Theory Schmeory

A friend recently noticed on my resume that I had a reference to my piano training -- I had completed Grade 9 in the Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum, but didn't go on to finish Grade 10 (or even further afterwards to get a teaching degree). He asked why I didn't just complete Grade 10; I was so close!

Well, the truth is, I couldn't get past Grade 9. It was with the Grade 10 pre-requisite History 4 where I got stuck; too much memorizing. Tried as I did, I just couldn't remember all the mundane details of some composer's life, and I couldn't care less about which instruments came in at which parts of the symphonies and crap like that. I even tried reading the passages, recording it, and playing it back while I slept, hoping it would somehow sink into my subconsciousness.

Nope. The exam has several sections, and you can choose one of several questions for each section. For me, the choice was irrelevant -- I didn't know the answer to either of them anyhow. So ... I just made it all up off the top of my head. I made up the movements, the solos. I created majestic brass melodies and mellow stringed bridges. I envisioned flirty flutes whistling light and fluffy tunes fit for angels. Had I composed the piece I was supposed to be writing about, it would have been a classic.

But instead, the guy who corrected my exam probably had quite the chuckle. And I failed.

Getting Something for Nothing

Okay, I gave in. I've never signed up on this before, but I figured, "Why not?" I really want one of these, and it would be even better if I could get it for free. And you can get a Mac mini for free too. Help me help you. So ... [groan] ... here's the silly email I'm supposed to send out and ask everyone to help me out.


Check out this great site that is giving away totally FREE Mini Macs! I've joined and I think you should as well. It's a completely legitimate offer, and this company has already given away $4 million in FREE stuff!

All you have to do is join, complete an online offer, and refer friends to do the same. That's it!

Here is my referral link. To help me get my Mini Mac, click this exact link to join, or copy and paste it into a browser:

So yeah, that's the message with my referral link in it, which is main point of this whole thing.

  • Head on over to FreeMiniMacs, using my referral.
  • Fill your basic information (ie. where to send the Mac) and an email. (I suggest you use a semi-junk email account.)
  • Choose one of the offers, and take it through to completion. I did the eFax 30-day free trial one. eFax does a quick credit card check, but no payment -- the other ones require some kind of purchase or commitment to validate it.)
  • Wait for eFax to notify FreeMiniMacs that you did your part of the deal. They say this takes only a day or two, but I'm going to leave it for two weeks, just to be sure.
  • Don't forget to cancel your trial period before the 30-day trial is over -- after that, eFax is $12.95/month. (I set an alarm on my calendar to remind me after 14 days.)
  • Ask 10 of your friends to play along (like how you've been so kind to do), and you can get a free Mac mini too!

And, of course, if you don't want a Mac mini, you could always just sell it on eBay or when you get it. Or you could give it to your parents. Or me. :-)

Eight-Legged Treats

I had crabs, and I really enjoyed it. But only for a little while. Last night. Like, just for a meal.

Turns out the local T&T / 99 Ranch had fresh (live) dungeness crabs going for $2.58/lb, so we braved the line of eager Asians. Well, it was really more than a line, as all such groupings of Asian grocery shoppers are -- it was more like a swarm, circling around the two tanks chock full of crabs.

Anyway, some hours after the crabs were introduced to our sink, they were made intimate with our rice-cooker-turned-steamer. And then paired up with a soy sauce concoction that brought out their natural sweetness.

I like crab, but I sure hate trying to get into it. It's nature's way of making you work for your food: having to fight your way through the tough spiney vault to get at the delicious morsels that await you inside. There's pretty much no way to do it without getting your hands all mucked up with calcium-y shells and crab juice.

And somehow, most elegant Chinese meals will include a crab dish. Worse yet, the crab is then doused in some kind of butter sauce or something else -- more stuff to get all over your hands. So there you are, perhaps at a wedding banquet, all decked out in your suit / tux / gown / dress, and your hands are all messy as if you had just performed surgery. Who thought of that? (I figure either a moron or a practical joker, but then it got out of hand when it caught on.)

Anyway, just thought I'd share.

Soulmates: The Six

Now that we've covered the idea of a soulmate, let's graduate from that. About three years ago, I was told about a certain short film that was based on the concept that there was no "The One". (And I don't mean that lousy Jet Li movie.) The concept was that you weren't meant to be with one soulmate who was destined to be with you.

Instead, it wasn't The One, but rather The Six. Six mates with whom your personality matches maybe 98% (instead of one who matches 100%). Six people with whom you would feel like they were in fact "The One".

I think this is a nice way to look at it because it addresses some people's hesitations of believing that there could be soulmates out there for them. On the other hand, so many people are in constant search of that one soulmate, that they dismiss perfectly good relationships for minimal reasons.

- What if you never meet The One? That is, what if he/she lives in Zimbabwe or South Africa? The Six gives you that "insurance" of having five others.

- The Six assumes that no person in this world is 100% for you, which dispels the myth that any relationship is completely effortless and easy breezy. Every relationship takes work, takes compromise, takes getting used to, takes sacrifices -- some more, and some fewer. So finding The One doesn't mean you'll never have relationship problems, but people expect it to be like that.

- Or, what if you get to meet, but the timing isn't right for both of you? If you're with The One, you expect that the two of you will be intertwined in the beginning, and will grow in that same direction effortlessly. With The Six, that 2% where you don't match shows that you do have to work on it, that you might sway as you experience different things in life together, but your work into the relationship makes it all work.

- Or again, about timing, what if they are in another relationship at the time and never realize the signs that you're their One? Common occurrence.

- Finally, having six possible soulmates removes that "barrier to exit" that so many people feel. I've heard of a lot of people who feel like they met their soulmate and would never let go of that relationship -- even when it started to lose its lustre and go a little south -- because they didn't want to give up that soulmate they had found, in the belief that they'd never find anyone more suitable for them than the soulmate they're with. Having the six just means there's five more possibilities out there.

Sorry, kind of a long post, but those are just some of my thoughts. What do you think?

Soulmate: The One

I've been watching Serendipity as I fall asleep. It's really a cute movie, playing on the idea of "destiny" or "fate" (I dunno the difference), and how they will always keep you moving in the direction towards that one true soulmate for you. And that's prompted in me one of the most timeless questions:

"Do you believe in soulmates?"

A soulmate, as in the one person meant for you to be with and that you are, conversely, the one person meant for him/her. And if we're going to go down that path, "meant for" implies that someone is meaning for you to be together, which implies perhaps a belief in some sort of higher power. But one thing at a time: let's not worry about whether you believe in a higher power (or a specific one), do you believe there could someone (one person) meant for you out there? Perhaps someone with that unsaid connection with you that you might not realize at once.

Or better yet, that unsaid connection that, in all Hollywood-encrusted glory, causes you to catch eyes, hook personalities, and realize they're your love-at-first-sight soulmate?

That One Extra Button

Some time ago, I mentioned the added buttons on my microwave -- the "+30 seconds" button, for instance -- and how it's changed how we tend to use microwaves (and how we tend to overcook foods in lieu of convenience). In my old apartment, I could walk up to the thing, put my food in and close the door, then press 1 through 6 for instantly setting corresponding number of minutes. One press, and off it goes.

Well, now, I'm using a different microwave. If I want any increment of one minute, like before, it now takes two keypresses: the "quick set" button, and then the number of minutes I want. Ah, but at least there's a "+30 seconds" button on this one too. Except ... well, even that button won't just start: you press "+30s", and have to press "start" to get it to go. Still two keypresses. Everything takes two "clicks" now -- that's twice the effort, meaning half the efficiency! Incredibly irritating. (Never thought I would become so opinionated about the workings of a microwave -- yet another indication that I might just have to build my own kitchen from the ground up, in my future home.)

Damn, I've become lazy. (Even more, I mean.)

Instant FOB

I speak, read, and write English fluently. I don't have an accent, aside from a "Canadian" one which has diminished somewhat during my time spent in the USA. I think I have a good grasp of the language's grammar, and the breadth of my diction is probably fairly decent.

But somehow, when I speak with people whose English is poor, or who speak broken English, I change. My level of English becomes simple and choppy, and I sometimes take on this faux accent or something (particularly when spelling words out). I certainly don't mean to mock whomever I'm speaking to, and I don't mean to belittle their English skills. I'm not sure why, it just happens. It's not a glaring change, but noticeable. It's just weird.

Apple of My Eye

[ Just now, I read Stuff In My Head, where Van linked to a hilarious Switch spoof. I made comment about the Apple-love phenomenon from my own viewpoint; I'm reposting an edited version here, because I think it warrants an entry of its own. ]

People may not have noticed that with the iPod Shuffle, it's a USB connector. That's okay, but the key point is that it's not the Apple dock connector, meaning that you can't use a lot of the iPod accessories available today: speaker sets, in-car adapters from the major stereo and car manufacturers, etc. Keep that in mind, folks. All those things that you simply plug your iPod down into and control remotely ... they won't work with the Shuffle. Enjoy that uncertainty.

As for being "ripped off" by Apple's "elevated" pricing, a lot of people are looking at it the way I used to: based solely on goods for the money. But we shouldn't be just looking at the device in your hand. We need to consider the software package and the whole ensemble that you get for the price: the simplicity of iTunes with the iPod, the ease of using it all. It's the same philosophy as I chose in selecting a digital camera: the more usable it is, the more it is likely to get used, and the more you'll "get out of it", thus increasing its value-in-use. Making it that easy to use also introduces those who used to be "too scared" or apprehensive to even explore that.

There's another intangible for buying Apple products (at least for me). It's the joy and pride of ownership. The corners of my mouth turn up just slightly, every time I'm at my Powerbook, everytime I pull it out of my BOOQ (pb17-custom) laptop bag. When I use MacOSX, it pleases me at how it reacts to my bidding, instead of how Windows used to frustrate me. When I use my iPod, the clean interface makes it simple to change songs, volume, ratings, and listen to audiobooks -- it's really a joy to use, to sync up, to change, etc. For me, these are priceless, and worth the higher cost of ownership (though I am Chinese, and will go to the ends of the earth not to pay retail prices).

Granted, some people don't care about any of the above. Then in those cases, you're better off buying the barest, most functional unit you can get your hands on. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Yet, if we all thought of things in their basic need-solution components, why do we have fashion shows? Why buy suits from somewhere other than the outlets? We should all be shopping at Target and Walmart if we just have the basic need to be clothed. And then there's food, which we don't even need to go into. We all like nice stuff -- the question is where your personal threshold is for what you feel you're getting out of it. I don't buy concert tickets, because I enjoy buying their CDs more. I don't ride first class because I don't feel it's worth the price over the regular cattle class.

Anyway, I bought my gf an iPod mini late last year, and a lot of it was fueled not just because it was pink, but because it was the right size in her hand and had an informative screen, and because it's "so cute". She loves using it, and it means it will get used a lot, which is worth volumes more than a semi-okay device that doesn't get used much, right?

My name is Ben and I'm an Apple addict. And honestly, I'm quite happy being one.

Apple's Mighty Mini

Yeah, the iPod Shuffle is cool, but the product announcement that really gets my juices flowing is the Mac Mini: the previously rumoured "headless Mac", because it just has the guts of the machine. No monitor, no keyboard, no mouse, or anything else. Stack up 6 or 7 CD cases (if you still have any around, now that you're an iPod user). The Mac Mini is that size, but a whole lot better looking.

A $499 little box that holds all the computing power, it's priced just a sliver over a similarly-equipped barebones PC server. As the iPod Shuffle allowed value-conscious music lovers into the Apple family, the Mac Mini is aimed at bringing Macs further into the mainstream. And they've adopted miniaturization techniques from the iMac and from their notebook computer experiences to create the most compact, dense desktop we've ever seen.

But the best part is that I was just thinking the other day that I wanted some way of attaching my external harddrive onto my network (instead of constantly plugging and unplugging it from my laptop). But I figured that while I'm at it, I may as well have the "dumb machine" to act as a fileserver, FTP site, and a downloader machine: that would free up my pb17 for my own work.

Two days later, Apple launches their Mac Mini to answer my prayers. I'm telling you, those guys rock.

[ I just went and priced one, the 1.25GHz : 40GB version. But then I upgraded to "512MB DDR333 SDRAM - 1 DIMM", "80GB Ultra ATA drive", and their "SuperDrive (DVD±RW/CD-RW)". Then I added some wireless options "Internal Bluetooth + AirPort Extreme Card", and the subtotal suddenly grew to "$853". Youch. ]

They Did The Shuffle

Goshdarnit, they dunnit again.

Today's keynote speech from Steve has unleashed the latest iPod Shuffle, which is a flash-based (literally skip-free and low-power-consuming) MP3 player that offers 512MB or 1GB on the slim white stick. It's got the signature clean white design, the little circular control buttons reminiscent of the first iPods back in the day, and a switch in the back that changes the shuffling mode (you know, in order / repeat / random). Even comes with a lanyard so you can hang it and show the world that you're an iPod lover (as well as advertise what a casual snatcher should steal from you).

This concept isn't anything new. In fact, it's even kind of overdone already. What's worse, there's something seriously missing from the iPod Shuffle -- a traditional display! Of course, Apple being who they are, they've carefully worked around the need for a display (as opposed to the "want" for one) by making all the controls simple and primitive. Apple is playing up the "feature" of just being random about your music and not worrying about seeing the song name displayed at all. "Enjoy uncertainty." Clever. And with only 1GB on it, there aren't that many songs on there anyhow -- definitely fewer than the 240 they say you can put on it, even you collect today's popular 192kbps MP3 files. Plus, why do you want to know what song you're playing? Heck, you're the one who put it on the iPod in the first place!

I have to say that I'm not completely impressed; this product doesn't hit me as the target market at all, but it's not meant to. That said, I think it will stillbe successful.

Why? Because when you buy Apple, you're already forgoing finding the absolute best features-for-price fundamental -- and they know it. It's not about what you need, but what you want -- there are cheaper players that do the same thing (play MP3s) and even have displays on them. But what Apple brings to the "whole package" is the simplicity of its functions, and a fantastic dose of CoolTM. It's slick: it's got that aire of Mac and Apple that makes the Apple Store such a magnet for me everytime I'm in the mall. It's simple: they've broken down the "needs" of a music player even further so that, along with iTunes as a duo, even computer illiterate grandparents can bop to the latest Limp Bizkit tracks. (If they wanted to.) It really has everything you need, and nothing you don't. And finally, it's cleverly priced to bring all the other people into the iPod family. Now that we have the $99 (512MB) and $149 (1GB) options, more people can afford the admission ticket into the open arms of the Mac community.

And that's just where it starts. It's like the mob family: once you're in, you're in for life.

... but In Reverse

Nicotine patches (like NicoDerm and other brands) help smokers quit smoking, by providing a controlled infusion of small doses of nicotine to the person. It's like they're smoking very tiny cigarettes, and slowly, their body will ween off the addictive substance. Makes sense, and it seems to work.

But what if you've never regularly smoked? What if -- if you can humour me for a bit -- what if a non-smoker used the patch regularly? Would the body start getting used to having nicotine in the system? Would you effectively get addicted to smoking, then??

The things that flirt through my head.

Who Sings This?

Some people listen to the radio and they usually know the song's name and artist, either from hearing it a lot or actively searching for that information. These are the people whom you can reliably ask, "Hey, who sings this?" and they'll know. At the extreme, these folks have their own copies of the song, maybe even the CD.

Then there are the other people, who listen to songs and just enjoy them. They sing along when it gets airtime, and they might know a lot of the lyrics too, but they have no idea who the artist is. It doesn't bother them that they don't know -- they'll just enjoy the song while it still gets airplay and when it goes away, they'll just float to the next top 40 song.

Which are you? Why do you think that is?


Whew. Yup, I'm still lactose intolerant. I guess I have to pay the consequences to enjoy my kashi cereal if I want to have it with milk in the morning. Is this something you can train over time? Like, to be more tolerant?

Two Weeks Late

I picked HG up from the airport last night at 1am, and having not seen him for some 5 months, we talked about life, the universe, and everything. Before we knew it, it was 4am and I headed back home to sleep. I should note that it was cold, not raining, and the streets were bone dry.

john harvey's gorgeous picture of the burrard bridge, vancouver in snowI woke up the next morning to 4 inches of fresh snow blanketing Vancouver, as far as the eye could see. Somehow, the skies got busy between the hours of 4:30am and 11:30am, just to surprise me.

And to wear out the novelty of shoveling snow. It's been a while, but now I remember why I didn't really miss it. That said, it's nice to have a white winter, even if it is two weeks late for a white Christmas.

Still Lookin', Thanks

It was because of the holidays. The holidays always force me to eat out more often, to wine and dine with friends as the only way to spend my time. It was because of the holidays, that I had to eat out so much and had to completely disregard an otherwise semi-healthy lifestyle comprised of low-fat, low-carb, high-protein intakes and regular gym visits.

It was the holidays, I tell ya. Honest.

And somehow, amidst all the delicious yummies in my tummy, the servers at those restaurants never seem to get it. They always come by when we're still looking at the menu

"Hi, do you know what would you like to order yet?"

My first reaction is one of surprise, surprised that we're being approached this early in the game. The follow-up reaction (close on the tails of the first one, but not quite as quick) is one of disbelief. I mean, isn't the official signal of being meal-order-ready that we close our menus and wait? Until then, don't we just have our menus open as we're still trying to decide which of their dishes we would like to palate that day?

Maybe I'm the one who doesn't get it.


No doubt everyone will have their own New Year's posts, so I will forgo the traditional wishes and fanfare. I trust that 2005 will be an exciting and a change-ridden year for all of us. Best of luck to you, and here's praying that the changes in store for your 2005 will be for the better!