June 2009

June 27, 2009

Beautifully Imagined Star Wars Photos

Categories: Random cool stuff

Image by Cedric Delsaux of Jabba the Hutt in a worn-out building.

Michelle showed me this great site today. Cedric Delsaux is a French commerical photographer with mad Photoshop skillz and a creative mind. In addition to his beautiful, low saturation photo portfolio, he has a collection called the “Dark Lens” that are everyday, rundown Earth scenes with elements from Star Wars inserted into the shots. They’re so well done, the lighting so right that it’s hard to figure out how he did them.

The site is nicely done too. All in all, it’s worth some time to check it out.

cedrickdelsaux.com

Posted June 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fun music animation

Categories: Random cool stuff

Andrew (11) showed me this video. Pretty cool.

Of course, it would be cooler if they made it work for real. I still can't get over this famous Honda ad.

Posted June 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How Well Do You Know Your Burger?

Categories: Food and Drink

My old high school friend Brian Risch posted this awesome quiz. While I love burgers, I'm clearly still a newbie in Brian's world, only scoring in the "Working up the burger food chain" category. What's your score?

[Thanks, Brian! -- BTW, it's worth checking out Brian's site. He's always been an interesting guy -- Materials Science PhD, competitive power lifter, hunter, and general crazy dude.]

How Well Do You Know Your Burger ?
  • You have consumed a burger with two or more patties (1 point)
  • You have consumed a burger with cheese on it (1 point)
  • You have consumed a burger with an egg on it (2 points)
  • You have consumed a burger with pork products on or in it (bacon, sausage, etc.) (1 point)
  • You prefer to cook your own burgers. (1 point)
  • You use fire (1 point)
  • The fire department has been called when you were cooking burgers (2 points)
  • They stayed for the burgers (3 points)
  • You have a burger “recipe” (1 point)
  • You have more than 6 burger “recipes” (3 points)
  • You have had family arguments about what burger “recipe” you would be making (2 points)
  • You have at least three distinct recipes for “cheeseburgers” that require specific cheeses (i.e. bleu cheese burger, jalapeño Jack burger, cheddar burger, gouda burger, etc.) (2 points)
  • You have made a trip to the store because you did not have the specific type of cheese required for your burger (1 point)
  • One or more of your burger “recipes” includes exotic meat such as buffalo, elk, venison, moose, or mutton (3 points)
  • You know what mutton is (1 point)
  • You know where to get buffalo, elk, venison, moose, or mutton (1 point)
  • You own your own meat grinder (2 points)
  • You use it to make your favorite burger (3 points)
  • You do not know where your burger meat comes from other than “the restaurant” or “the supermarket”(-1 point)
  • Your favorite burger is made of soy, tofu, or some other non-meat product. (-5 points)
  • You do not know what meat your burger is made of (-3 points)
  • You know the woods or pasture where your burger came from (3 points)
  • You harvested the meat for your burger yourself (5 points)
  • You know who butchered your meat (2 points)
  • You butchered your meat yourself (5 points)
  • You prefer a nice cold beer as your beverage of choice to wash your burger down (1 point)
  • You make your own beer (2 points)
  • Catsup, pickles, and onions are the only toppings you have on your burger. (-1 point)
  • The name of one of your favorite burger toppings includes the word “devil”, “fire”, “flaming”, “hell”, or “insanity”. (2 points)
  • To get “just the right taste” you make your own “special sauce” including at least one ingredient that includes the word “devil”, “fire”, “flaming”, “hell”, or “insanity”. (3 points)
  • One or more of your burger toppings comes with a warning label. (2 points)
  • You have consumed burgers made from at least 3 classes of animals (i.e. bird, fish, mammal, reptile) (3 points)
  • More than 40 points: You are hardcore.

    30 to 40 points: Master burger chef

    20 to 30 points: Good healthy meatatarian.

    10 to 20 points: Working up the burger food chain

    5 to 10 points: Burger “newbie”

    < 5 points: What’s the use, go vegetarian.

Posted June 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 22, 2009

back in Seattle

Categories: Random junk

We’re back in Seattle for a while this summer (well I’ll be going back and forth between Seattle and Beijing). It’s nice to be here with the family; as I mentioned before, it was a little weird last time to be in our big house all by myself (although not altogether bad…)

In addition to my observations from the last trip, here are few other things I’ve realized now that I’m back:

  • I’m mixed up by Beijing prices. I can’t believe how much I’m paying for stuff like dinner or clothes in Seattle. On the other hand, there’s a huge range of great wine at much lower prices than in Beijing. (Anything imported into China is expensive, but local stuff is much cheaper.)
  • I feel much more empowered and free in the US. This isn’t a political statement (although that’s true too); it’s just very exciting to be able to read signs on the street and labels in stores. It’s also very liberating to drive your own car (although I don’t mind having a driver some times…)
  • On the flip side, I like walking to places – dinner, hair cut, grocery store. Even in the suburban boonies where we live in Beijing, we walk a lot more. I’m not a fan of having to drive everywhere like we do in Seattle (at least at our house.)
  • Clean air and water rock. I can’t stop drinking the Seattle tap water; it’s sweet and delicious. It’s great being able to regularly see the horizon (full of mountains no less.)
  • I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Americans are fat. I’ll cop to being a little overweight, but OMG, there are a lot of fa-a-a-at people here.
  • I like saying “hello” to people on the street or as I’m running and having them say “hello” back. Seattle is a friendly place. (Of course, it’s not just Beijingers who are more stoic. I mentioned the same thing about Wellington, NZ a while back.

In some ways, it’s a little surreal being back. In some ways, Beijing feels like a dream or a long vacation; it feels very natural being back. On the other hand, I miss things and people in Beijing already and am looking forward to heading back in some ways (cheap two hour massages within walking distance of home anyone?) I guess that’s the price I pay for having two homes in two amazing places.

Posted June 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 14, 2009

Microsoft SmallBasic Rocks

Like many geeks of my generation, I grew up writing code in BASIC, first on a TRS-80 Model III (2.03 mHz Z-80!) and timeshared mainframes (via keypunch cards and a 110 baud modem!) Back then, every personal computer had a computer language (usually BASIC) built in so almost everyone learned a little programming. Unfortunately today, it's harder to find the places to write code other than the browser (WSH anyone?) and even harder to find users to bother to learn.

I really want the boys to learn to program, not necessarily to become expert developers, but to see what's behind the games they love and to learn a little algorithmic thinking. So, I was delighted to find that Microsoft had built a cool, lightweight version of BASIC called SmallBasic. This free download has a nice IDE (editing environment), turtle graphics, and access to FlickR.

Screenshot of Microsoft SmallBasic IDE

Since I gave to Andrew (11) this afternoon, he hasn't stopped typing in the sample code in the tutorial; better still, he's already started improvising off those programs. Just now, I said "I'm really glad to see you doing this." He replied, "It's fun." and returned to his coding.

I love it when Microsoft does cool stuff like this.

Posted June 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Charming Game: Crayon Physics Deluxe

This is just the coolest game, especially on a Tablet PC. Check it out.

Michael (8) practically tore my Tablet PC out of my hands to play it. He's still playing it (well, actually, now he's watching me write this post, dying to see what I say about him...)

Posted June 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How to Be Photogenic

I take a lot of photos and try to help pose my subjects once in a while. Here's a good article and video with simple tips on how to look better in photos.

http://www.wikihow.com/Be-Photogenic

Posted June 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cool Site: The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company

Categories: Random cool stuff

superhero

I'm sure like many of you, I have latent superhero talents that I think could help the rid humanity of injustice, defend the Earth from intergalactic calamity, and rescue hapless maidens from nefarious plots. Unfortunately, I've been trapped in my alter ego my entire life because I never knew where to get the stuff superheroes need -- you know, eye masks, truth serum, hidden lair equipment, and so on.

Now, the Internet, source of all that is good and right in the universe, has delivered again. The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company has everything an aspiring superhero needs. I especially like the Lair section where you can buy a forcefield generator or a "Stop Sidekick Misuse" poster (with helpful tips like "Don't practice heat vision on your sidekick".) Even better, all proceeds go toward 826NYC, "a non-profit nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write." So even by shopping there, you're doing good.

The site is beautiful and very fun, and of course, useful for budding do-gooders. So, check it out and unleash your inner superhero!

Thanks to Leslie for the link!

Posted June 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 5, 2009

Twenty Years Later

Categories: China

Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre (known as the "June 4 incident" or just "6-4" here in China). I was a junior getting ready for finals at Stanford during the period leading up to that sad day. I remember very well trying to follow what was going on; there was no Internet, just newsgroups, at the time so I spent every spare moment in the computer lab reading the rumors and news bits that were dribbling out of China via fax and other means.

When the news of the shootings came out, I sobbed, uncontrollably for a while. Honestly, this reaction surprised me. It was really the first time I felt any connection to the people in China. Prior to this time, I had always viewed the people in China as different from those of us who supported "Free China" (Taiwan). But, these were college students like me, my peers. They simply wanted what I already had. We were the same. I was Chinese too.

So, fast-forward twenty years: I live in China now. On a day-to-day basis, it doesn't feel like I'm living in the same country that we saw in the news reports twenty years ago. In many ways it's not. But, every so often there's a reminder. When the about-to-open Mandarin Oriental Hotel burned down, there was no news coverage of the event (there's no live news coverage in China) and the incident was downplayed. I actually learned about it via friends' posts on Facebook. Then, this week, the service I work on, Bing (Microsoft's newly re-branded and greatly improved search service) was blocked in China along with Live Spaces, Twitter, and FlickR and some other sites; the government wanted to suppress access to controversial content.

Interestingly and perhaps non-intuitively to many outside of China, this day is not viewed as a particularly memorable or important date to many Chinese, at least the ones I talked with about it. Since it's not discussed or taught here, my guess is that most young people simply don't know much about it.

For older folks, I have some speculation. During the lifetime of everyone alive today and even before, China has suffered greatly from humiliation by foreign powers, Japanese atrocities, civil war, the Cultural Revolution, famine, poverty, and so on. First, while terrible, the events in Tiananmen and Beijing twenty years ago may not be any more significant than dozens or even hundreds of other incidents in modern Chinese history. These last twenty years have been increasingly stable and prosperous; people are proud of what China has become (culminating in the awesome Olympics last year) and satisfied that they are better off than the generations that preceded them. They're also optimistic about the future. There's simply little reason in their minds to make a big deal about this or to rock the boat.

I struggle with the question of whether we're helping or hurting things by living here. I certainly don't support the lack of freedoms here. (You can see a brief view of my political beliefs in my short-lived 2004 presidential campaign...) But, ultimately, I think constructive engagement is the best way to influence other countries. Still, just writing this article and thinking about that horrible day twenty years ago gives me pause.

Posted June 5, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)