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January 2008 Archives

One former Scientologist's comments

You may have heard of this "Message to Scientology" thing on YouTube, of a group calling itself "Anonymous" ominously declaring war on the Church. I don't think that's going to amount to anything. The Church of Scientology is way too big and funded to be disturbed by a few hackers. The Slashdot article about it, though, did lead me to finding this comment by someone who was brought up as a Scientology but eventually left the Church when it excommunicated his mother and he decided to maintain contact with her. (His father and sister have ceased communication with them both now.) Anyway, it's an interesting post with lots of info.

Update (Jan-29): Anonymous hasn't done any real good, but they've already hurt innocent people, getting people to make harassing phone calls to a couple who have nothing to do with Scientology. This is why vigilantism is bad. :\

"Tom Cruise on: Tom Cruise, Scientologist"

Here's a video of Tom Cruise talking about Scientology.

It ends with: "A Scientologist can be defined by a single question: Would you want others to achieve the knowledge you now have? In answering that question, Tom Cruise as introduced LRH technology to over one billion people of Earth. And that's only the first wave he's unleashed, which is why the story of Tom Cruise, Scientologist has only just begun."

(I'm morbidly fascinated by the Church of Scientology, and so reading about this stuff lead me to go order Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography just now before I realized I had better things to spend my money on and cancelled my order. :P)


I was digging through my old high school papers, and I found this old story I wrote back in 10th grade for my "Ethnic Exp. Lit. 2" class in March of 1994. We were doing a section on superstitions.

* * *


It was a bright and sunny day in the city, and Bob was very cheerful. After three years, he had finally saved enough money to buy a brand new Lexus. Bob drove it home and had just finished washing it for the third time in the same day when he heard a crow squawk. 'Oh no!' he thought. 'It's bad luck to hear a crow squawk!' He immediately decided to get rid of this ill omen.

"Shut up and go away! You heard me! Get out of here!" Bob shouted.

"Squawk!" the crow replied.

"Stop that squawking!" Bob screamed.

"Squawk! Squawk! Squawk!" the crow answered.

"Ahh!" Bob yelled. "I'll get rid of you if it's the last thing I'll do!"

The crow promptly deposited a drop of feces on the hood of Bob's Lexus. Bob became utterly speechless. He grabbed a couple of pebbles from the sidewalk and started to hurl them at the crow. The crow flew off the power cable it was resting on and began to successfully dodge the stones. It hovered back and forth skillfully until a loose brick got in its way. The crow, surprised by this unexpected development, squawked again. The brick did not squawk, but, instead, it fell directly onto the windshield of Bob's car, cracking it, then knocked off the hood ornament, and finally dropped into a huge puddle made by Bob's car washing and splashed an enormous amount of water onto Bob's face. This did not make Bob any happier.

Bob returned to his room and got his rifle. When he went back outside, the crow was standing on the hood of his car. He aimed carefully, pulled the trigger, missed the crow, and completely shattered his windshield. "Oh no! The bad luck has already started!" Bob exclaimed. The crow was startled by the gunshot, squawked again, and flew to the other side of the street. Bob followed it. He stopped in the middle of the street and was about to pull the trigger again when a truck, unable to stop in time, barely missed hitting Bob, but it knocked the rifle out of his hands. "I hate this bad luck!" Bob cried. The crow squawked again and flew away. "Don't you dare fly away now after you've caused all this damage, you crow!" said Bob. He retrieved his rifle, got into his car, cleared away what was left of his windshield so he could see, and drove after the crow.

After flying several blocks, the crow stopped to rest on a lamppost. "Squawk!" it crowed. Bob shot his rifle at it and missed again. The crow continued flying. Every time the crow stopped, Bob shot at it, and the crow took off again. This persisted until the crow flew off a cliff. Bob was fully concentrated on the location of the crow and did not see the cliff he was approaching. In fact, he didn't notice the cliff until he suddenly lost control of his car, which fell head first off the cliff. "Stupid bad luck crow!" Bob screamed as he frantically stepped on the brake to no avail. Shortly afterward, his car landed on the road below and exploded instantly. A fiery fragment of the Lexus that was tossed up by the explosion hit and killed the crow just after it shrieked one final "Squawk!"

Most surreal Garfield-related.. thing.. ever.

Go to lasagnacat.com and click on any random date. Wtf.

Update: I'm watching more of these, and, given that this is basically one big exercise in bashing Garfield, the amount of effort that went into it astounds me. I can't look away!

Three guys film D-Day scene in 4 days

Pretty neat:

YouTube Link

Radio on the TV

As you may have heard, all analog TV transmissions are scheduled to end on Feburary 17, 2009. This reminds me of another bit of fun with analog that will fall into history: Many years ago, when I was in middle school or something, watching our old Zenith TV, and I accidentally hit the "Enter" key on the remote without typing a number first. The two-digit LED display showed "F". I was like, "Huh?" I noticed that I could hit Enter again to toggle back to the normal channel mode, but that if I was in "F" mode, I could hit "Channel Up" and "Channel Down" to my the signal progressively blurrier. (I soon decided that "F" must mean "Fine-tune".)

I played around with it for much of an afternoon. My only discovery was that if I put it on channel 6 (which has no programming in San Francisco) and then hold the Channel Up key, I would eventually get the radio! I then went to my radio to compare and discovered that I was receiving 88.5 MHz FM, the local NPR station. :)

It taught me that TVs must use FM radio technology to transmit the audio, because my TV could pick up a normal FM radio signal. Those were days before the Internet, though, so I would've had to go to the library to figure out further details. Now we have Wikipedia, which tells us that Channel 6 in North America is 83.25-87.75 MHz, which explains why I could reach 88.5 MHz FM by tuning up. :)

As you may have heard, all analog TV transmissions are scheduled to end on Feburary 17, 2009. So my future children will be all like, "What the hell are you talking about?" :\

* * *

P.S.: Writing this entry reminded me to look into what all that Channel 9.1, 9.2, 9.3, 9.4 business is about. I've never received digital TV broadcasts, so I felt kinda lost and behind the times when I first encountered that. Turns out digital TV stations are being assigned to various channels in the VHF and UHF bands. My local KQED, for instance, has its analog broadcast on Channel 9, but its Digital broadcast is on Channel 30. Furthermore, the digital channel is multiplexed into 5 sub-channels. To make it easier for viewers, they have virtual channel numbers, so that the main KQED HD station is 30.1 and also 9.1, and 9.2-9.5/30.2-30.5 are various channels with related programming.

I wonder if this is going to hold up after the analog TV shutdown. After all, there will officially be nothing on Channel 9 any more after that. Are they going to move the digital broadcast over, leave it empty, or use it for even more digital TV channels?

P.P.S.: You probably know that there's no Channel 1, but did you know that there is no Channel 37?

"This is a test of the Caltrans highway radio advisory system. This is a test of the Caltrans highway radio advisory system."

There are these signs on the freeway that tell you to listen to AM 840 for traffic information. On my drive home tonight, I tuned in, and I heard a very staticky radio call-in show where some guy with an Indian accent was talking about his family problems, I think, or maybe politics. I'm not sure, because I was distracted by an equally staticky drone going on at the same time: "This is a test of the Caltrans highway radio advisory system. This is a test of the Caltrans highway radio advisory system. This is a test of the Caltrans highway radio advisory system."

And it was positively hypnotic!

I brought my laptop downstairs after getting home to record an audio clip [37 sec, 396 KB WAV].

I'm not usually much of a Luddite when it comes to digital vs. analog, but there is something I really love about staticky radio. In fact, my car radio is already missing one of the best things, which is having that analog tuning knob that lets you get almost to a station but not quite, or sometimes even between stations.

I don't know what it is about it, but there's something deeply romantic to me about listening to signals flying through the air, competing with each other for my radio's attention, all while the background radiation of the Universe overwhelms them both from time to time.

It's also interesting how here's this guy pouring his heart out about something or other, but all I can remember is: "This is a test of the Caltrans highway radio advisory system. This is a test of the Caltrans highway radio advisory system. This is a test of the Caltrans highway radio advisory system."

Synchronicity from Outer Space! or maybe somewhere nearby

So I listen to this local college radio station KSCU (103.3 Santa Clara) a lot. Every day on my drive to and from work, for about a two-block span, the station gets inexplicably replaced (via interference) by what sounds like Fox News. I have yet to figure out what exact station it is, or whether it's a pirate station or what. All I know is that it's almost always pundits talking, and I've heard O'Reilly on occasion.

Anyway, what amuses me is that when I drive through this two-block span, my radio fades from music, to news/punditry, and then back to music. Sometimes I can hear both at the same time (along with static) for a while. The effect is very similar to all those movies about the 60s/70s that inevitably contain a montage scene with scattered news reports over music that represents the soul of the era! or something.

Wednesday night, the pundits were talking about H. Clinton's New Hampshire victory over Obama when the radio faded back to KSCU playing a reggae song that went, "I'm gonna send him to outer space to find another race". And I was like, "Whoa! What synchronicity! I'm totally gonna blog this!" But then the next line was, "I'm gonna put on an ironed shirt and chase the devil out of Earth." And I was like, "Oh, now it's not as appropriate, because I'd be calling Obama the devil, and I don't want to do that. Oops. I guess I can't blog about it after all." (I guess technically I'd be saying that Clinton's calling Obama the devil, but I don't want to do that, either. :P)

My change of heart led me to think about how often events of synchronicity like that lead people to believe in supernatural connections and whatnot, but then if it turns out not to be appropriate, they'll just forget about the whole thing and move on. Selection bias Confirmation bias, etc. (Btw, thanks to Paul for reminding me of the term "selection bias". (Update: And thanks again for correcting it to "confirmation bias" in the comments below.) I had been calling it "the positive evidence fallacy", but then when I searched for ["positive evidence fallacy"], the only result was one of my own blog posts. :P)

So this is my attempt to avoid selection bias and blog the event even though it didn't turn out perfectly. I guess I also just really wanted to share the amusing synchronicity of that first line, even though the rest of the song didn't work. :) Btw, the song is "I Chase the Devil" by Max Romeo.

Accordion Festival

A couple of pictures from the summer of 2006. An accordion festival!

Accordion Festival

And I like this scene from shortly after the accordion festival:

Summer Fun near Ghirardelli Square

First strike-breaking Daily Show episode

23:19 PST: I'm watching the first Daily Show of the WGA strike. The first 15 minutes were Jon Stewart talking and telling jokes. I'm guessing he's writing his own material, and I'm not sure how the WGA will feel about it. Every single joke was about the WGA strike itself. Also, the pacing of the jokes felt a bit slower, though they were reasonably funny.

The second half so far is an interview with a professor of labor relations from Cornell.

* * *

For those who don't know, Letterman owns his own production company, Worldwide Pants, and he cut a deal with the WGA to temporarily agree to the WGA's demands for the duration of the dispute in exchange for allow writers to work for him, and so he's back on the air with the WGA's official blessing.

The other late night shows have gone back on the air without writers. Their hosts, who support the strike, say that they've agreed to come back on the air to save the jobs of their non-writing staff. Conan killed lots of time talking about his beard and even spinning his wedding ring on his desk. Leno, on the other hand, wrote his own monologue and still pulled better ratings than Letterman. The WGA and NBC have been arguing about their contracts allow hosts to write their own monologues.

(Carson Daly made light of the situation by setting up a "joke hotline" for people to call in with jokes for him to tell, in the absence of writers. The WGA was most certainly not amused with that...)

And so I'm curious what the WGA will think about Stewart and Colbert going back on the air.

* * *

23:30 PST: In the hand-off to Colbert, Colbert admonished Stewart for how prepared he was and threatened to turn him in. And now he just introduced the show with, "TONIGHT: ............ THEN: ............ This is the Colbert Report!" :P

23:47 PST: Colbert talks about how he's being consistent because he's always been anti-union, followed by lots of clips of him talking about how bad unions are. He's been killing time with lots of flashback clips. "I don't need my writers, which brings me to tonight's Word:" ... and there's no Word. :P

23:57 PST: Colbert's guest was Andrew Sullivan, who talked about why he liked Obama. One interesting argument Sullivan made was that Obama's race is a plus in international relations, because someone in a third world country with preconceptions about the American leadership would see Obama's face and immediately have a different view.

00:04 PST: Colbert also had a second guest who's an author of a book about labor relations. Interesting how he's actually going over time by a couple of minutes.

Conclusion: The first shows back have been pretty decent without writers, but it'll be interesting to see how things will be as this keeps going on. In particular, I imagine the whole point of the WGA making a deal with Letterman is to give him an advantage over the competition and showing the value of writers, but that advantage hasn't translated into ratings so far... I know that in my case, there's the ironic situation of my actually being more interested in watching precisely BECAUSE there are no writers...

Bill Gates going away video

I first saw a Gizmodo link to this video titled, "This video makes Bill Gates look cooler than Steve Jobs", but that video was truncated. Here's a complete one:

YouTube Link

It reminds me of Bill Clinton's Final Days video about his own last days at the job.

Update: I tried to be all appropriate by using a Microsoft Soapbox link, but that's been pulled. I've replaced it with one that seems legit, at the expense of having to deal with some lame intro with techno music. :P At least that's short. And this one has Bill's own intro.

Lounging in a DC hotel

Lounging in a DC hotel

From our trip to the National Science Bowl in 1996.

Sumner Tunnel

Sumner Tunnel

A shot I took in Boston back in 2002 from a cab on the way back from the airport. It was the last time I headed back to school from Logan. I think it looks kinda futuristic (so I tried to enhance that with the blue-ish tone).

P.S.: For the curious, the double-white line means you're not supposed to change lanes. (I just looked that up. :P)

Is there anything wrong with you? Do you have a problem?

Found this awesome video from public access TV via Ze Frank's blog: What's Your Problem? Um, for some values of "awesome". Your mileage may vary. Some restrictions may apply.

Chickens eating coconut in Panama

Chickens eating coconut in Panama

I started posting some of my best pre-project 365 photoblog pictures to flickr. This one I left out of my original Panama photoblog post, but I quite like it.



This is a pencil sharpener I got from a coworker who visited New Zealand.

I just got my Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens today (not to be confused with the kit lens with the same numbers but no IS). I knew that, compared to the kit lens, it has image stabilization and an additional aspherical lens element that creates better images (less distortion and fringing). But what I only found out upon getting it is that while the kit lens is made in Taiwan, this lens is made in Japan.

I'll still love my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for indoor people shots, because the image-stabilization only helps steady your hand; only a bigger aperture can help when the people are moving. But one advantage (other than the zoom) this new lens has is that it can focus as close as 0.25m just like the kit lens, whereas my Sigma can only focus at 0.4m. Couple that with the 55mm end, and you can take some decent macro shots with it.

About January 2008

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in January 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2007 is the previous archive.

February 2008 is the next archive.

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