Friday, August 15, 2003


After reading about Al Franken's spat with Fox News, I decided to check out his website. I was in for quite a surprise after I tried to visit It somehow redirects to, which, judging by the warning page, is a porn site. Weird.

State Of Emergency

I know, I know, the situation is not that dire, and yet I feel the need to be sensational on my own blog :-)

Last night I left work at around 7:30. On the way back to my apartment, I felt as if I was in Deep Impact or Armaggedon, or another one of those infinitely forgettable disaster movies. People thronged the sidewalks while cars clogged up the streets. Drivers got out of their cars to talk to each other. Cars parked crookedly in the middle of turns in the middle of intersections. Random people directed traffic so people like me wouldn't get run over. Walking in Manhattan can be a hazardous activity on a normal day. All bets are off now that all the traffic signals are off.

As I was about to enter my apartment, I walked past a bunch of residents that were loitering outside. Two girls waved at me, which was a highly unusual phenomenon for me. They were my roommate's girlfriend and her friend, who looked Korean and had a name suspiciously similar to my roommate. They were waiting for my roommate to get home but he never came, so I let them in to use the bathroom. Because we were all bored as hell, they started digging through my roommate's stuff to find something to entertain them. Unfortunately for my roommate, they found his porn. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't there with them to see their discovery because Korean girl was changing into my shorts since her jeans were too hot. I wonder what flavor of porn my roommate enjoys. Plain vanilla stuff like Playboy and Penthouse? Foot/leg/booty/tit/s&m fetish rags? I know he's not gay, but I thought about how hilarious it would be to find Black Inch (some black gay porn mag I once saw in a newsstand) in his drawers.

Anyways, we all went out on the balcony to sit and observe the people on the streets. It felt pretty awkward because they didn't really have anything to say to me and I didn't have anything to say to them. They started smoking and offered me a cigarette which I declined because I find smoking utterly repulsive.

After about 30 minutes of sitting around and doing nothing, I left the apartment to try to find some food. It felt so weird walking on the streets in almost pitch dark, save for the darting spots of luminance provided by people's flashlights and car headlights. I walked past a couple of bars that were still open, powered by candles and patroned by the after-work crowd. When I finally found an open grocery store, it didn't have any batteries or flashlights or candles for sale. Or food for that matter. I picked up a 3 Musketeer bar and fished out a bill from my wallet in almost total darkness.

"I hope that's a one-dollar bill, and not a twenty," I said to the Indian owner.

"Haha, it's your lucky day my friend," he laughed and gave me 30 cents back in change.

Apparently, he didn't realize that I wasn't joking. I really was NOT sure if I had given him a one-dollar bill.

Then I walked a little more before turning around toward my apartment. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how well-behaved everyone was. No one tried to cut in line to buy stuff and no one attempted to steal stuff in near darkness. People were super patient and extra nice to each other. They hung out in the streets with lit candles and beers in hand, listening to music and news, chatting and laughing, as if this was some kind of block party. It was amazing.

By the time I got home it was almost 10 pm already. I was extremely bored and somewhat tired so I just lay in bed for a while and listened to my iPod. Then I realized that the backlight on that thing was bright enough to be used as a flashlight! To conserve the battery, I had to turn it off. Meanwhile, the girls snuck out of the apartment without saying a word to me. I didn't find the shorts I had lent to Korean girl anywhere, either. WTF? What kind of people are they?

I looked at my cellphone and saw that I had 6 messages on my voicemail. The problem was that I couldn't get through to anyone on my cell, and neither could anyone get to me. But somehow my cell was able to detect incoming messages. Nothing made sense anymore. Using the landline phone in the apartment lobby, I finally checked all my messages and called my parents to let them know I was ok. Miraculously, BK was somehow able to get through to my cell. We talked for a little while until the reception degraded to the point that neither of us could hear the other person. My cell still doesn't work.

Throughout the night, I noticed that the water coming out of the faucets trickled in gradually smaller streams, until it completely died when I was ready to brush my teeth and go to bed. According to the doorman, the water pump in the building was electric, which explained everything. I ended up using some water from my Brita jug. Boy that water was cold, even after sitting for 8 hours in the unpowered fridge.

I woke up involuntarily every couple of hours to see if the power had come back on. Nope. When morning came, I got dressed and came to work. In fact, I have never felt so eager to come to work. Not ever. It's nice to have electricity and running water.

Despite the annoyances and boredom and hunger pangs, I'm still pretty lucky, considering that I now live merely blocks away from work. If this outage had happened two or three months ago when I was living in the outer edges of Queens, I would have been trapped in my office like many people here, some of whom actually slept in their cubicles. I'm also glad that I live on the 2nd floor, unlike the old gentleman that was forced to wait in the lobby because he had arthritis in both knees and lived on the 5th floor.

This morning while reading The Times, I came across this:

One middle-aged woman walked down many flights of stairs [it was 16 flights] inside the darkened Met Life Building. Then she collapsed. A team of paramedics tried to resuscitate her. She vomited. She stopped breathing. The paramedics tried desperately to call for an ambulance. There were none to be found quickly on this afternoon of sudden chaos.

And so she lay there for more than half an hour, her body growing cold, in a dimly lit corner of Café Centro. The paramedics never gave up. Yet by the time an ambulance could be flagged down, it was too late.

I used to walk out of the Met Life building on my way out of Grand Central. I even ate at Café Centro, which is inside the Met Life building, a couple of times. Now I will probably think about her every time I walk past there. How sad.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

The Shit Has Hit The Fan

About an hour ago, the lights at the office started flickering and then went out for a second before the back up power generators kicked in. Looks like quite a few cities have been effected by this massive power outage. A few people at the office pondered the possibility of this outage being the result of a terrorist attack. I don't really believe that, but I feel a bit rattled nonetheless.

I walked outside about 5 minutes ago and saw large crowds of people standing around looking confused. The traffic lights were all off, which explains the long lines of cars. I tried calling my sister and parents on my cell phone, but gave up after repeatedly redialing their numbers and not getting even an error message, even though my phone picked up a strong signal.

After hearing about thousands of people being stuck in the subway trains, I feel pretty fortunate that I can just walk home from work. However, I don't really have any reason to go home now because there's nothing to do at home since there's no electricity. I can't use the computer, watch TV, or play my PS2. No airconditioning either. I guess I will just hang out at the office for a little while until this problem is fixed. I had to call up Caroline to cancel our dinner plan later tonight. I had been looking forward to going to this "Gluttons of NYC" eating club event. Oh well.

Someone just came back into the office and said that the police were locking up all the subway entrances to prevent people from going in.

Right now, I'm listening to someone's radio broadcasting information on the outage, interrupted by static intermittently. A couple of minutes ago, the raspy radio was accompanied by a blaring speakerphone emitting loud, busy-signal beeps. I feel like I'm in some creepy video game right now, just waiting for some zombie/demon/vampire/werewolf to jump out of the next cubicle so I can blow its head off with my imaginary shotgun. Then I will call myself Ash and travel back to the 13th century in some kind of time warp and rattle off such classic one-liners as "gimme some sugar baby!" and "Hail to the king" while I lead a ragtag team of ruffians to fight off the Army of Darkness.

Hmmm, I wonder if they will start looting soon. That will solve all my gift-giving dilemmas.


I'm glad I didn't have to go to cs classes with this guy:

BANGALORE (Reuters) - An Indian teenage hacking expert who has helped global think-tanks and police officials combat computer attackers and digital swindlers is spurning job offers to pursue a degree at the prestigious Stanford University.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The Ultimate One-Liner

Excerpt from "Arnold the Barbarian," an article (scroll to middle of the page) in Premier Magazine (3/2001):

A woman who went to the set of 1996’s Eraser recalls the friend she was visiting there being asked to retrieve Schwarzenegger from his trailer for a shot that was ready to roll earlier than expected. “He asked me if I wanted to meet Arnold, and I said sure. When we opened the door to his trailer, Arnold was giving oral sex to a woman. He looked up and, with that accent, said very slowly, ‘Eating is not cheating.’ I met him again about a year later and asked him, in German, whether or not eating was cheating, and he just laughed.”

Point Taken

Bush expressing his interest in the California governor recall debacle: "You know, I'm a... I'm a follower of American politics."
Jon Stewart: "I always thought the president would be a leader of American politics."
The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test

Damn, all I did was saying I don''t believe in God, food is one of the finer things in life, I've used the Lord's name in vain, and I don't repent for my sins. How the hell did I end up in Level 6? Although "heretics" is a pretty accurate category for me.

Firebird rocks

I just downloaded Mozilla Firebird, the stand-alone web browser from the good folks behind Mozilla. This thing rocks!! It makes Mozilla, a web browser/mail client suite, look clunky and slow! It loads pages super fast, has a super clean interface uncluttered by all the usual stupid IE icons/toolbars, and retains all the great features from Mozilla, such as tabbed browsing (which in my opinion is the most innovative browser feature since IE's auto-complete; I can't live without it now), pop-up blocking (works like a charm!), Type-Ahead Find (the browser automatically jumps to the link that contains the letters you just typed, hit enter to view link), built-in google searching (yeah I know you can just get the google bar, but this thing takes up almost no space on the toolbar), smart keywords (i.e. look up words at just by typing "dict ubercool" in the location bar), plus a bunch of other cool features that I'm forgetting.

I like to open up a bunch of different articles when I'm reading the NY Times. With Firebird, I just click on the links while holding down the Control key. Each page is opened in a new tab. The coolest thing is that the browser stays on the current front page and the new tabs open in the background! This means I don't have to switch back to the front page every time I open up a new article. Another cool thing about tabbed browsing is that I can create one bookmark for a group of sites, so that Firebird will open up, NY Times, CNN, Slashdot, etc. in separate tabs simultaneously with one click.

Also, I didn't even need to run an installer! Just unzipped all the files to a directory and run the program. It automatically imported all my IE bookmarks at work without even asking. This thing is sweet!

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Workplace Zaniness

I once told Srini, Lynne, Shilpa and Vamsi that I only get angry when I'm programming. Looks like I'm not alone in venting my frustration during coding sessions:

Coworker 1 (petite, sweet Asian girl): Bangs mouse on desk, pounds keyboard and swears (I think) to the computer in Thai.

Coworker 2 (macho Italian guy): Gives the monitor the middle finger, mutters "fuck you! Fuuuuuuck youuuuu!" with a Brooklyn accent, followed by incomprehensible Italian swear words.

My response when faced with a frustrating bug is usually "fuck fuck fuck fuck," followed by "God damn it!!"

Monday, August 11, 2003

Fuck Yeah!!

Woohooooo!! HBO On Demand is finally carrying episodes 13-15 of Six Feet Under, the best fucking show on TV! Man, too bad the next episodes won't come into rotation until almost a month later, which means I will have to really savor these 3 new episodes (to me at least). That show is so fucking great, every episode is an orgasmic experience.


I just found out that the US military used napalm in the war in Iraq.

"We napalmed both those (bridge) approaches," Colonel Randolph Alles, the commander of Marine Air Group 11, was quoted as telling the newspaper. "Unfortunately, there were people there because you could see them in the (cockpit) video.

This new revelation reminds me of an SF Chronicle article that I read a while back about the first Gulf War:

Daniel and the rest of the world would not find out until months later why the dead had vanished. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers, some of them alive and firing their weapons from World War I-style trenches, were buried by plows mounted on Abrams battle tanks. The Abrams flanked the trench lines so that tons of sand from the plows funneled into the trenches. Just behind the tanks, actually straddling the trench line, came Bradleys pumping 7.62mm machine gun bullets into the Iraqi troops.

"I came through right after the lead company," said Army Col. Anthony Moreno, who commanded the lead brigade during the 1st Mech's assault. "What you saw was a bunch of buried trenches with people's arms and land things sticking out of them. For all I know, we could have killed thousands."

A thinner line of trenches on Moreno's left flank was attacked by the 1st Brigade commanded by Col. Lon Maggart. He estimated his troops buried about 650 Iraqi soldiers. Darkness halted the attack on the Iraqi trench line. By the next day, the 3rd Brigade joined in the grisly innovation. "A lot of people were killed," said Col. David Weisman, the unit commander.

One reason there was no trace of what happened in the Neutral Zone on those two days was that Armored Combat Earth Movers came behind the armored burial brigade, leveling the ground and smoothing away projecting Iraqi arms, legs and equipment.

PFC Joe Queen of the 1st Engineers was impervious to small arms fire inside the cockpit of the huge earth mover. He remained cool and professional as he smoothed away all signs of the carnage. Queen won the Bronze Star for his efforts. "A lot of guys were seared," Queen said, "but I enjoyed it." Col. Moreno estimated more than 70 miles of trenches and earthen bunkers were attacked, filled in and smoothed over on Feb. 24-25.

As an official said in the first article, "I don't know that there is any humane way to kill your enemy." War is war, so I guess such advanced extermination techniques are a good thing if it means less casulties on our side. But I am still very fucking disturbed, especially when Bush keeps parroting that "Saddam is an evil dictator that gassed his own people" line. Apparently, Saddam wasn't as creative in killing his own people as we were.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

What To Buy?

For the past 13 years, every discussion I've had with my parents concerning going back to China always ended the same way: handwringing over what gifts to bring back for the relatives. Now that I am actually going back for sure, I've been wrecking my brain over what belongs in the goody bag. There are so many factors that are influencing my purchasing decisions, the most important being the sheer number of relatives: My mom has 3 brothers and a sister while my dad has 3 sisters and 2 brothers. Since I have no idea what these 18 aunts and uncles (I'm counting spouses too) of mine would want, I have decided to focus on getting stuff for my cousins instead. Problem is, there are 11 cousins. I think. There may be a few here and there that I'm forgetting because there are so damn many of them!! Thank the Lord/Communists for the one-child policy, or else I may have 30 cousins to worry about!

After finally creating an inventory of cousins of both render with age ranging from 13 to 30 (I think), I walked on Fifth Ave to see what kind of stuff I could get them. Fifth Ave is a great area for shopping, if you are a fucking millionaire!! I walked for 10 blocks, shaking my head as I strolled past such bastions of conspicuous consumption as Saks Fifth Ave, Zegna, Louis Vuitton (which had a gigantic ad depicting J. Lo leaning back into a male model's open hands while dismissively waving off another male model standing by her; I'm contemplating taking a picture of that ad and putting my head on the the rejected guy's body), Bergdorf, Tiffany's, and a bunch of other exclusive luxury brand stores.

FAO Schwarz was one of few places on Fifth Ave that sold stuff I could actually afford, so I went in. Man, there were way too many stuffed animals in that place. And kids too. I strongly considered getting a plush Pooh bear for my 13-year-old cousin, until I saw the picture of a toddler playing with it on the merchandise tag. Hmmm, maybe she's too old for a stuffed animal, but then again Sachin, who's 23 and male, has a huge collection of stuff animals (one of which is a beanie crab from me that I hope he hasn't thrown away) and my sister, who will become a mother next month, has a teddy bear that she pretends is more alive than an inanimate bundle of man-made material.

Then I wandered into the Barbie section. Oh my god, they actually had a pregnant doll called Midge!! I thought of how funny it would be to buy that doll for Xuan Xuan. Of course I don't think her parents would get the joke. Then I wondered if I should be getting her a Barbie Doll at all. I mean, by giving her a Barbie Doll with a collection of 12 changeable "cute" outfits, all of which were obscenely pink or aqua, wouldn't I be reinforcing gender stereotypes? What if she develops some kind of self-image problems from playing with a doll that has totally unrealistic proportions and then becomes afflicted with anorexia/bulimia? I can see it now: A series of images like the ones in those anti-drugs ads. First we see a black and white shot of a frighteningly thin girl, with her emaciated face hovering just above a toilet bowl and traces of drool flowing out of the corner of her mouth ("This is Xuan Xuan throwing up her food"). Next we cut to a shot of the Barbie doll, zooming in on her blissfully ignorant smile and then focusing on her unnatural physique ("This is the Barbie Doll that stigmatized Xuan Xuan into anorexia/bulimia and throwing up her food). Finally, there is a shot of me, starring intently at the Barbie Doll package, looking as if I were undecided and torn ("This is Gary, the chauvinist dumb pigfucker that bought the Barbie Doll that stigmatized Xuan Xuan into anorexia/bulimia and throwing up her food). Final message on screen: Gary = vomitting. I will never get laid.

I ended up going to the Disney Store and getting her a pretty cool T-shirt that had "New York" printed in a classy font underneath an image of Mickey Mouse. I mean, nothing is more American than Mickey Mouse and New York, right? I also got her a beautifully illustrated visual dictionary chockful of illustrations and descriptions. I figured that it would be a helpful tool to her since she's studying English in school now.

One down. Ten to go.