seems to be a bit radical. Now I only try when people ask my help in cleasning (exorcism, as they jokingly refer to the activity) the computer once the computer dies. It is not in my job description but I figure I can help the company save a couple thousand dollars this way. I really want to sent a memo to the top asking to replace all the IE with Firefox, install Protowall, Blocklist Manager, Spybot Search & Destory, and Ad-Aware. Sigh, crippled computer bothers me.

Lastly, here are some news/issues I am tracking: Pledge of Allegiance law suit, Intelligent Design vs Evolution lawsuit, XBox360 debut, Nintendo Evolution news, PS3 news, Google Print lawsuit, US Hurricane news, HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray battle, New Medicare system.

Used Reference Sources: Google New and Wikipedia


I am thinking about buying a digital camera. More specifically a Canon EOS 350D / Digital Rebel XT. It has a pretty good review from 3 seperate sources. It costs about 800 US dollars which I translate to 800 of McDonald's McChicken Sandwich. So this camera could in theory keep someone from starving for a whole year, I don't know if I can justify such a purchase. Then again, my friend does have a point, "McChicken doesn't take any high quality digital picture".

There are a lot of technical vocabulary that I am not familiar with while reseraching digital camera. For example - something about camera resolution ultimately translates to the number of megapixels on your picture. You need at least 3 megapixel for an okay looking regular size photo. You need 5 megapixel or above for a quality regular size photo. Optical zoom is vastly better than digital zoon. Reason being that digital zoon affects final picture quality. CCD type sensor is better than the more common CMOS sensor, except when the camera is of Digital SLR-type.

What does CCD, CMOS, SLR, or Megapixel really mean? I don't know.

I don know that Rebel XT has a maximum of 8 megapixel. It has USB connection so I can upload pictures directly to my computer. It is charged by Li-ion battery which is a longer lasting battery. It weights 590g so I won't have problem carrying it all day but I won't gain any muscles either which is too bad. It has a 1.8" LCD screen so I can see directly the pictures I am about to take. JPEG is one of the compression formate that it supports and it also supports RAW which is an uncompressed format. It is a Digital SLR-type and has CMOS sensor. It also has a built in flash.

If you know something about digital camera, feel free to sent me a link or suggest a product (can't believe I am actively asking for spam...well, just this once). Let me know if this is a good choice.

Essential Softwares

Here are some softwares I find very useful and their links. All the software I listed here is tested and free.

Emule [Wiki] is a P2P software, you can find various files, movies, songs, programs, books, or pictures. It is a way to find and download stuff off the internet and the code is open source. There are both illegal and legal songs, illegal and legal movies, illegal and legal books. If you want to download copyright material you should know it is against the law. The program is a tool - just like a frying pan. You can use a frying pan to attack people (illegal) but frying pan itself is legal.

Firefox [Wiki] is an internet browser just like IE, except it is a lot more flexible. You can add a lot of plug-ins and extensions to make it the browser that you will enjoy using. Also, it is more secure and open source. Below are some of the extension I use for Firefox:
  • Adblock, (4.26 stars, 3678189 downloads): Once installed, it's a snap to filter elements at their source-address. Just right-click: Adblock: done. Filters use either the wildcard character (*) or full Regular Expression syntax. Hit the status-element and see what has or hasn't been blocked.
  • Tabbrowser Preferences, (3.24 stars, 3224452 downloads): Enables enhanced control for some aspects of tabbed browsing.
  • IE View, (4.38 stars, 1657777 downloads): Adds "View page in Internet Explorer" links to the content and link context menu. Handy for previewing pages in IE, loading up IE-only pages when you run across them in Mozilla, etc.
  • FoxyTunes, (4.48 stars, 923388 downloads): Do you listen to Music while surfing the Web? Now you can control your favorite media player without ever leaving the browser and more...
  • Google Preview, (4.71 stars, 293426): Inserts preview images (thumbnails) of web sites, Amazon products and stock charts into the Google and search results pages.
  • SmoothWheel, (4.64 stars, 222134): Scrolls the document smoothly when scrolling the mouse wheel.
  • Copy Plain Text, (4.31 stars, 126781): Copies text without formatting
  • Grab&Drag, (3.26 stars, 6586): Enables Adobe Acrobat-style grab and drag scrolling in Firefox
Protowall (only try if you are familar with computers*)
Protowall [Wiki] is a system level IP blocker. There are a lot of weird people out there trying to access your computer. On any given second you are sending stuff from your computer to IPs unknown out there. Some are research organziation, some are government, some are just data mining companies. Protowall uses very little resource because it is not technically a program, it is a system level blocker that terminates a suspicious ip before it was ever processed by a program. I recommend the 1.42 version and not the 2.01 beta version. I have tried both and the 1.42 version is better and more stable. The setup for protowall can be a bit complex though, so if you are familar with computers I recommend you try PeerGuardian. PeerGuardian is not the one I use, I have never tried it, but it is open source.

Blocklist Manager (only use if you decided to try protowall or peerguardian*)
Blocklist Manager works with Protowall and PeerGuardian. It is a compilation of many lists of suspicous IPs by people who knows about internet. The list is updated everyday. Blocklist Manager makes the ip list which Protowall uses to block bad websites and access to your computer.

Ad-aware SE Personal Edition
Ad-Aware [Wiki] is designed to provide advanced protection from known Data-mining, aggressive advertising, Parasites, Scumware, selected traditional Trojans, Dialers, Malware, Browser hijackers, and tracking components. With the release of Ad-Aware SE Personal edition, Lavasoft takes the fight against Spyware to the next level.

Spybot Search & Destory
Spybot - Search & Destroy [Wiki] can detect and remove spyware of different kinds from your computer. Spyware is a relatively new kind of threat that common anti-virus applications do not yet cover. If you see new toolbars in your Internet Explorer that you didn't intentionally install, if your browser crashes, or if you browser start page has changed without your knowing, you most probably have spyware. But even if you don't see anything, you may be infected, because more and more spyware is emerging that is silently tracking your surfing behaviour to create a marketing profile of you that will be sold to advertisement companies. Spybot-S&D is free, so there's no harm in trying to see if something snooped into your computer, too :)

VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player [Wiki] is similar to Windows Media Player, except it is open source and runs many more formate than WMP. For example, it runs apple's quicktime formate, ogg, avi, asf, wmv, wma, mp4, mov, wav, mpeg, vcd, dvd. The complete file formate it can run is listed here. I use it to run ogg and quicktime so instead of downloading 3 Media Player I can make do with just two now. It is one of the great legendary open source project on the web right now. I recommend you try it out.

Gmail [Wiki] is a free web based mail service from Google. You have to receive an invitation in order to get into the program. You get 2.5gig of free space and check your email anywhere in the world as long as you have internet connection.

ePSXe [Wiki] is a playstation emulator. It allows you to play your playstation games on your PC computer. You still need your original Playstation Game Disc to play the game or at least a copy of it. The copy can be in the format of ISO. The setup can be slightly complicated and various plug-ins has to be found before emulation. To be more specific, you need a PSX GPU Plugin (graphic), a PSX SPU Plugin (sound), a PSX CDR Plugin (CD Drive Plugin), ePSXe program, a PSX bio, and a PSX game for the emulation to work. Here is a help guide on how to set the program up.

Zsnes [Wiki] is a SNES emulator. It allows you to play Super Nintendo games on your PC computer. You will need something called roms, which is the digitalized copy of your SNES games to play. You can find those with emule or you can download them from Rom-world. There are also roms for nes, sega, and mame on this web site. If you run firefox, it will automatically block all the pop up, if you run IE it will get annoying. Also, you can only make (own) a digital copy of rom if you own the game itself.

Daemon Tools is a proprietary disk image emulator for CD/DVD-ROMs able to mount CD images in virtual drives. The program is able to emulate most copy prevention schemes. This software is available for the Microsoft Windows operating system. I use Daemon tool so I don't have to burn .iso, .nrg, or various CD images into a disc before viewing them. Daemon allow me to view them in their raw state which is very useful.


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It is yet another Storm!

Tropical Storm Alpha is the 22nd storm this season. This is the first time the U.S National Hurricane Center ran out of all 21 names reserved for the season. The remaining storms of the season will use Greek Alphabet in sequence (alpha, beta...etc). This storm season broke a lot of records:

Most Damage Done: Katrina
Lowest Pressured Storm: Wilma (the lower the pressure, the faster the wind speed)
Most Number of storm: 22 so far
* Category 1: 5 (Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Stan, Vince)
* Category 2: 1 (Irene)
* Category 3: 1 (Maria)
* Category 4: 2 (Dennis, Emily)
* Category 5: 3 (Katrina, Rita, Wilma)
Most Number of category 5 storm: Katrina, Rita, Wilma

"Luckily we didn't waste $ on greenhouse reduction or Kyoto Protocol because we're going to need that money to pay for all the storm damage we have been getting lately."
~sigh, the wisdom of politicians....

...And the World Burns

US troops said to have burned militants' bodies
Burning-bodies video ignites furor

I haven't been this angry since September 11th. The images of Palestinians dancing on the street, celebrating the world trade center bombing were a memorable moment in my life. That moment was marked by a well placed punch to the concrete wall. Rest assured, the wall was not damaged in any way, but typing was difficult that day. Till this day, even after weeks of actual research time on why US was hated I still could not get a complete picture. The question of how or why was never answered to my satisfaction. I can understand extremist wanting to make war, killing innocent people, and take down world trade center. But I may never understand why normal people and little kids from various Middle Eastern countries celebrate our deaths.

Today some of my questions might have been answered. I felt that same hot anger when I saw the videos where 5 US soldiers burned and desecrated 2 enemy bodies. Even worst, they are supposedly Taliban fighters. Why is it worse to burn Taliban fighters? Because of their religion. "Under Islamic tradition, bodies should be washed, prayed over, wrapped in white cloth and buried within 24 hours." This is not just a violation of their body; it is a violation of their belief and religion. I can now understand a little why they might hate US and why the celebration of death.

Both sides had made this not a war on terrorism. This is a war of religion and ideology...and maybe oil. Mark my words, the desecration of their dead will come back and haunt us. There will be repercussions. There are 1.2 Billion Islamic out there and only 25 million Islamic are in Iraq. In another word, those US soldiers just angered 20% of world population (world population is currently 6.4 billions). You can't do that to 1 in 5 man out of 6 billions and expect nothing to happen. I am deeply shamed and angry at what the US had done.

I don't buy that whole political speech - "As always, should you or any member of your force be caught, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions. This tape will self destruct in five seconds. God luck. Jim." It doesn’t work that way in real life as in Mission Impossible. They DO represent us however much we don't want they to have done it. You can't just take the good and not the bad. We don't sent out soldiers and say "you are on your own, son." we sent out soldiers saying "you are fighting for your country, do us proud, son." These soldiers are the fist of America; those boys wear the face of Americans. Don't give me that crap about this is war and all is fair in war and love - because then what the hell are we fighting for?

Be ashamed as we should be, we have failed in our education. And be angry for the fading light of humanity. And if there is a god, may he have mercy upon our souls. Oh, and watch out for the the flood.

Ironically, song of the moment is Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire -_-

Sarcasm, Humor, and the Human Conditions

Sarcasm is not in my blood. The art of black humor requires a more expressive tone or perhaps a more bitter face. It always fascinates me how some of my friends can seemingly assault various sensitive topics and personal derogatory comments without inciting a feeling of hurt. Everyone just "know" somehow that these few chosen ones are joking. I know it sounds idiotic, trying to figure out how to sound bitter and slightly offensive. Yet it is fascinating. The combination of vocabulary, timing, facial expression, and tone is deceptively simple but beyond complex once examined closely. More than what is being communicated, I came to think of sarcasm as an exchange of trust. Do you trust that person doesn't mean it and is simply joking? Do you trust the relationship well enough that these comments can be made?

A properly executed sarcasm incites trust. It is like a shot of vaccine. A little dose of sarcasm means that you will be immune (or less likely) to get offended later. I may have over-analyzed the situation, but I have seen those Black Humor Artist get away with comments that had anyone else made would most likely be sued. Another way I can compare these friendly banter is like exercising. You tear the muscle at a regular interval so that later it grows back stronger - able to withstand higher stress. You test the trust at a regular interval so that later it grows back stronger - same idea.

Each little bitter joke helps trust grow a bit stronger. Of course, it has to be properly done. A poorly executed practice injures the muscle (trust). Or you can inject an over dosed vaccine (sarcasm), so that instead of immunizing you, it gives you the full blown offense. There is a thin line these black humor artist balances on.

Of course, vastly more likely they just do it like breathing, without thinking. I think that is a very important point; "they just do it like breathing". Where as I would have to think to inject a little bite to my comments, they do it day in and day out. Consistency might be the last key I will always be missing. People take those bitterness as the norm. "they are just that way, it is fair, they do it to everyone". As suppose to "Albert who has always been nice and polite said that! I can't believe it! He must really mean it!"

I still remember one time I used the word "fuck" because I was quoting a quotation about war. Everyone just stopped and looked at me and one of the girl actually gasped - gasped! For the next 5 minutes we talk about how they didn't think I was capable of using that word. The situation was humorous because it has some truth in there. They really didn't think that word would ever come out of my mouth in this lifetime. Here is another thing; all the great jokes are layered with truth. It is truth that we can't avoid nor deny so we laugh about it.

Humor softens the blow of reality. I think it is why humor exists. The opposite of humor is not boredom - the opposite of humor is pain. Like light couldn't exist without darkness. Humor couldn't exist without pain; they are the same coin with two faces.

Why do we laugh when people fall down on a banana peel? We are really laughing collectively at human conditions, the fact we are vulnerable and that we all hurt. We can't change that pain, so we laugh about it.

Why do we laugh at Yo' Mama jokes? Because we can no more change who our parents are than change our human conditions - so we laugh about it.

We laugh in the face of death, broken hearts, and bitter sarcasm (because by god, they are true, or else they wouldn't be funny). It ties us together because we are really saying "we are only human and we are in it together". At least, that is how I translate "ha ha". I see humor as a sign of acceptance of our painful reality.

I know it is not the normal way of looking at humor. I even discourage you to agree with me. It is far better not to know and blend into the crowd. Same thing with religion - you will be better off not to question and just live obliviously. Because when a room full of people is laughing over a hurt or human condition, I couldn't help but feel a little sad while I laugh. I couldn't help but feel we should do something about it.


I had 3 hours of sleep last night but strangely I feel fine. The night before last I had jus 5 hours. Maybe I don't require as much sleep anymore. I read a research once you can train yourself to require less sleeping time. It is normally done by reducing the prep stage of sleep time people wasted. Since supposedly the point of sleep is really the REM stage where you do most of the dreaming.

Here is a really long piece of writing summerizing 5 stages of sleep and then describing how to shorten your need for sleep. This is mostly a little note to myself and reading it will mostly likely put you to sleep.
...Read more

Here is how sleep works. There are 5 stages of sleep, which together form a cycle. Each cycle lasts 90 to 120 minutes. Each night most people undergo 4 to 6 cycles. So the interesting thing here to note is that not all sleeps are equal. The most restorative stage of sleep is the 5th stage where REM occurs. This is also when the majority of your dreams occur.

The process of dreaming has a high correlation to memory retention. Your short-term memories are processed during the REM (5th) Stage then become long term. The theory is that REM dreaming helps consolidate spatial and procedural memory by cross-referencing your life experiences.

5 Stages of Sleep:

Stage 1: 5~10 minutes, it is a transitional period between waking and sleeping. When people shift restlessly, it is during this stage. There is a 50% reduction of your alpha brain wave compare to waking at this stage. Interestingly, a rare condition known as Hypnagogic hallucination happens in this stage.

When in a hypnagogic state a person can have lifelike auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations (known as hypnagogic hallucinations), perhaps even accompanied by full body paralysis. The paralysis is the result of natural nerve signal block to prevent a sleeper from moving their body during REM stage. Sleep walking and sleep talking is due to inadequate paralysis and the dreamer is simply acting out their dream.

During hypnagogic the individual is aware that these are hallucinations; the frightening part, in many cases, is the inability to react or make a sound because REM paralysis has kicked in. In other cases one may enjoy truly vivid imaginations. The term was coined by the 19th century French psychologist Alfred Maury. Many artists, musicians, architects, engineers, and others demanding creativity to be successful have benefited from the hypnagogia state, where the mind can be totally free and open to creative and new ideas.

Now hypnagogic happened twice in my life. One induced a wonderful and joyous emotion which I can only categorize as a religious experience. The other one induced my single most horrifying experience which I would really rather not think about again - However I would elaborate that it involves auditory hallucination and partial paralysis. Strangely neither experience resulted any creative ideas. However, both have definitely shaped part of my character. Which is amazing when you consider that both experiences lasts less than 5 minutes of my life. About 30-40% of people will experience hypnagogic hallucination once in their life.

Full paralysis happened once in my life. Paralysis occurs when you go into REM nerve blocking stage too fast, as in the case of hypnagogic. Or, it can occur at the end of a sleep when you get out of REM too fast. Your brain didn't have a chance to unblock the nerve but you are already awake. This is the case with my waking paralysis. Chinese old lore refers to this phenomena as "Ghost pressing down on one's body" in order to explain why one can't move. 60% of people will experience this once in their life.

Since hypnagogic means that you retain your consciousness while sleeping, it is more often coined as "waking dream", even though at this stage you are not dreaming yet. Lucid Dreamers train themselves to recognize hypnagogic stage, so they remain "awake" then transition into REM sleep. Effectively, they can consciously control their dream and its elements. This technique is called Waking Induction of Lucid Dreaming (WILD). I am not making this up, someone thought it is a good idea to call this crazy technique WILD with no thoughts of how people might think about creditability. The other technique to induce lucid dreaming occurs inside your dream. You train yourself to recognize some signs that you are not in the real world. This can happen when you see something that is impossible and proceed to reason out that you are in a dream. Once recognizing it is a dream you then can consciously alter it. This second technique is called Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming (MILD).

There are a couple ways for MILD to occur and this is the one you most likely have experienced. Usually when sleeping people take bizarre occurrences as normal. Yet sometimes event occurred that is against your deep belief of what is natural and you proceed to reject the dream as reality. Psychologically, MILD occurs more on an unpleasant dream, people tend not to question a happy dream no matter how absurd it might be. Also, trained Lucid Dreamers can set signs. If the dreamer see his unique sign then he would realize it is a dream.

While WILD never happened for me, MILD has occurred on several occasions. Once I dreamed I smelled a skunk in a library. For some reason that struck me as totally against everything, which is good, right, and true (please don't ask my reasoning, I really don't know). The thought I had at the moment was that "There can never be a skunk in the library! Never!" Maybe I think of library as sacred subconsciously - I really don't know. The result is that I realize I was dreaming and I proceed to explore the world and I added a streetlight to the front of the library (again, please don't ask me why, I thought it was a good idea at the time). The concept of The Matrix is closely related to Lucid Dreaming. The search for reality and truth is equally blurred on both cases. Really, how do you know our lives aren't just one big dream?

Stage 2 - You are now unconscious but can still wake up easily. Your brain wave will show sleep spindles and K-complexes at this stage.

Stage 3 - Delta wave begins to form and comprise of 20% to 50% of your brain wave. Dreaming can occur here but it is more rare. Dreaming frequency is related to delta wave, also known as slow wave sleep.

Stage 4 - Delta wave made up of over 50% of your brain wave. Parasomnias, also known as sleep walking, commonly occur at this stage. Stage 1, 2, 3, and 4 are referred to as Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) part of cycle. Chances of dream increases from stage 3 although vastly less than Stage 5.

Stage 5 - Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep. Supposedly this is where the good stuff happens. Dreams occur most frequently at this stage, you gain long-term memory, and your immune system gets a boost.

Yet I could find nothing concrete from creditable academic sources. Every source that praises REM sleep is from the Internet that looks like a personal web page, non-edu web page, or blogs. Academic papers, published books, and encyclopedia paint a slightly different picture.

First, for example, actual studies have shown no measurable memory difference with people who doesn't have REM stage due to brain damage compare to people who REM. Therefore I have doubts on a direct relation between REM and memory retention.

Second, REM deprivation makes a person happier.

Recall that for REM sleep the body blocks nerve signals. The body does it by shutting down monoamine, a neurotransmitter. One "theory suggests that monoamine shutdown is required so that the monoamine receptors in the brain can recover to regain full sensitivity. Indeed, if REM sleep is repeatedly interrupted, the person will "make up" for it with longer REM sleep at the next opportunity. Acute REM sleep deprivation can improve certain types of depression, and depression appears to be related to an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters. Most antidepressants selectively inhibit REM sleep due to their effects on monoamines, however this effect decreases after long-term use."

Third, your immune system is not actually boosted during REM stage either. The boost happens during NREM phase.

" turns out that when animals are sleep deprived, a protein known as di-muramyl peptide accumulates in their spinal fluid. The peptides do not originate in the brain. Instead, they come from bacteria in the body, suggesting that sleep deprivation may enable bacterial growth and that sufficient sleep impedes bacterial growth.

What's even more interesting is that these di-muramyl peptides enhance NREM sleep but not REM sleep... More interesting still is the fact that the peptides stimulate cells in the brain and the body to produce interleukin-1, a powerful immune-system molecule that promotes the destruction of both bacteria and tumor cells. Highly significant and desirable health effects are mediated by interleukin's ability to encourage the B lymphocytes to produce antibodies, which kill viruses, and to trigger the proliferation of T lymphocytes, which attack microbial invaders. The net effect is to mobilize the body's defensive forces."

To summarize, lack of sleep decreases immune system so bacteria grows -> bacteria produces di-muramyl peptide -> the harmful peptide stimulates production of interlukin-1 -> Interlukin-1 stimulates B lymphocytes to produce antibodies and triggers the proliferation of T lyphocytes -> B antibodies kill viruses and T attack microbial invaders.

Notice interlukin-1 is also a sedative. So it induces sleep. The cycle is simple and elegant.

Lack of sleep causes low immune system -> immune system goes into overdrive to balance overgrown bacteria and also induces NREM sleep -> induced NREM sleep means lack of sleep is cured -> Enough sleep means immune can now operate normally again.

A major reason our body doesn't encourage REM to regain sleep and immune system is because we loose body temperature control at REM stage. If you are already sick and fluctuating in temperature it would be a bad idea to give up body temperature control. When you are sick NREM sleep is the way to go.

So why do people say REM sleep is such miracle? Because while memory retention is not solely related to REM, it is largely related. We dream twice as much in REM sleep compare with NREM. Also the firing rate of our neurons during REM sleep is half that of NREM, meaning we dream twice as much while using half as much energy. On top of all that, out of 8 hours of your sleep, 90-120 minutes of that is REM. Yes, in 2 hours you dream twice as much as you do than the other 6 hours. To put it plainly, REM is 6 times better than NREM when it comes to memory.

So the theory of training yourself to sleep less is a trade off between REM and Immune System. In theory, "3 hours of REM sleep" = "2 hour of REM + 6 hours of NREM". Assuming you are healthy, you can sleep 3 hours indefinitely. You gain 5 hours a day with a slightly lower immune system.

Practically though, a person who seriously want to do this long term would have to spent at least an hour a day exercising to increase body health and immune system. Technically then you only gain 4 hours of "free" time. But as we can see, it is not free. The training takes about 2 months and requires both discipline and will few people possess. Further more, whenever you are sick, the body will force NREM sleep on you and only a fool will continue 3 hour sleep routine while sick. However the breaking of the routine means that it will take another training period to adjust your sleeping routine. It takes 3.5 days of training ratio to 1 sick day to re-adjust your sleeping pattern.

So how does it work? You kick into REM sleep quicker when you are sleep deprived. On sever cases of sleep deprivation people can actually hit REM in minutes. Such practice is obviously dangerous and not beneficial. You don't run a marathon when you have sit in the office for 30 years. You start by walking, then jogging, then long distance. Same thing with sleep, you are stretching your metaphoric REM muscle. If you usually sleep 8 hours, go to bed an hour earlier at 7. Do that for 7 days then take another hour off. So in 21 days, you will be trying to sleep 5 hours a day. Now take off 30 minutes every 7 days for 28 days until you hit 3 hours a day.

It is not recommended to go under 3-hour sleep for any length of time.

Of course, everyone is built differently. Just like not every can be made to run a marathon. Once under 5 hours, you should check at the end of 5th day for warning signs that you have reached your limit. Shortness of breath, insensitivity to cold, your ear somehow feels warmer than normal (especially the tip of your ear), short attention span, noticeable worsen memory, and if you have problem falling asleep (yes, supposedly it happens, it is known as a rebound). Once one or more signs shows, you should stop decreasing sleep time. If after another 5 days the sign(s) still persist, you should add an hour to your sleep time.

In reality, changing your sleeping habit is as easy as changing the way you breathe. Which is to say, very hard. You can change your breathing pattern for a short length of time consciously, but unless fundamental changes occur that touches the way you act subconsciously the change won't last. It is the same thing with sleep. You might be wondering why would any one want to breath different. But how breathing deeper might be good for you might be a bit off topic at the moment for this already long piece of writing.

*Thoughts on related article: Body temperature control, Art of breathing.

Hypnagogic Hallucinations:
Lucid Dreaming:
Sleep and the Immune System:

Google Wallet

Google seems to be rolling out an online payment system code named "Google Wallet". The function looks very similar to PayPal. For one thing, they have rolled out two new sub-domains and Also a gateway that leads into those domains seems to consolidate all the google service into one password. For example, since I already have a gmail password I can log in via my Google Account and I can then move freely through Google Email, Google Answers, Google Adsense, Google Earth...etc without signing in separately - just like Microsoft Passport.

Google Wallet seems a logical move. After all, more and more I see google selling the coinage of trust rather than technology. Google is offering many over-lapping services with Microsoft and Yahoo. The technology between the 3 is close enough that in practical terms any one of the three would do the job. The choice of which to choose comes down to the issue of trust. Do you trust Microsoft or Google to hold your e-mails for you? do you have faith your browsing habit would not be sold by Microsoft? Google Wallet would not be any different. Who do you trust for your banking and credit needs, PayPal or Google? With hundreds of millions changing hands from adsense, item purchase, and froogle, it makes sense for google to establish its own PayPal. The only question is, how long can google bank on simple faith and trust of consumers. Without the next innovation to satisfy costumers, google stock might hurt deeply once the honeymoon is over.

And sadly, I have a feeling the honey moon is almost over.

Danger, Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Noxious Fume is spreading around office. No one knows where it is coming from and it smells like burnt plastic. I have been breathing this stuff for 2 hours now and it hasn't killed me yet so maybe it is not leathal. However, just on the safe side, I am going home at 5pm today instead of 6:30pm. Of course, my going home early has nothing to do with the World of Warcraft game my co-worker gave me - not at all...

Running Status: no
Sit-up Status: no
Noxious Fume: yes

World of Warcraft Status: yes
Running Status: yes
Sit-up Status: yes
Knife of Dreams: no

Unexpected Gift

One of my office co-worker is big on Counter Strike, he once skipped lunch just to play that game for 90 minutes with no interruption. The game looks fun even thought it is almost a decade old game. I remember once trying it out with Bill against unknown people over TCP-IP. I wasn't very good and usually gets shot down quickly, but the heart pumping cold sweat action is hard to forget.

The nostalgic feeling prompted me to download "Half-Life - Condition Zero" which is the single player version of Counter Strike. Valve the maker of Counter Strike designed some AI Bots so you can practice shooting at the comfort of your desktop computer alone - without embarrassing yourself over the internet. I tried it and had fun. It is a lot like Soldiers of Fortune 2. Even better, Condition Zero comes with the original Half Life game. Good times.

The sequel, Half-Life 2, is one of the best games I have touched in years. I am currently on level 5, the black mesa east. I recommend anyone to try it. As a person who doesn't usually like shooting games, I still find it enjoyable. It might be because I set the game difficulty to easy, I simply wanted to walk around without too many people shooting me or worrying about dying. The world Valve created is breath taking and the details immense. It is very well made. Even though I don't have a lot of time I spent an hour a day visiting this strange new world.

On the other hand, today another one of my co-worker gives me World of Warcraft Taiwanese version. His computer graphic card is supposedly too old to run it. I would have to take him out to lunch sometimes. It is not often someone just buys me a 50-dollar gift for no reason. I suppose I should make his project a higher priority over other co-workers from now on as a simple thank you. It is the least I can do. I think it would be fun to try World of Warcraft out again. I have an account on US server but give the characters to Reia.

New Years Eve is months away but I made a resolution on Sunday. I figure by the time I give up on my resolution it would be the actual time to make a new one. I am going to run and do sit-ups everyday. The days I happen to write in my blog I will record down faithfully weather I exercised or not. I hope the accountability will make my workout more regular. Of course, I could just drag a friend and exercise - but that would require me to know someone else who doesn't mind sweating. Taiwan is not a country that encourages exercise, high population density, small outdoor area, congested road ways...people tend to stay in watch tv and play games. People tend to look at me a lot while i go jogging, which makes me somewhat self-conscious -_-

Running Status: no
Sit-up Status: no


Nice, I got my internet back.

For the past two weeks the computer in my bedroom couldn't find my network connection which almost drove me crazy. I had to use the computer in the library next door (well, not really big enough to be called a library, more like a book room).

As an example of desperation, I moved everything on my computer to my E, F, and G drive then formatted my C and D drive. I then reinstalled Windows XP, all the programs, all the drivers to my graphic card, network card, sound card, and then updated all the patches. No luck, that didn't fix the problem. Idiotically I then did the same thing to the computer in the book room, thinking maybe the other computer has something to do with the problem somehow - nope.

I then switched from dymnic ip (server assigned ip address, which i assume changes from time to time) to static ip - which didn't solve the problem either.

Finally, I did the only and last thing that came to mind. I unplugged my HUB and reset the router. The blinking lights went on, I don't know if i should scream or laugh when the internet came back. So simple, just unplug the power and plug it back. I spent hours reformatting and reinstalling everything all for nothing. Sigh, at least I have a static ip now, which should be better for online gaming. I am thinking of trying Final Fantasy XI or get back to World of Warcraft. Yet I have little time outside work and really don't like to pay monthly fee when I can only play 1~2 days out of a week. The monthly fee is less than an hour of my salary though, so maybe it is not too bad. I will just do an hour overtime to make it up.

p.s. I am currently on book 8 of the wheel of time series. I took the short cut and read the online chapter summaries for the boring parts and only dug into the parts I like from the actual book.

Wheel of Time

Lately I have been re-reading The Wheel of Time series in anticipation of the upcoming book 11 release. Book 11, Knife of Dreams, will supposedly be the second to last book for WoT series. The author Robert Jordan promised to end the series on book 12 even if he has to make the last book 1,500 pages. A normal book usually has 200~250 page. A normal Robert Jordan Wheel of Time book is about 800 pages. So 1,500 pages will be large even for Mr. Jordan. In fact, the book War and Peace that is famous for its length only has 1,400 pages.

Knife of Dreams should tie up a lot of loose ends that has accumulated in the past 10 books. The last 3 books, 8, 9, 10, have been very slow in terms of development. Robert Jodran promised that Book 11, Knife of Dreams, will be fast paced and leave the readers sweating by the end. I hope so, we shall see.

So far, I have re-read 3 books and is now on book 4. Knife of Dream comes out on October 11th, which is about the same time Age of Empires III will comes out (October 18th). Interesting timing in my opinion. I have 6 days to finish 6 more books, which will be a tight fit due to Robert Jordan's insane length on each book. In fact, the book I am on now has 1,008 pages. Probably no further update until I finish all 11 books ^_^
  1. The Eye of the World 832 pages (15 January 1990)
  2. The Great Hunt 736 pages (15 November 1990)
  3. The Dragon Reborn 704 pages (15 October 1991)
  4. The Shadow Rising 1008 pages (15 September 1992)
  5. The Fires of Heaven 992 pages (15 October 1993)
  6. Lord of Chaos 1024 pages (15 October 1994)
  7. A Crown of Swords 896 pages (15 May 1996)
  8. The Path of Daggers 704 pages (20 October 1998)
  9. Winter's Heart 800 pages (7 November 2000)
  10. Crossroads of Twilight 864 pages (7 January 2003)
  11. Knife of Dreams 783 pages hardcover (11 October 2005, expected US publication date)
For more information, please check wikipedia "Wheel of Time". I also highly recommend everyone to try the first book, The Eye of the World, to see if Robert Jordan is your cup of tea.

side note: other books I am waiting for which has no relase date in sight,
  1. Jean Auel's Earth's Children Series book 6 (last book)
  2. Orson Scott Card's Mayflower Trilogy book 2 - Rasputin
  3. Orson Scott Card's Tales of Alvin Maker series book 7 - Master Alvin
  4. Orson Scott Card's Pastwatch Trilogy book 2 - The Flood
  5. Terry Goodkind's Sword of the Truth series book 9 - Phantom (2006, expected US publication date: but truth to be told, I haven't read book 8 - Chainfire)
  6. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series book 7 (last book)
  7. Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga book 20, she writes this series when she has an inspiration, let us hope she has one soon.
  8. L.E. Modesitt's The Saga of Recluce book 14, he writes this series when he has an inspiration, let us hope he has one soon. (deja vu?)