That's Right, Smack It Good

I smacked that Pingu 593.5, baby. This is after a string of zero's to figure out how to play, and then a few 250 range, and then frustration on why I couldn't get past the 500 mark. Total elapsed wasted time, 15 minutes.

The Long and Short Of It

In life, we are constantly faced with decisions that pit our long-term comforts against short-term gratifications. How can one ideally balance between them?

What happens when they are in direct opposition? Clearly, the extremes won't do. Playing purely for instant gratification means a shortsighted life that cannot brace any unexpected impacts. Yet, always planning for the future results in present pleasures being passed over.

Worse yet, what if the they are not directly opposed to each other? What if you cannot see your current path continuing long-term, and yet see no such long-term path if you do not disrupt the short-term as it is? What if the two simply cannot co-exist, but only hint at this antagonism?

What then?


You know how yawns are contagious? You see someone yawn, and you can't help but want to gape one too. Well, the other day, the CEO yawned in his office next door. I yawned in response, but only because I heard him yawn.

So if you record a yawn sound, would hearing it make you want to too? Or is it a more sub/super-sonic signal sent that humans pick up, but recordings can't? (This was at the same distance as the one he let rip, so evidently the yawn reach at least as far as odourous travel range.) Do pets get affected too? I wonder.

Skin Deep

My first ever visit to a dermatologist happened last week, in a lovely area of Los Altos where there's strangely a large settlement of medical professionals and clinics.

He told me I have some kind of "atropic" condition -- it's a combination of asthma, allergies (hay fever), dry skin, and keratosis pylaris (KP).

- KP causes those little (darker) bumps that some people get on their skin, commonly on their triceps, that make their skin all rough. Medications (lotions) are available, but they are only temporary -- once you stop using them, KP returns.
- My appendectomy scar will eventually heal itself and won't get any worse, but it can be healed more quickly with a few direct injections of cortisone. I forgot to ask how much it would cost, but might consider it if it's an insignificant inconvenience.

He also recommended two points for people with dry hands.

- After you wash your hands, put a little moisturizer on them. Any time you wash your hands.
- For long exposure to water, like doing dishes, wear a cotton glove under the latex gloves. And don't wear gloves for over 15 minutes at a time, or your hands will start to sweat, and that's no good.

And finally, the gyst of all of his advice was this.

- All those beauty products are over-priced hype, and aren't worth their salt.
- Just wash your face with soap and take care of your skin.

There. I just saved you $82.

Missing the Point

Starbucks imageRemember the coffee cup drip? Starbucks replied.

Dear Mr. [omitted]:

Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company. I appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback with us.

Acting on feedback is essential to Starbucks continued success. If this does not happen, I realize that you and others may go elsewhere for your coffee needs. I assure you that Starbucks values your comments. Therefore, I shared your comments with our Retail Supplies department for their attention. Should you have additional questions or concerns, I invite you to call our Customer Relations department at 800-235-2883 to speak with a representative or email us at

Thank you again for taking the time to contact Starbucks Coffee Company.

Customer relations representative

Again, cookie cutter stuff. I guess they hadn't really read it. But I'll bet someone in the Retail Supplies department is having a good laugh.

An Alien Headset

Logitech Mobile Bluetooth HeadsetSo my next headset to play with was the Logitech Mobile Bluetooth Headset, which looks like alien technology.

- This baby comes in a slick case (like a sunglass case) with a window at the top.

- The design is completely different from any other headset I've seen to date: it has a two-prong clip that slips over your ear from behind, holding the padded speaker (about a tweeter-size mound) to your ear. The mic boom swivels out to lay near/against your cheek.

- It is amazingly comfortable, but again, after about an hour's wear, it started to hurt just a little bit.

- Again, it's that two-tone colourway, but the darker grey has a distinctive blue tinge to it. Not bad.

- This headset supports only Headset Profile (ie. no Handsfree Profile), meaning features like last-number redial are not available.

- The profile trade-off is worth it, in my opinion, because a Bluetooth connection doesn't need to be kept open all the time, thereby saving your headset's and phone's battery life. It's a huge difference: they claim 1 month standby, or 7 hours talk time!

- Best darned warranty I've seen: two years.

I'm noticing a loud background hiss, but I can't tell yet whether that's the number I called, the Bluetooth audio connection in general, or this particular headset.

Latin Fun

I'm up for a carnival and parade! Why don't we head over to Rio, where we can test out this attractiveness formula. Heck, forget travelling! Just have this done and you can stay home all day long!

The Power in Numbers

I've had some rough times (emotional and other) since I've had my current number. So as part of my Lunar New Year fresh-start initiatives, I decided to blame it all on how many 4's are in my phone number (4). By using this as a scapegoat, I could eradicate the problem very easily!

So I changed my mobile phone number.

Linda with AT&T was very helpful, and I asked her to check for a particular area code, particular NXX prefix, and to avoid 4's while favouring 8's. She came back with two possible (last-four-digits): 5897 and 5935. I chose the latter because I didn't want "589" (which sounds like I won't prosper long). She was really nice, and waived the number change for me.

Then my sister pointed out that "593" sounds like I won't live long! D'oh. It started to bother me that I chose the wrong one. I'm not a particularly superstitious person, but heck, if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right!

I got on the horn with AT&T again. May is African-American, so I explained what my reasoning for another number change was, and told her I was embarrassed to admit that I had chosen the unluckier number yesterday. We shared a good laugh about it, but the original 5897 was no longer available. D'oh (again). May went to great lengths to find me a suitable number: 7860.

Will changing a number bring better luck? From four 4's and one 8, to one 4 and four 8's? I dunno, but it cost me a pretty penny to do, so I'm going to convince myself that's why. Every little bit helps, right? Why not.

(If I end up one of those Chinese people who renovates a home because the qi isn't just right, slap me.)

M3000For a few days, I had the Plantronics M3000 Bluetooth headset, which supports both Headset and Handsfree (v1.0) profiles. Here are some notes about it.

- First off, the User Guide is amongst the best I've seen so far, but then again, the product is also rather simple to use.

- Pairing the headset with my Bluetooth phone was relatively easily -- took less than 30 seconds. Then the phone asked if I wanted to "Replace Speakerph.", to which I said yes. (I didn't know what the exact consequences were, and still don't.)

- Besides answering a call, lots of neat things can be done straight from the headset: voicedialing, last number redial, call rejection, call muting. This means you can leave the phone in your pocket and almost never take it out!

- Cosmetically, I would have liked it if the light pipe (LED clear plastic) were frosted so that the plastic lights up evenly (instead of being able to see that there's an LED burried deep inside).

- And the two-toned silver/gray colourway could have been made a little bolder (it's kind of bland).

- It comes with two earloop sizes -- I have small ears, and even the smaller one is a little tight on me. I don't see how that can fit anyone! At first, it was pretty comfortable -- holds the unit snug to your head without threatening to fall off -- but after 20 minutes of wear, my ear felt pressure at one spot, and it started to hurt.

So though I like the general design of this headset, the pain of having it on my ear really destroyed its chances. Shame.

Another Year

Happy Lunar New Year     (English)
Gong1 Xi2 Fa1 Cai2     (Mandarin)
Gung Hey Fat Choi     (Cantonese)
Saehae Bok Mani Paduseyo     (Korean)
Chuc Mung Nam Moi     (Vietnamese)

I believe it's the Year of the Monkey, and let's hope it brings us all happiness and good fortune!

Paper Thin

Yesterday, I heard my CEO let one rip in his office. I noticed that it was the type with a pleasant melodic tone to it, the kind that can only come from the butt of a mountain biker. (You know what I mean.)

I'm not sure how thick he thinks our dividing walls are, but they're rather thin. And it also doesn't help that both our doors were wide open.

GSM Phone (I)

So ... now my gripes about the S56 software (OS) ...

- User Guide is horrible and tells you no more than the OS does (or than you would guess with your own intelligence). Oftentimes, it will tell you what choices you have for an option, but won't go into one more sentence on what each of those choices means. HowardChui does a better job, and his forums offer lots of tricks and tips.

- The default ringtone is pretty catchy, but doesn't seem to be listed, so you can't select it. The only way is to turn off the customized ringtone (which then re-activates the default automatically).

- For any feature, the "Options" button pops up a dialog that allows various actions to be taken on the item (ie. a saved phone number entry). Only three options will fit in a window, but often more are possible -- problem is, it doesn't show you a scrollbar to indicate that scrolling down will offer more options!

- There's no calling card feature (as in Nokia and SonyEricsson phones) whereby you can enter calling card data and easily use it to call any number in your phonebook with it. (I use this when calling Canada.)

- Alarm Clock feature is categorized under Organizer, not under the Time/Date option.

- They've interspliced certain functions with the ability to edit those functions. Example: left "FastKey" is the softkey that you can program to go to a particular setting/feature right away. But you press it once, and instead of doing it, it asks if you want to do it or change it -- meaning a second keypress is necessary. (Or you can press and hold, but that's not any faster.) I think that setup really should be somewhere else, a separate section.

- The search function in the AddressBook is not instantaneous. When I'm in the AddressBook, and I hit "8" ("TUV") once, I expect the book to go down to the "T" entries immediately, not after 1 second.

- File Manager feature (which handles data objects, audio files, images) does not clearly indicate what is on the SIM card, and what is in the phone's memory. Likewise the distinction between AddressBook (phone) and PhoneBook (SIM).

GSM Phone (I)

The Siemens S56, in my opinion, is not a particularly well-designed mobile phone. It's pretty and curvy, and serves as a phone, but the UI leaves much to be desired. I'm no expert, but here's a quick analysis of my experience thus far (based on my personal preferences).

Hardware (Physical)

- The bottom corner keys ("*" and "#") have less than half the real estate than all other keys, making them extremely difficult to press.

- The 4-way arrows are nice, but the up-key is difficult to press at the angle it requires, when the thumb is positioned in the middle of the four. (It means you have to place your thumb over the up-key to press it, instead of enjoying the ability to "rocker" your thumb and get each direction you need.)

- The keys on the side (voice memo, volume up-down) are large and can be easily hit by accident. The throws on those switches also seem a little too easy to depress.

- If you use the Siemens (wired) headset, you cannot charge your phone at the same time -- they share the same port at the bottom of the phone.

- The antenna SMA connector is exposed on the back of the phone and should have had a cover to protect it. Most other phones have this covered.

- The LED light pipes do not illuminate the keys nicely / evenly, particularly those bottom corner ones. (Seems like those two keys keep getting neglected.)

- Ring volume isn't particularly loud (even at the highest setting), and the vibrate isn't particularly strong.

- It's cool having the speakerphone feature, though it's not really loud enough to be practical in use.

Those are just the ones I've found since Thursday night.

Why, Oh, Why?

"Sir, yes, sir!" I don't get it.

I understand that the "yes" affirms the order or question given. And the second "sir" addresses the receiver of the message (whomever asked the question, or gave the order). But ... what's the first "sir" for? Why add that first "sir"?

I mean, heck, keep the first one, and scrap the second one. It doesn't matter which one you keep; the issue is that only one is necessary.

Memory Blackout

It was actually quite a lovely afternoon the day after I had landed in California -- sunny and very warm -- and I had walked some blocks. I emerged from the DMV office in Oakland, having just collected all the forms I needed to get my driver's license.

It was a good hour and a half walk to get to the apartment from there, and a quick question for directions ended in a friendly offer for a ride. Lawrence was sporting a classic Saab convertible -- bare bones and simple interior, but you knew that this car had turned heads in its day.

We had a wonderful conversation as the sun shone down on us, wind sweeping through our hair, buildings flying from fore to aft. He told me about how he had always wanted a Saab, and for $1500, he was able to pick this baby up. He explained how cheaply such cars could be had, without suffering the depreciation that newer cars were subject to endure.

He dropped me off at the apartment, and I thanked him again for the ride, and watched him drive away before making my own way to the building. Only my second day in the state, and I had met someone nice. It really made my day.

I don't have his email address anymore, but wish I could contact him again. In fact, I had completely forgotten about that whole experience -- the conversation, the ride, that day -- until just recently. I guess it was because the rest of that month was clouded over and shadowed by what happened two minutes after I stepped into the elevator: the conclusion to the first big volume in my life.

When flying overseas (or crossing many time zones), some people suffer jetlag. There are a number of things one can do to help alleviate or minimize the effects of jetlag: food and fluid intake, modifying your sleep schedule, and drugs created particularly for this purpose.

But since the commercial airline clearly knows where you're heading, they can be in an advantageous position to help with this as well. Notice that many times, flight attendants will request all passengers lower or raise the window shades, thus inducing "daytimes" and "nighttimes". I wonder if they time the meals and these shade-down times to help with jet lag specifically?

I would only assume they do. After all, it's just good marketing to have your travellers well rested when they arrive at their destination, instead of them being completely exhausted and unable to adjust. No?

I finally did it. I finally caught up with technology. I made the switch to AT&T Wireless' GSM network. I waited for a long time for the phone and plan and promotion prices to be in the right range (cheap and good), and there they were. So now my Siemens S56 is charging and waiting to be activated; time to transfer all those phone numbers and learn how to use this phone!

The plan I have ($39.99 National Plan) even has an option that will allow me to (for the $9.99 North America Package) include Canada as part of my home area! That means I have a phone while in Vancouver, for just ten bucks!

Biggest problem with this phone? No calling card feature for dialing. That sucks. Big time. I'll have to try to figure out a way around that, that's for sure. But for now, I need to figure a way to scam a Bluetooth headset from a client!

"I'm doing well. Is there anything else?"

The tone was unmistakeably cold and distant. He was ready to reach out again, hoping for a pleasant conversation, but his hopes were dashed almost as soon as they were lifted. He sat there quietly, unsure of how to respond; moot, as she had already left to attend to other activities. Every word echoed and lingered through his head. More moments passed. His fingers froze though it was warm in the room. He could still come back with no response, but the speechless silence was ringing only in his mind. She was gone.

Verbal Eggshells

At this very moment, I am presented with a setting where written words need to express my complete emotions. Every word must be carefully selected and placed delicately in my sentences. Diction is of the utmost importance, tone takes on more meaning than ever before.

Each letter, each word, must serve its exact purpose. Each must say exactly what I mean. Because on either side of the right sentence lie steep cliffs of misunderstanding, deep into the chasms of darkness and loneliness.

It's a new experience to place such balance and care in these words. Words that leave my heart, to seek another.

Remember book reports from back in the day? What's the standard writing format for those? I know the general order for essays (intro - thesis points - antithesis - rebuttal - thesis point - summary, that kind of thing), but can't remember how a book report flow is supposed to go!

How May I Help You?

We all know that good customer service is hit-and-miss. Not only in being courteous, addressing your problem, and assuming intelligence on your part (after you show them you have some), but in actually finding a solution. Here's a miss. (This is part one. Just skim the long parts -- I'll bold the good stuff for ya.)


Hello! I'm trying to update the firmware on my S400 to v2.0.0.0, and my PC has Windows XP on it. [lots of technical details omitted]
I can't seem to update the firmware. Solution?
Dear Ben,
Thank you for writing to us. I apologize for any difficulties with getting the Firmware Update to work properly for the PowerShot S400.
Please ensure all background programs are closed including any utility programs or Anti-Virus programs. Also, if you have any other devices on your system, please remove them (other than the mouse, keyboard, and camera).
Please let us know how this works for the camera.
Sincerely, Angela
Hi, Angela.
No dice on that play. I shut down just about everything, and still it claimed there were multiple cameras connected.
I also tried [lots of technical details omitted, including troubleshooting and trying numerous scenarios] Can you send me something in the mail that would help? A 2MB CF card that has the right firmware on it (since I think the software is only 2MB large anyway), perhaps? I'm grasping for straws here.
Thanks! Ben
Dear Ben,
Thank you for contacting Canon product support. I apologize for the difficulty you are experiencing with your PowerShot S400 firmware upgrade. Unfortunately, for liability reasons, our technical support group is not allowed to assist with firmware updates.
I apologize for the inconvenience. If you would like to have your camera's firmware upgraded, our factory service center will be able to do this for you free of charge. [shipping instructions and details omitted]
Please send your camera to the following address: [more shipping stuff omitted] Usually, warranted repairs are completed within approximately ten to fourteen business days of the camera's arrival at the Factory Service Center. [snip snip snip]
Sincerely, John
Product Support Representative
Customer Satisfaction ... The most important product we support!


Now, just as they had assumed no intelligence of me, I did the same. Perhaps this guy was just pasting from his Book of Responses. I had to see if someone "competent" could help me here. I mean, clearly, this issue had to have come up in their QA process. I tried to climb higher in the ladder for a (proper) response.


All this, for a simple firmware update? Is this a problem that only I'm having, or is this a more common problem? I'm surprised that I have to do without my camera for up to three weeks for something as trivial as a firmware update. Please advise on how I can escalate this issue, thanks!
Dear Ben,
Thank you for your inquiry. We appreciate your patience with this issue. Unfortunately since we do not assist customers with firmware updates we are unable to give you any other alternatives then to send the camera in. We apologize for the time you will be without the camera.
Thank you for choosing Canon.
Sincerely, David
Product Support Representative
Customer Satisfaction... The most important product we support!
Product Support Representative,
I understand that Canon eCare cannot offer me the support I require for firmware updates, thanks for reiterating that statement. I am looking to you to assist in your customer's satisfaction, which I understand is "the most important product [you] support"! Please advise how I can escalate this issue, thank you.
Dear Ben,
Thank you for writing to us regarding the Firmware upgrade for your Powershot S400. Your inquiry has been escalated to me for a response. My name is Chris Easdon and I am the Operations Supervisor for On-line Support here at Canon ITS. Unfortunately, as has been conveyed to you previously, for liability reasons we are in no way authorized to assist you with the Firmware upgrade. This is the policy of Canon USA and Canon Inc. [snip snip] No other options for service or assistance are available to anyone here at Canon ITS. I apologize for any inconvenience this causes you.
Respectfully, Christopher J. Easdon
Operations Supervisor, Canon ITS


Well, now, I didn't see the point of continuing the dialogue with Chris. [sigh] Luckily, I found later, the upgrade is simply for some kind of direct printing feature which I don't need (yet).


Somedays I want to be goofy. Like, stupid goofy. Like, be all perky in the morning goofy. Like, big enthusiastic waves at passersby goofy. Like, swirl my head around in a circle making airplane noises goofy. Like, stupid jokes goofy. Like, pretend I'm a tree at an intersection goofy. Like, be completely spontaneous regardless of consequence goofy. Like, do people's windows while in a tuxedo goofy. Like, laugh hysterically over a rock goofy. Like, pretend I'm invisible goofy. Somedays I just want to be goofy, to distract me from the fact that I'm so bothered and haunted.

As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. Sorry for the inconvenience, but this URL move will only be temporary.

Banned from the PC

Computers are dangerous. I should not be allowed to have one. Or, I should be under constant supervision when sitting at a machine.

Instant Regret

It was like a scene in a movie. I had typed a message in the window, and contemplated sending it. I sat there staring, added a word, and my mouse was ready at the SEND button. I turned my attention to other things, but found the ENTER key drawing my eye. My thumb hovered perilously over the key, threatening to weigh heavier.

Then several things happened in rapid succession. My mind concluded the indecisiveness. My thumb dropped. The key clicked its confirmation. The message disappeared. A deadening fear of the consequences arrived at its destined neuron. My eyes widened.

"Oh, no-no-no-no-no-no ... retract! Retract! Dammit, how do I retract my message??"

And like a person who has just thrown a stone off a skyscraper, I can do nothing but wait and see what happens.

I can never remember what meats come from what parts of the cow. But, aha, now I have this PDF chart! (I still can't remember it, but at least I have a chart.)

Squeaky Clean

Why is it that hotel soaps tend to leave a water-resistant coating on your skin, instead of washing you like they're supposed to? This seems to happen regardless of water hardness, from Anaheim to San Francisco to Vancouver to London.

Even the nice hotels have soaps that exhibit these qualities. For a nice hotel, would you not hope that all products bearing your name provide a comfortable shower and cleansing experience? (Apparently not.)

It's almost as if your skin were being waxed and that would keep you from getting dirty as easily. Children should have a wax spray like that before they go out to play.

I think people tend to use the New Year as an opportunity to think about what they've done in the past year and what they plan to do in the next one. Instead of a new year's resolution, I will have a theme or focus for each year (from now on).

My intended theme for 2004 is intensity. It's my own little summary of "work hard, play hard". I want to do everything 110% this year (except work, which I will grant 30%), and I want to tie up loose ends and be resolute about things. I will not be indecisive (and the delay while I do research doesn't count), but I won't be brash either. Calculated.

I think 2004 will be a good year for me. Not without pain, I'm certain, but still good overall.

Doing My Thing

I had a Starbucks coffee cup ritual (and not the same kind of ritual that Ally McBeal has with her cappuccino). When I received my hot beverage from the Starbucks barista, I placed a lid atop it. I aligned the seam of the cup directly under the sipping hole of the lid. And then I slipped the cup into one of the heat/cold protector sleeves, again carefully aligning the seam of the cup with the (center of) the sleeve seam. (My ex used to pass the cup to me and go, "Okay, do your thing with it.")

Strange? But I had a reason.

The sipping hole on the lid dictates how we hold the cup to drink: my thumb lands on the part of the cup directly under that hole. When one holds a cup, four fingers support the far side, and only the thumb holds the opposing side; naturally, the thumb imparts the most force on the held object. The seam of the cup is structurally the strongest (around its sides) because of the double layer (trusting their glue), so logically, I want that part of the cup to hold against my thumb's force. The sleeve, of course, adopts the same reinforcing purpose.

How ingenious, you must be exclaiming. But I discovered a recurring problem that I hadn't noticed until recently: drip.

Because the seam is slightly thicker, the lid doesn't seal completely over the seam portion, leaving an ever-so-small gap. And when I bring the cup up to drink (tilting it), this gap allows a slight drip to come out. At best, this means a drip down the cup to threaten the dry comfort of my beloved thumb; at worst, my shirt/lap gets decorated with my caffeinated drink.

But I found a simple solution.

I now align the sleeve seam with the lid hole, but reposition the cup seam to be on the opposite (far) side of the cup. I would never in normal use tilt the cup away from me, so that gap becomes inconsequential. And I still get to enjoy the reinforced thumb pressure area while holding my coffee.

Don't fall into the trap: learn from my mistakes and avoid the drip.

Just In Case

So you send a letter (or important documents) from the post office. And for an extra fee, they will offer delivery confirmation that your package got to its recipient. Is it just me, or does this seem silly? Is the postage paid on the letter not already a fee charged to ensure proper delivery? So ... aren't they simply trying to get me to pay them extra to do their job right? After all, if they did their work properly in the first place, delivery confirmation should be a redundant service instead of an afterthought service to add peace of mind in case they don't!

It's once again nearing the damned income tax time! Wanna be a bastard?

Sometimes I just need to relieve some stress by popping something.

Fight Scene

There's a highway bridge which leads eastbound towards (my former) home, which sometimes grants a beautiful view of San Francisco from the north.

It was on and after there, that I had arguably (no pun intended) the worst fight I had ever had with an ex-girlfriend. That time, I actually let my anger show instead of holding it in (as I normally do). I allowed my temper to flare and told her simply to shut up. She threatened to stop the car and kick me out, and I dared her to. She didn't, but it was a deafeningly quite ride home. It was probably one of the few signs (to me) of our impending breakup.

And though I rarely visit that region, now I can't drive that stretch of the 580 without conjuring up the hurt of that unfortunate sunny afternoon, and the darkness that lay hidden under the argument.

How Much Again?

"All inline skates. 33% percent off lowest-ticketed price."

That seemed enticing. I came to the mostly-empty shelves of inline skates and remembered that my old pair had just broken its strap. At the bottom of a pile of boxes, I found a pair of 2003 K2 Xcelerates. Various red price tags had been stamped on it and then half worn-off. I tried them on, and though they were a little large, they might just do. I asked for a price check on it.

"You can have them for $33.46."
I looked him in the eye for any signs of humour.
"Uh ... is there a '1' infront of that?"
"Nope. $33.46."
"I'll take 'em."

Off I walked through the checkout stand with my new inline skates (where the guy at the register did a bug-eyed double-take when he rang it up). Nothing like such a fantastic deal to wrap up the year's purchases!

A very happy new year to all! (I'm finally recovered.)