Sunday, August 31, 2003

Simon points to what No-sword learned after one year in Japan:

Maybe you're well-read. Maybe you have actually learnt to enjoy Dennis Bailey's music. That's great, but 95% of people you meet say: Dennis who? So what? And it is the same in Japan. And this fact is hammered home all the harder when you actually meet one of the 5%, and realise how much you enjoy spending time with them -- the freedom to actually say whatever you think rather than running it through a Normalcy filter.

You are an outsider in an essential, inner way that will not change, no matter which country you are in.

Go read it.

My brother does cool stuff with fonts.

I dig my new high-speed internet connection. Dangerous!

I hope Laurel doesn't read this, because we made fun of her friend Cassie for going to a school with Walmart Madness, where the store is open late especially for students. Well U of M has Meijer Madness, and since I got a ride from some Harvest Missions Community Church guys, I went. There was a pie eating contest, ice cream pies. I came in second, and everybody got a free U of M T-shirt.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Hello Micah,

Thanks for your interest in our Table Tennis Club... our mass meeting is On September 15th (monday) from 7-9pm at the Coliseum which is on the corner of Hill and Division St. This fall semester our schedule will be Monday-Thursday 7:00pm-9:00pm Starting September 15th.


The last couple of days have been very busy, meeting people, exploring places, and ingesting a lot of information.

Yesterday morning I walked to campus to take care of some banking and campus business. Timing the walk, it is 15 minutes of tree-lined road with country homes and big yards, 15 minutes of city blocks, stores and cafes, and another 15 minutes across campus to the School of Social Work, where the International Institute is headquartered. When renovation is finished on the Frieze building and space made in it for CCS MA students, the cross-campus segment will shorten. Regardless, I need a bike.

Looking lost, I headed across campus looking for the Michigan Union, where there is a food court in the basement with computers for student use. Luckily, I was approached by a couple of fellows from the Harvest Mission Community Church who were inviting people to the service, and since they happened to be both from Orange County and nice guys they gave me a quick and effective tour of the campus: the Fishbowl computer lab, the UgLi (Undergrad Library), the Dental building (in shape of a tooth, from a crow's eye view), and the elusive Michigan Union. Afterwards we went out to lunch, Chinese.

Dina and Michael, a guy who is working on house, made dinner. After dinner I did a little review for the Chinese placement test on Monday. Everybody I've talked to it nervous about it. I'm not so nervous, considering I studied for two years, did a summer program where I repeated second year, and then lived in Tianjin for an academic year. I'm aiming for the third year course.

This morning I arrived five minutes early (second person there!) for the International Institute orientation. The first session was for all new students to the institute. There were students present from all of the area studies programs, including south Asia, southeast Asia, eastern Europe, Japan and China. Many people have asked me how big my department is; the answer is that last year there were four entering MA students, this year there are six (or seven) entering MA students, and three entering PhD candidates - so I would estimate about twenty China students in all, and an equal number of professors. The professors, though, are mostly in other departments and "members" of the Center for Chinese Studies.

I found it much easier than I had imagined to meet people, no credit to me certainly. All of the CCS people are very friendly. See what names I can remember: 1st year John, 2nd year John, Dwight, Ann, Helena, Lei, Ying, Alyssa, Jacqueline. I also met professor Albert Park, head of the MA program, who I'll be discussing my class schedule with tomorrow at 2 PM. Dr Lee is out of the country, and will be back on Tuesday. He and prof Park will be co-teaching CCS 501, an interdisciplinary China seminar with major reading load. First semester will be social sciences (Park) and sociology (Lee), while second semester will be humanities and art, taught by two other profs. Prof Park says this is a very innovative course, to have two profs from different departments co-teach a seminar course.

Note: when people ask what my focus is, a code word for "I don't know" is interdisciplinary. Example: Well, my interests are mostly interdisciplinary. So far, I've been telling people that I'm interested in economics and education.

What's the difference between entering your PIN, and signing for a debit card purchase? An Investing in America article has the answer:

Then there's the next generation debit card--similar to a credit card--you sign for purchases. It can be swiped by a credit card reader and then go through the credit card authorizing network. The money for these purchases may not come out of your account immediately, as it does when you use your pin number. There's typically a day or two of lag time.

In fact, the article mentions that your bank may charge you a small fee for PIN transactions, while signed transactions are free.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Picture: Family at Wheaton College.

I'm in the Fishbowl, a glass-walled computer lab in the center of campus, just off the Diag. Met a couple of guys this morning from Harvest Mission Community Church, Henry and Mark, who gave me a tour of campus. Went out to lunch with them, too. Charming fellows, both from the OC.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Posting this time from the Apple store in downtown Chicago. Very cool city, metropolitan, tall skycrapers from the early 20th century, a little gothic. Kartik wasn't at his apartment when I arrived, so I lunched at a Thai restaurant and took a walk down to the waterfront: a beach! Then bought a Harpers at Borders, and I'm walking back to his place.

EXTREEEME BOWLING pictures of Andy, Amy, Micah and Kevin.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

I'm posting from the public MacOS X terminals in the Food Court of the UMich Student Union. We spent yesterday walking around campus and moving some boxes into 1606 W Liberty, my home for next year. Right across the street from the house is a deep dark forest, very nice to get lost in. The Center for Chinese Studies is a little run-down house that looks lost amidst the grand architecture of the campus. We're driving back to Wheaton today to drop off my sister and attend associated Orientation activities.

Oh, the credit union just opened. Gotta run!

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I'm in Illinois! Wheaton, to be exact; it's about an hour west of Chicago, a midsize town that is host to Wheaton College, where Laurel will be studying this year. The plane ride was routine, I mananged to sleep through most of it since I stayed up very late last night finishing the transfer of photos from a rain-damaged and moldy album to a brand-new album.

It was a matter of some debate in our family as to the best way to sleep on an airplane. My mom swears by "butterfly pillows" that wrap around the neck and support the head, combined with a reclined seat. Me, I prefer to put down the tray cross my arms on it, and lean my head onto the cushion created by the arms. For me, falling asleep while sitting up is too "open," leaves too much undefended. I jealously guard my personal space.

First impression of Chicago and surrounding cities: very green, large trees.

We're staying with some old friends from Spain, the Wrobbels. They have a huge front yard, a large backyard, and a rabbit living under their deck. It's also interesting that all the backyards are seperated by waist-high chain-link fence, so you can look down and see about five backyards in a row. This makes the space seem so much bigger. Since the weather is so pleasant right now, we had dinner outside: grilled hamburgers, potato salad, a green salad, veggie mix (carrots, green beans, baby corn), and strawberries on angel food cake for dessert. Delish!

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Look at the smiles on their faces. Awww.

Liana points me to a list of the noon lectures being given at the Center for Japanese Studies till the end of this year, and recommends the October 7th date:

Following the lecture, Umenosuke will demonstrate how he transforms himself by applying white makeup, black eyeliner, eyebrows, and rouge donning the large, black wig of an onnagata. His metamorphosis will be complete when he demonstrates dressing in the elaborate layers of a kimono. In full costume, he will demonstrate the feminized movements, speech and other techniques from the onnagata�s repertoire by performing a dance, Ayame (Iris).

I'm leaving on Monday morning very early on a trip with my parents. A rough outline:

  • Visit Spain friends in Chicago, IL.
  • Visit CA friends in Wisconsin.
  • Tour Ann Arbor / U. Mich with family.
  • Visit Spain friends in Wheaton, IL.
  • Drop sister off at Wheaton College.
  • Visit Kartik in Chicago.
  • Bus to Ann Arbor, move into new room.

Consequently, all my stuff is packed into two cardboard boxes and a suitcase. Exciting.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

I've discovered the UNIX at command, which I've set up to remind me for a certain (secret) eBay auction, and the expiration of Basically, the at program will run commands "at" a certain time. For example, I told at to send me an email two hours before the certain auction closes, like this:

at now + 54 hours
echo "Check this URL:\n\n" | mail -s "Auction ends soon." takoyaki


Two essays I need to read this weekend:

  1. Time Management Talk: a presentation on strategies for organizing and taking maximum advantage of time.
  2. A graduate school survival guide: This guide describes what I wish I had known at the start of graduate school but had to learn the hard way instead. It focuses on mental toughness and the skills a graduate student needs.

Unrelated: Finally found a good cleaned-up version of Slashdot to browse in Lynx: AvantSlash.

Simon Cozzens wrote a good entry On Talking, which I might call On Speaking.

Confidence x Knowledge x Practical Application x Emotional Appeal = Interest


All through high school I was quite lacking in confidence. I gave my first set of talks at OSCon 2000, where I was booked for two tutorials, two papers and three talks - starting very much in the deep end.

But I managed to get away with it in part because my confidence was provided by knowledge; I knew everything about Perl's treatment of Unicode...


Practically, I like to position myself about a meter away from the script while I'm talking, so that I'm forced to work for memory as much as possible.

According to the papers, the Eastern blackout did hit Ann Arbor, MI. From a New York Times article:

In Ann Arbor, the big problem was how to handle rush-hour traffic without traffic lights.

"The lights went out at about 4:15," Chief Oates said. "The traffic was absolutely chaotic immediately." Traffic was controlled at the half-dozen main intersections. "We got everybody out of town in about two and a half hours," he said, "and it's been great ever since."

And from an article in the Detroit News:

Humor was powerful medicine in the birthing center at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, where five babies were born during the first 24 hours of the outage.

The situation created discomfort and inconvenience but was not life-threatening. A diesel-powered generator fired up immediately when the power failed Thursday afternoon, part of the extraordinary shutdown that extended from Michigan to New England.

Alexa gives you information about your web domain. Compare Blogspot and Livejournal.

Friday, August 15, 2003

I'm only taking a couple dozen CDs with me to Ann Arbor. I'm packing away most of the, what, 175 or so CDs that I own. Including my modest Pizzicato Five collection. But since they come in beautiful boxes, I've kept them out to store in a special place. Right now I'm listening to P5's Happy End of the World. I had almost forgotten how much I like Pizzicato Five. Good memories? good music? It matters not. Good feeling.

The perils of living in Michigan: peeing on scarves. (via Tiger Cafe)

I just finished reading the entire Journey to the West story, about 2300 pages in all. Now, I read two kinds of books: books that are for education/edification, and books for fun. Fun books tend to be short, while education/edification books are long and dense. Well, this long book -- actually four volumes -- turned out to be a fun book. The characters are amusing and not real deep, and the plot is predictable and yet full of twists. I did read it in translation; my Chinese ain't that good. The translator's note, or introduction, happened to be at the end of the book, and I was happy to have noticed about 75% of the things he felt needed noting. For example, Novice Sun's power comes from both his strength and powers of transformation, and also from his connections in Heaven and the Underworld. The only part I found disappointing was that the translator didn't give Friar Sand much credit for being a rock of sensibility and conciliation in the group; for some reason, I connected with Friar Sand: not incredibly strong or endowed with magical powers, but dependable and level-headed. Being one of the Chinese classics, this book is sorta like the Bible in that it is often alluded to in other later works. For example, I had fun picking out all of the elements that Dragon Ball borrowed from this story: monkeys, strength-restoring pills, lecherous pigs, mountains of fire, the Bull King, flying on magical clouds, giant turtles... and others. Amazon is selling it for forty bucks, but I got mine through an Amazon affiliate for about twenty five.

Speaking of the Monkey King, this is a pretty cool page.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

There's a great article about pho in today's New York Times. Makes me want to swing by Pho 99 in Fullerton for dinner tonight. For posterity, I snagged a copy of the article.

My University of Michigan "course menu."

And of course, it validates.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

A computer history, by your truly. Inspired by a current SDF bboard topic.

If this post registers, it means I can post from lynx. Sweet! It even does HTML validation.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Visited the Lonely Planet forums tonight, and found that Confucius still has the power to crack me up. Or maybe it was the Confucius/Roddy one-two.

I read about Bookselling for Dummies in the current Publishers' Weekly. The title pretty much explains what the books is about, but there is more here than meets the eye. First off, the author is a well-known book industry consultant who, true to form, consulted hundreds of independent booksellers across the country to put together this Dummies guide. Second, this book is not available at Borders, or through Amazon; it was a limited edition printing that is being given away to independent bookstore owners to promote the Dummies line of how-to books, and as an act of brotherhood among the members of the ABA, the American Booksellers Asoociation. This book does have a listing at Amazon's British site, but it's not for sale there nor anywhere else that I've looked. I'd love to get my hands on this before I retire and open up a bookstore in Beijing.

On another note, there is a hardback copy of Dave Eggers' You Shall Know Our Velocity on eBay. Nah, I'll wait and get it at the library. I trust that the University of Michigan's libraries will stock more literature than Caltech's Milikan Library.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Sweet! Someone from Brunei visited my webpage. Why? They searched for Pucca pictures on Yahoo. Argh.

Tonight I went bowling tonight with friends: Andy Ahn, and Amy Chen. Very fun, catching up on news and just chatting about random stuff. Halfway through, Kevin Yu dropped by with his gf. I hadn't seen him since we graduated from high school, practically--gosh, that makes me feel old--six years ago. Kevin was the other junior with me in AP Chemistry, so we suffered a lot together. He's a nice guy, it was nice to talk to him and it's good to see him doing well. Andy brought his digital camera so we got a picture of the five of us; he should send it along soon.

Last night I made an outing to Pasadena to catch a showing of Charlotte Sometimes, but bad luck meant that Thursday was the last night of that movie. Consequently, I watched The Princess Blade (Japanese w/ subtitles) instead. It's an anime-style movie but with real actors, about an assassin princess who kills with a samurai sword. Revenge, the search for happiness, and the quest for ideals are all themes in the movie. A very good ending, a little surprising, but one where I found myself saying "If this movie ended right here, it would be groovy," and thirty seconds later the credits were rolling.

My favorite part of weblogs is reading the "About the Author" page. They are so much more interesting than the blurbs of the same name in the backs of books: "So-and-so lives in Moscow, Iowa; he has two cats and a parakeet." For example, one of the better ones I've come across recently is Alana's aboot page. It's titled "Boring Background" but it's actually quite fascinating. If I was a better writer, I could explain why. Maybe I connected with some of the things she experienced, maybe it's because it's a story with an ending-in-progress.

Friday, August 08, 2003

I'm going to drive up to Pasadena on Friday to catch the 6:45 showing of Charlotte Sometimes at the Academy 6 Theatre. Then out to dinner: maybe sushi, maybe noodles. Let me know if you wanna come.

Google Alerts are too much, really. A search for Tianjin or Brea would turn up nothing at the New York Times. On Google News, they bring up a dozen stories each day. Yikes.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

I'm so excited, I put the Michigan logo up on my weblog!

As you can see, I'm pretty excited about shipping off to Michigan. That's probably because I spent most of today packing up stuff into two cardboard boxes. Those two boxes and a suitcase will fly up to Chicago with me on the 18th, and will be dropped off in Ann Arbor on the 20th. I'll settle into my place on the 26th. I'll need to get an ID card, set up an account at the credit union, swing by the Center for Chinese Studies (like, a block and a half from the Borders), attend several orientations, take a language placement test, and sign up for classes. Very cool.

The New York Time's news alerts would send you an e-mail when certain keywords appeared in an article, or when certain writers had a story published. Then the service went to $20 a year, and I said "forget it." Now Google has started a similar service that merits checking out. Google News Alerts. (via Jeremy Zawodny)

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Very tired after a long day at Disneyland & California Adventure. Highlights: Thunder Mountain, trying out FastPasses, lunch at Boudin's bakery, California Screamer roller coaster, Mom in the Hot Seat on the Millionaire show, watching the fireworks up close.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Sometimes I'm cooled out when I see stuff like this:

[takoyaki@retch ct]# tail -n 2 counter.hist (8/5) [takoyaki@retch ct]# traceroute traceroute to (, 30 hops max, 40 byte packets 1 ( 0.869 ms 0.766 ms 0.748 ms 2 ( 0.399 ms 0.241 ms 0.238 ms . . . 24 ( 196.815 ms 197.490 ms 198.734 ms 25 ( 200.623 ms 199.689 ms 198.183 ms . . 28 ( 745.946 ms 759.100 ms 769.776 ms 29 * * * [takoyaki@retch ct]# _

Somebody in Russia loves me!

On another happy note, my sister is taking the whole family out to Disneyland today. Woo!

One more thing: my order of Bags Unlimited Gatefold CD sleeves arrived this afternoon. The model I ordered was the 4 mil. SCDGF4 model. It promised to hold 1 jacketed CD & booklet on one side; tray card in the other side. It turned out just a bit off: about a centimeter of empty space on top, and a milimeter or two too narrow. But with a little refolding it does manage hold the tray card, which was important to me. I got my entire collection transferred to the sleeves: about 155 CDs, probably an underestimate due to Pizzicato Five CDs (too creative with their packaging to put into sleeves), double albums with nice artwork (Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails) and book-style CD cases (John Spencer Blues Explosion, the Avalanches). Saved a lot of room, good when you're packing to move to Michigan.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Weblogs of crazy Singaporean teens.

aite peace out ninjas.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

The meeting tonight ended up being Kartik, Shirley and me eating Klondike ice cream sandwiches at Shirley's house and talking until about 1am. Topics we touched on:

  • Howard Dean.
  • The economy.
  • Disillusionment/disappointment with Japan.
  • Shirley's plans.
  • Julie in general.
  • Trade schools.

What I have in common with Simon Cozens: teaching English to little kids in an East Asian country.

Got the haircut that I was supposed to get on the trip.

I finalized the lease for a place to live in Michigan, a little over a mile from Central Campus. It's a big old farmhouse with room for six people, plus the owners. Address is 1606 W Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. And it's only 1.7 miles to the Ann Arbor Borders, the first Borders location.

Shirley, Kartik, and possibly Fon and Scott are supposed to meet this evening for fun. I'm looking forward to it.