Monday, December 24, 2007

What's Wang This Week

If I haven't talked to you already, I'm home for the holidays. If you're around and want to get together, let me know. I'm looking forward to the following:

  • Jiro;

  • Memphis Blues;

  • Top Gun (the Japanese restaurant, not the movie);

  • LUGs poker; and

  • LUGs Risk.

And if you drop me a line, I'll look forward to seeing you too!

I've been home for a week now and I haven't been to the gym in two. I've also been eating, and not in a healthy way, either. For example, I've been snacking on mixed nuts. I discovered that instead of eating the nuts individually, there's a whole bunch of taste possibilities that come from mixing and matching. This has made me far more willing to eat the hazelnuts. I'm feeling fat and sassy, and I haven't even been to most of my favourite restaurants around here. This could be epic.

The other day some of us were at Mike's place playing Guitar Hero. During one "solo" part, Graham started striking rock poses and in doing so pulled a muscle in his leg. He fell on the floor, but swiveled around so he could see the screen, and tried to keep playing. It was reminiscent of the scene in Spinal Tap where Nigel gets on his knees during a solo and can't get up. He did this for maybe 20 seconds and I considered getting in there like the roadie in that scene and propping him back up before he said that he may have pulled a muscle in his leg and was in pain. I laughed so hard I wasn't able to breathe for 2 minutes.

I've done some things other than eating and playing video games, but I'll spare you the details of my outbreak of hives and bring you the rest as I remember them, since another thing I've done is decide I need to blog more.

Current Music: Various Artists - Seriously Westcoast 2

Monday, December 17, 2007

Note to self

It's Cameron's birthday.

Current Music: The Strokes - Reptilia

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Note to self

It's Eric's birthday.

Current Music: The Strokes - Juicebox

In conversation with Dickolas (Non-random quotes from the last hour, provided with context)

The Wii has a LOT of low-rated games

you don't have to buy them, you know

it's okay if you don't

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What's Wang This Week

I don't know how I got so neglectful of this blog. It doesn't seem right, given that this blog is about the most notable thing I've ever done.

The second most notable thing I've ever done is score over 16,000,000 points on Tetris Tournament. I did that about a month ago, and I've barely played since. I felt, at that point, like I'd proved my point. I also upgraded my laptop to OS X 10.5, partially because I hoped it would speed up my computer, but also partially because then I could run Quinn, which I'd heard described as the best Tetris client ever (although they can't say that themselves as the Tetris people brought down the hammer of litigation).

After this success, I relented to peer pressure and agreed to give a talk in the Statistics Student Seminar about Tetris. Here was my abstract:

"All work and no play make Jack a dull boy", as they say, and perish the thought that grad students are dull. A pleasant diversion can take many forms; one of the most common is the almighty video game. Recently a wave of interest around one particular game has swept through the department: that elegant evergreen, Tetris.

However, the frustration of a bad game of Tetris often leads one to play again, and again, and again, until you achieve what you consider to be a "good" game. In my talk I will discuss and demonstrate general strategies and give some tips to make your game more consistent and improve your scoring, hopefully cutting down on the wasted time of a second (and third) game.

Time-permitting, I will discuss some results about a couple of subproblems of Tetris, including the proof that it isn't possible to play a single game of Tetris forever. This will be followed by a demonstration; in this demonstration I will discuss the relatively new "infinite rotation" rule and how it affects gameplay. I will also field questions about strategy and offer the insights of a Tetris player formerly ranked 20th in the world*.

* assuming Facebook rankings are world rankings.

You'd be surprised how much there is to say about Tetris.

Last week Jowen's friend Albert and Albert's friend Alpha passed through town and they stayed with me. We did the customary trips to Sizzler and In-N-Out, and they in return gave me food. They also invited me along to visit the Googleplex on Saturday, which was pretty awesome. Notably, they both beat Jowen in visiting me here. They were great guests and as such I'm happy to call them both my friends too. Awww.

This weekend is the Bacon and/or Chocolate Experiment of '07. I ordered a turducken from a local butcher, but I realized that we had the wrong date (he and I both thought American Thanksgiving was next week), so I called on Saturday to confirm. Turns out he didn't have my name written down at all, although this could have been because he couldn't make out my last name over the phone and was looking under "Leanne" or "Liane". Maybe I should call back and make sure he didn't write my first name down as "Rachel" this time.

I booked my flight to Vancouver for December 17. Book your calendars. This is no thanks to Adam, whose assholery had me planning to fly with him to Sea-Tac to save money until he found out -- after an Air Canada sale had ended, mind you -- that he had to stay right until the end of exam period because he has to help grade an exam. Fortunately, there were still ridiculously good fares available after he let me know, so he's off my shit list for the time being. Adam: what a douche.

I also finished Metroid Prime 3 in the last month. While it was good, I can't help but feel like my time would have been better spent playing Mario 64 before Mario Galaxy came out. Actually my time would have been even better spent eating more brown rice, which is cheaper and also nourishing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I'm posting this from inside Google

I'm not just in two tabs in my browser, with one on the blog and one on Google; I'm actually in the Googleplex.

Seriously, the Google.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I'm less curious about "Gitaroo Man"

I wonder if there's a cover band out there that plays nothing but songs from Guitar Hero. They would have started by learning the easy songs and then moved on to the harder ones just like in the game, so that depending on when you saw them over the course of a year (or release cycle, I suppose) you'd be hearing different songs. After they went through the whole list of tunes, they'd have gone back through and started over on a higher difficulty setting. Maybe that means the second time through they got the second guitarist to start playing the lead parts instead of both guitarists just playing the easier rhythm part.

Then they'd have had to do it all over again when Guitar Hero II came out.

When development shifted over to Neversoft, I wonder if the band fractured into two, with one half learning the songs from Guitar Hero III and the other half devoting their efforts to Rock Band.

I wonder if an analogous band exists for Dance Dance Revolution.

Current Music: Crowded House - Time On Earth

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Potent Quotables (Non-random quotes from this summer, provided with context)

[In my car, listening to Air Supply's Greatest Hits]
Air Supply are so good!

Were Air Supply considered, you know, a good band?


[Still later! As we are listening to a song that is not "Lost In Love", "All Out Of Love", "The One That You Love", "Even The Nights Are Better", or "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All"...]
Maybe Air Supply weren't that good a band.

Current Music: Air Supply - Lost In Love

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I have friends

The winner of the 2007/2008 Race To Berkeley is Billy.

Originally from Singapore [EDIT (4:12PM September 27): the Philippines (sorry, Billy)], Bill "Daniel Wang" y attended an international American school before heading to Vancouver to study mathematics at UBC. He was precocious and took algebra courses a year earlier than normal, which meant that neither he nor I properly learned Galois theory because we were too busy bickering quietly enough that we didn't get yelled at by our friends sitting in front of us. Currently working in the hot field of wavelets at the University of Oregon in lovely Eugene, Billy turned in a dominant performance in this year's Race, claiming victory in the first week of the Race without even announcing his entry by coming to the Bay Area to visit his brother on his birthday.

The quick victory is a shot in the arm that the Race needed coming off a difficult year which saw first prize go unclaimed, despite an honourable mention for 2005/2006 winner Regan Yuen, who passed through San Francisco with her family on vacation. Two-time runner-up Jowen Yeo couldn't mount a charge. Inaugural Race winner Adam Pauls now actually lives in Berkeley, leaving him ineligible. A final push by fellow LUG Victor Ho failed at the very last minute when his scheduled trip to Disneyland put him in Redding the day I flew home for the summer. Compounding this disappointment was the narrow failure of Frances Tong to claim the inaugural Race To Vancouver when her asshole brother vetoed a family vacation to Vancouver in favour of Utah1.

Billy was also the first winner to not stay at my house and consume my resources. Thanks, Billy.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to take the winner to the Sizzler or In-N-Out, nor did I have the good sense to take the customary picture with the winner. Here, instead, is a picture of Billy that I have expertly Photoshopped2 myself into.

Congratulations to the winner, and to the rest of you, I hate you all so much.

Current Music: Neil Finn - Try Whistling This

1. To be fair to Frances' asshole brother, they went to Yellowstone, which is probably quite nice.
2. More accurately, "Microsoft Paint-ed".

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The pinnacle of Saturday morning cartoon

Maybe Garfield is lame, but the cartoon was fantastic. It was one of my favourites growing up and, now that I have volumes 4 and 5 of the DVD set, it's one of my favourites again. I don't know if I saw this on TV when I was a kid, but it's on the DVDs and it's one of my very favourite cartoon bits ever.

Current Music: Garfield and Friends - The Picnic Panic

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

There's a Chinaman joke in here somewhere

I'm not going to say that I've taken up weightlifting unless I manage to stick with my routine for at least two months. However, for the last two and a bit weeks I've been lifting some weights under the tutelage of Adam and Chris, three times a week. I'm certainly not getting as sore afterwards as I did at first, which is good but also bad because when I got really sore I slept like a baby, and I like that more than I hate hobbling around like a gimp for a day.

I thought this would be a good idea because I've come to realize -- well, maybe it's not a realization, but a theory, anyway -- that I just wasn't meant to be skinny. I think I was probably meant to be kind of big and strong. This has been suggested by my friends for a while, given the size of my calves. Interest in this theory grew over the summer, when a BMI calculator Daniel rather cruelly found online told me that I was obese -- not overweight, but obese -- and my parents became concerned that I was falling prey to the American epidemic of being a big disgusting slob. Anyway, it's been my thing for a while that I'm "probably naturally strong", and I thought that it was time to try to make the transition to "actually being strong".

It would be pretty nice to pack on a huge amount of muscle too because then I could go home weighing 240 and having my parents force me to go see a doctor about my massive obesity until I dead lift one of them. This is under the assumption that they probably wouldn't hold still long enough for me to bench press one of them.

This has allowed me to actually test the strength of my calves using the calf raise machine in the gym. After a few days of trying to find my level, today I discovered that I can manage to do at least one full set at the maximum weight of 600 pounds. Since this is one of the two things that I do remarkably well (the other being Tetris) I want to shout this from the rooftops. 600 pounds. That's almost a third of a ton, and a little over a quarter of a tonne. That's, like, four people. If four people needed to reach something on the top shelf that's just out of grasp, they could all climb on my back and I could raise them all eight inches, allowing them to grab their things.

Well, that's not quite true. As Adam pointed out, the calf raise machine employs a second-class lever, so there's some mechanical advantage involved. More accurately, if four people were strapped into a (weightless) rickshaw, and had to get at something on the middle shelf just out of reach, I could get at the handles of that bad boy and raise them all four inches.

Thinking about this reminded me of this.

Current Music: Crowded House - Together Alone

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What Was Wang This Month

Quite a bit, but the main thing that I feel like sharing right this minute is that I made leaps and bounds in my Tetris game and now my best score is 4395970, which at the time was good for 27th of 131205 (omitting the obviously hacked #1 overall score of 133333337). I'd like to thank Crowded House for breaking up in 1996 and releasing a ten-year anniversary DVD of their farewell concert, which slowed down the computer enough while I had it playing in the background that I could achieve this score.

This score is good not just because it's a huge improvement because it is a better score than the cute girl who was #10 for a long time, which means that maybe I'd be worthy of her now. It's also disappointing because my officemate Daniel's best score is now 491302, and my top score is no longer ten times his.

My nephew Thomas had the chicken pox last week. Those of you who knew me when I was 17 and had the chicken pox will understand how happy I am about this.

Bad news on the T-shirt front: the time is coming very quick to retire both my #1A and #1B T-shirts. My grandmother had done a quick mend of all the little holes in my Homsar shirt and my Dick's Lumber shirt while I was home for the summer, and that was great because it bought both shirts some time. Unfortunately, new holes keep appearing in Homsar, so I'm going to retire them while they still have some dignity. I intend to say more on this later, because it really is the end of an era.

I got Metroid Prime 3: Corruption three weeks ago, but I still haven't finished it. There are two reasons for this. One, I'm busy. Two, it's a first-person shooter, and despite the really cool Wii controls, just like all the other FPSs I've played in my life, it gives me motion sickness. I'm still willing to play it for an hour or two at a time though. That I'm willing to lose my appetite for a while just to play it says something about how good the game is, because my appetite is very important to me. It also says something about my frugality because I paid $50 for the game and it would feel like a waste if I didn't play it even though it causes me physical discomfort.

I bought tickets to see the Canucks play the Sharks on December 13. I managed to get a pretty big group together to go see them (14, and only Adam and I are actually Canucks fans), and despite Ticketmaster's sucking, thanks to Allan and Nick I was able to get tickets in groups of 6, 4, and 4. Since the size of the group basically makes this a thing, I think I may have to buy the #2 Ohlund jersey I've been wanting for over a year. This presents a problem, as the new Canucks jersey is really, really awful. While there's something to be said about buying a really, really awful jersey (who among us wouldn't love to have the awful yellow V jersey?), this jersey is so bad that I wouldn't be surprised if they changed it again within two years. On the other hand, that might give it even more novelty value after the fact.

Current Music: Crowded House - Time On Earth

Friday, August 24, 2007

What's Wang This Week

With my sister and her family all vacated from the house, I have had some time to relax (and some mornings to sleep without Thomas waking me up). For the last week I've been unwinding with a steady regimen of video games. I bought Rayman Raving Rabbids, and let me tell you, I was a fool to pick Super Monkey Ball over it in December. Super Monkey Ball? More like Super Monkey Asshole1. I also played some poker and made almost $5. Which reminds me, I owe Jowen 70 cents.

The single most significant thing I've done this week is play Tetris Tournament. After my last post about Tetris Tournament, I had a breakthrough game and brought my high score to 964155. This was a huge improvement over my last high score, and I felt like my game had progressed almost to the point where I could just keep on playing and playing as long as I wanted, so I was, naturally, thrilled. What I didn't expect was that my score would put me 20th out of 60682 on all of Facebook. I was shocked; that's, like, a world ranking. That's not even just a world ranking, that's a good world ranking.

Unfortunately, it turns out I wasn't actually that close to being one of those guys who can play indefinitely, and for the last week I've been trying vainly to better my score to at least seven digits. The closest I've come to my high score is hitting about 850000 a couple of times, but most of the time my score hovers between 600K and 700K. As it is my high score from before is now 36th out of 73481, and it's not likely to improve anytime soon. It's getting difficult because if I want to play a single game of Tetris Tournament, I basically have to play for 25 minutes, so I can only really get in two or three attempts in a session before my hands overheat. On one hand that can't be good for my wrists, but on the other hand there's something to be said about going out of the world of functioning hands in a blaze of seven-digit Tetris glory.

For some time the #10 score on Tetris Tournament was held by a pretty cute girl. As I played, I'd be watching the top ten scores on the side and looking at her picture, and thinking, "I wonder who she is. I wonder if she knows she's my dream girl." Maybe I should have messaged her, but I think I'd have to be at least top 15 before she would take my messages.

A few weeks ago my mandolin bridge finally arrived -- six weeks after it was ordered. Of course, I wasn't in Berkeley to receive the mandolin, so it went back on the shelf, and when I get back I'll have to go and pick another one. If they run out before Sunday I think I'm going to have to challenge someone at Guitar Center to a duel. Of course now all of my best mandolin-learning time is past (time which I spent playing Tetris Tournament, I suppose), so instead of maybe getting OK at the mandolin, I'll have to set my sights lower and limit myself to learning to play Losing My Religion and Hasn't Hit Me Yet. Maybe -- maybe -- Maggie May.

It looks like I won't be able to join the jazz ensembles this semester, as two of the three intermediate combos conflict with my classes, and I have to TA anyway so I don't imagine I'll have a lot of time. Besides, that's time I can spend learning to play Losing My Religion. That's meeee in the cooooorner...

I realize that no one reads my blog anymore (and I hope it's mostly because I don't write as much anymore rather than that people don't like me anymore), but if anyone does and wants to see The Shins at the Greek Theatre on Friday October 5, let me know and we'll get tickets. Sooner rather than later, though; tickets have already been on sale for a week and I don't want to get caught without a ticket.

Current Music: Beck - Midnite Vultures

1. also: Super Monkey Balls; Stupid Monkey Ball; Sucks Monkey Ball; Super Monkey Bullshit.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Potent Quotables (Non-random quotes from this summer, provided with context)

According to Facebook, all of my peers are making lots of money and getting married.

Well, at my age, they're all getting divorced.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hey Thomas...

... say cheese!

Current Music: Super Furry Animals - Keep The Cosmic Trigger Happy

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Potent Quotables (Non-random quotes from this summer, provided with context) says:
You should get a PS3 says:
Kurt Angle is my hero

D to the W says:
Ladies and gentlemen

D to the W says:
the two stupidest sentences spoken to me in weeks

Current Music: Air Supply - Even The Nights Are Better

Potent Quotables (Non-random quotes from this summer, provided with context)

So I was wondering about this recently: what is Bryan Adams up to these days?

Practicing for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics.

Current Music: Crowded House - Instinct

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Facebook and Tetris: together at last

I've been busy at home with family and friend stuff and so have been neglecting my blog to the point that when I type in "dickolaswang" into my browser, it no longer autocompletes the URL. It's a shame because I feel like there have been all kinds of potent quotables in the four weeks I've been home which I would love to share. I'll just hope they'll eventually come to me when I have a minute and they'll all get their moment in the sun that way.

Another thing that's going to be an impediment to updating the blog is the fact that there is now a credible Tetris application in Facebook. Having completed two games, I'm now ranked 450 out of 50720 players on Facebook, which I'm pretty happy with, but my high score also reinforces the fact that I'll never be a truly great Tetris player as my high score is about 7% of the 2nd place score (which is 6000000), and the top score is over 18000000. This makes me a little sad, but on the other hand, no it doesn't.

It does make me sad that I can't beat the douchebaggery out of the top score holder with my Tetris skills, though. Listen to his commentary on his high score; I wanna clock the guy.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007

What's Wang This Week

On the occasion of my 25th birthday I decided to have a picnic where the star attraction was a whole roast suckling pig. This was decided around two months ago while I was in Berkeley. A friend of mine Googled and found a review that indicated the place to get a suckling pig in Vancouver is a Filipino market called Fraser BBQ and Fresh Meat. I had debated whether or not I should have it pre-cut for me, as you don't often get a photo op with a whole suckling pig. Still, I decided for substance over style and had them cut it.

It's a damn good thing I did, because there's no way we could ever have chopped this thing ourselves. This thing was enormous. Every single person who saw it's first reaction was "Oh my God". At the end of the day we still had about 50% of the pig left, so I made tinfoil packets (piggy bags) for my friends to take home.

I'm home now and having a good time. My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew arrived yesterday from Paris and the whole house is stuffed to the gills. Thomas is almost one and a half now and runs around all the time; he's a lot of fun but I have no idea what to do with him. It was easier last year because he basically couldn't move and so I could control what he plays with pretty easily, but now I find myself constantly deciding whether or not he should be allowed to play with pencils and spoons, say. The latter has much to do with a conversation I had regarding the pig and whether or not its eyes would be removed using a melon baller.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My legacy

I decided that jam and club soda is now my drink, since it doesn't seem that anyone else thought of it before I did -- or at least, I came up with the idea independently. I set about giving the drink -- my drink -- a name.

Initially I wanted to give it a name that included "Dickolas" so that it would forever be mine. I had been thinking of "Dickola" or "Dr. Dickolas", but the first one was a little bit awkward and the second one isn't evocative enough of Dr. Pepper to be a very good pop name. Théa implored me not to call it Dick Juice, which I hadn't thought of, but considered a wise suggestion nonetheless.

The only jam-related name I could think of was "Jam Session", which was a little corny and didn't include my name at all. However, the more I used it the more I felt that it was the right name. I thought of trying "Dickolas' Jam Session", but that's a little wordy, especially since I imagine one would already have to prefix the name with the flavour of the jam, so that you would drink a Strawberry Dickolas' Jam Session or a Blueberry Dickolas' Jam Session. As hesitant as I was to cede the glory of my rightful place in history as the inventor of the drink, it just felt like the drink itself wanted to be called the Jam Session, so I swallowed my pride and resigned myself to it.

This raises the question of what one would call a mixture of marmalade and club soda. According to my sister, marmalade differs fundamentally from jam: when making jam, you first mash fruit and then sweeten it, whereas with marmalade, you cook the fruit in sugar and then mash it. Rather than go with "[fruit] Marmalade Session", I'm going to go with "Orange Marmalade Jam Session". Controversial? Maybe. But hey, it's my drink, so deal with it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Note to self

Yesterday was Ian's birthday.

Apologize to Ian.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Note to self

It's Vince's birthday.

Current Music: Crowded House - Mean To Me

Monday, July 09, 2007

Thought of the day

What's Bryan Adams up to these days?

I haven't heard anything about him in about six years.

What's he doing, do you think?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"when you're low it's either wave that flag or stand there empty-handed" -- Molly Sanders

I'm skipping town next week to go home for a holiday until the end of August. So, if you want to hang out there, let me know.

When the time comes to move back home for a holiday, I get to looking around my apartment and realizing how much tidying up I have to do -- and how much food I have in my refrigerator. I tend to be a packrat, and unfortunately that extends to the fridge: I have all manner of half-full jars and bottles in there that get stuck behind other half-full jars and bottles, so I just lose track of the whole affair and wind up with too much food that I need to consume before my subletter moves in. Among other things, I have a few cans of club soda and half a jar of raspberry jam. I also had no juice left, and was thirsty.

It hit me: what if I put a spoonful of jam into a glass of club soda? That would be perfect! It would be fruity and sweet, but not too sweet like pop. I had never tried it, but it seemed like it couldn't fail. How could it fail? Those are two pretty well-understood ingredients right there. Then I got to wondering why more people don't do this, because it makes such perfect sense.

At the same time, though, I couldn't help but feel like this is a totally ghetto thing to be doing. Jam and club soda is a little too reminiscent of hobo sweet-and-sour soup (ketchup and mustard with hot water). It made me wonder if this is something that a truly poor student would do.

In my office there's a leftover bag of tortilla chips from the department picnic, two months ago. This bag was enormous and it's still half full. I say "still" because every so often Daniel and I will take a handful out and munch on them. Conventional wisdom suggests that these chips would be gross and stale by now, but they're still light and crunchy. These chips refuse to die. I take handfuls out thinking how fortunate we are to have this neverending bag of eternal chips, proud of myself for saving the $1.25 it would cost to get a baggie of corn chips.

But as I sat there munching away, I looked at my station in life. My peers are making loads of money and getting married; meanwhile I sit in my office eating two-month-old chips out of a paper bowl. I won't lie to you: I felt pathetic. "Maybe I'm low and don't have the manners to realize why we should just throw out those chips", I thought to myself.

But maybe I'm just practical. We're pretty lucky to have these chips, you know, and really, they still taste good. And it's fulfilling the triple purpose of feeding me, saving me money, and not wasting food. Why wouldn't I eat them?

It's the same with the jam and club soda. I just tried it, and sure enough, it tastes great. There are seeds at the bottom, sure, but I just ate those too with a spoon. Steve tells me this is a disgusting idea, and part of me agrees. But the rest of me just drank a refreshing raspberry soda, and can't help but wonder why everyone isn't doing this. Why aren't you doing this?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Théa's guest post: Vulgar conversations with Dick

Features Week continues with a guest post from Théa.

note: I was hesitant to post this, until I asked myself WWPP (What Would Peter Post)? He would probably kick it up a notch, and maybe include a photo. I'm not as bold as he is, and I don't own a camera, so I'm posting with a warning: This post is vulgar.

I'm lucky to have a friend like Dick (aka Richard). Not only is he a great-looking, intelligent guy, but who else would have provided me with a more concise way to describe my bowel movements? I'm talking about the bristol stool chart, which assigns a numerical value to different types of stool, and which Dick brought to my attention last month.

Dick also informed me that coffee is a laxative (despite having consumed massive amounts of coffee since I was 12, I never knew this, although I think when you drink a lot of coffee on a regular basis, your body gets used to it and the effects wear off).

So without a friend like Dick, I wouldn't be able to have conversations like this:

Thea says:
normally I would be wondering why I just had a 6, but thanks to you, I know it's because I went to Solly's and had 4 cups of coffee, after a week of no coffee.

D to the W says:
aren't you glad

D to the W says:
we learned something today

Thea says:
and my pants fit better

Sunday, July 01, 2007

C-C-C-Canada Day

Originally I had thought that I might make a video of myself playing O Canada on my mandolin for the occasion, but I don't have it yet. I thought about combining some of my other recent hobbies or interests into a Canada Day post, but I can't think of a way to incorporate Vector TD or my cast-iron skillet into a worthwhile post that wouldn't also be a waste of valuable tower defence resources or food, respectively.

So, to commemorate the statutory holiday that I don't get to enjoy because I'm out of the country, here are some references to Canada in Flight of the Conchords' excellent New Zealand-aired documentary about their trip to the SXSW festival in Texas:

  • "The gig is in the centre of downtown Austin in a not-very-soundproof tent. Unfortunately for us, the not-very-soundproof Canadian tent is right next door, and we've been scheduled to perform at exactly the same time as Canadian musicians The Swollen Members."

  • "Offensive Canadian electro-punk artist Peaches has agreed to do an interview -- on the condition that we massage her feet. We're concerned that the foot massage will detract from the serious nature of our documentary."

  • "And then, Canada's answer to Neil Finn, Neil Young, arrives on stage."

P.S.: Note the spelling of "defence".

Note to self

It's Grandma's birthday.

Friday, June 29, 2007

GAS: the end

Instead of buying a new acoustic guitar, I have decided to hold out until the summer and hope that I can bring a better one from PoCo to Berkeley. A quick strum of a Martin D-28 reminds me to accept no compromises, and so this seems like a less wasteful solution. Besides, both the Epiphone and the Gibson are gone, and the other Gibsons in the store just don't compare to the D-28, which makes this decision a lot easier. And thus ends my first (internet-documented) bout with GAS.

Instead, I decided to pick up either a banjo or a mandolin with my 10% off coupon. I've always thought about trying my hand at both instruments, and what better time than when you have a small discount. I was leaning banjo, but they didn't have any really cheap ones in Guitar Center last night and so I went with the mandolin. Unfortunately, the cheap mandolin they had didn't have a bridge, which is an important part of a stringed instrument, so I have to go back and seal the deal sometime in the next week.

I brought Mike along with me as he expressed interest in picking up some strings and picks, as well as in taking up the bass. He found a rather nice Squier bass for $200: nice neck, P+J pickup configuration, and a nice light construction (which may suck for sustain but whatever). He didn't buy it though because it had a big skull and crossbones design on it. How vain. Beauty lies within, Mike.

While I typically get frustrated very easily with the mandolin whenever I play one in a store, I think that's because the only thing I know how to play is the little opening riff to "Losing My Religion", and I don't even know how to play that very well. I think I'd better go back and recreate how I started playing the guitar, so that I don't get too ambitious and just get frustrated. After that, I think the mandolin will suit me, as I have a high voice that tends to be shrill and grating.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dammit, Bals

I was going to bitch about the reported falling through of Jim "Bals" Balsillie's bid to purchase the Nashville Predators and probably move them to Hamilton, but then I found that TSN's Bob McKenzie had done it very nicely himself: read it here.

The thing that hurts the most is that it looks just like the NHL simply won't let Canada have another team. I respect the way Bals went through the process because he didn't pretend to want to do anything but move the team. Instead, he spent the time securing a deal on an arena in Hamilton and taking deposits on season tickets in Hamilton -- in essence, proving that Hamilton can beyond any doubt support a team. Now, it's one thing that the deal fell through because the league wants to keep the Predators in Nashville, which is at least understandable. However, the owner of the Preds is now reportedly leaning towards a $190M offer -- nearly $50M less than Bals' offer -- from someone who clearly wants to move the team to Kansas City.

What hurts even more is that the league is working so hard to make hockey work in the US, which is clearly a losing battle at this point, when the NBA didn't give two shits about keeping the Grizzlies in Vancouver. It's garbage, plain and simple.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Note to self

Don't get sick.

As I am approaching my 25th birthday, my parents received a letter saying that I would no longer be covered under their medical plan and so I have to buy my own BC Medical Services Plan. I think I am legally required to have it despite my American coverage, which I don't mind too much because I've heard that it can be quite difficult to deal with American health insurance providers and I don't even want to know what kind of things can go wrong with getting out-of-country care should I be home for a holiday.

Also, I feel that having extra health insurance while living in the US is a good idea. This little snippet on the MSP "Leaving BC" website, for example, caught my eye:

You should be aware that your provincial coverage may not pay for all the health care costs you may incur outside the province, and the difference can be substantial. For example, B.C. pays $75 (Cdn) a day for emergency in-patient hospital care, while the average cost in the U.S. often exceeds $1000 (US) a day, and can be as high as $10,000 (US) a day in intensive care.

Does this imply that medical care is over an order of magnitude costlier in the US than in BC?

Don't get sick.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What's Wang This Week

Basically just four things:

  1. Flight of the Conchords (you're welcome);

  2. VectorTD (get a feel for it on the default level, then try the "Do The Splits" map and feel my pain; thanks, Peter);

  3. a 12" cast-iron skillet; and

  4. continued GAS; I'll spare you the details.

Current Music: Flight of the Conchords - Beautiful Girl

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's business time

Thanks to Caity for the video.

Current Music: Flight of the Conchords - Business Time

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Still GASsy

On Friday I decided that the Gibson J-45 was out of the question, primarily because it was gone. I guess it really was a deal, because someone snapped it up in the two weeks between my visits to Guitar Center. That's fine; the Epiphone was still there. I went and I played it and it was pretty good, just as I remembered. I compared it to some cheaper guitars and there was no contest.

As one is taught to do when buying their first guitar, I compared this guitar to some very nice Martins just to see how it stacked up. I've always been fond of Martins -- I have an entry-level Martin DM at home that still ranks as the nicest guitar I've ever played, even having played real expensive guitars in stores. "Well, that's great," I thought, "but I'm feeling the need for a Gibson-style."

But! The first Martin I picked up immediately transported me back. All of a sudden I was sitting in the rec room at home in PoCo with my DM, composing the theme song to Even with grimy old strings, this thing is a beauty, and so were most of the Martins in the store. When I A-B'd them with the Epi, it was clear that the Epi was just not as special as my DM.

I figured though that the Epiphone might not stand a chance as it had older, crappier strings on it, and a fresh set of good strings might bring it to life. I talked to one salesman about one of the Martins, and from his answers I could tell he had no idea. Also, I found out that Guitar Center doesn't offer any kind of one-year maintenance policy (it's standard at Long & McQuade in Canada to offer a free setup within a year of purchase). Perhaps even worse, it was clear he had lost all his zeal for talking to me when I told him I wasn't necessarily planning on buying a guitar right that day. I talked to another salesman and asked him -- as one is taught to do when buying their first guitar -- if I could try the Epiphone with a different set of strings. He looked at me with the smarmiest, most patronizing face I can think of and says "If all the strings are broken, for some reason."

What I did at this point: nod, walk away, decide silently to take my business elsewhere.

What I wish I had done at this point: go back into the guitar room, break all the strings, then re-request.

This is their customer service? One time back home Long & McQuade let me take not one, but two guitars home overnight just to help me make a decision! So, fuck Guitar Center and fuck the horse they rode in on. My old beater Yamaha is holding up just fine for itself, to be honest. I decided that my next guitar is going to be a 100% no-compromises instrument. It's going to be a guitar that I can honestly say that I prefer to my old Martin DM. And, unfortunately, it's probably going to cost around $2000. It might take a few years, but I can wait.

Then I got a letter this week from Guitar Center thanking me for being a valued customer and offering 10% off any purchase made before June 30.

I wonder how that Epi would sound with a new set of strings.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Help me/Aidez-moi

My sleep schedule is getting ridiculous. A semester of having no classes in the morning has engendered a very bad habit: I am now willing to hit snooze upwards of six times, often with no later recollection of doing so. My alarm clock only beeps for an hour, too, so this means I just don't ever get up. Today I rolled out of bed at 11:30, an hour and a half after I intended to get up. I didn't go into the office today as they are painting Evans, so after lunch there was nothing stopping me from a little 10-minute nap. Two hours later, I woke up.

This of course obligates me to work later and later, and thus pushes back my nightly dose of Good Eats, The Daily Show, Colbert Report, and reading about Star Trek II and VI. So I ask of you, friends, readers, basically anyone who has my phone number, Canadians and Americans alike: please call me at 9:30AM PST tomorrow morning. I'm clearly in need of a reboot here and it's proving harder than I expected, and so I am turning to my support network here.

Help me. Aidez moi.

Current Music: Steely Dan - Haitian Divorce

Monday, June 11, 2007

High GAS prices

After mulling over the decision for a week or two, I started to lose my zeal for the Gibson J-45 in favour of the Epiphone Masterbilt. When I thought about it, I remembered the Epiphone being really quite impressive, while the Gibson was nice, but not particularly nicer than the Epiphone. $1100 for an American-made guitar, particularly a Gibson, just seemed like a great deal.

But I thought about the Epiphone further. "Am I really going to pass on this guitar, which is cheaper and maybe even better, just because it was made in China?

"That would make me no better than a white woman."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I have GAS, cont'd

It's been over a week and I've resisted buying the Gibson J-45. I also resisted the urge to go to Guitar Center and drool over the guitar for an hour in the hopes that something will happen to convince me to either buy it or not buy it. I've done some research and I've found out that the Epiphone Masterbilt AJ-500R is not in the style of the J-45, but of Gibson's "Advanced Jumbo", which is considered by some to be their finest acoustic ever. And the reviews of the Epi have been really good. It really might be just as good a guitar as the Gibson, although by now I have missed out on the Memorial Day savings. Really though, I can't help but feel like $1100 for a Gibson is just a better investment. New, the guitar costs $2400.

Last night I was flipping channels after Colbert and I saw Jessica Alba on The Tonight Show. She seemed a little dumber than I expected her to be given the interviews I have read, as well as a little bitchier. Fortunately for me, she was just as hot as advertised. I started daydreaming about becoming a famous musician and getting to be on talk shows as the second or third guest after her. I started to wonder how gauche it would be for me in that situation to tell the story about the time Pete, Brad, Travis, and I snuck into a theological college at night trying to sneak a peek at her filming Dark Angel at UBC. Then I decided that if I'm in that situation, there is no way I'm not telling that story. I would also tell her that Jowen says hello.

I flipped channels a little more and came back to the Tonight Show a bit later. Lucinda Williams was playing a Gibson J-45. I flipped back to Letterman, where Matt Damon had been discussing the effect his Matthew McConaughey impression had had on their friendship; the dude from Bright Eyes was also playing a Gibson J-45.

I think this is a sign. If I buy the Gibson J-45, I will one day get to play it on a talk show that Jessica Alba is also on. Playing the J-45 on the same show as Jessica Alba is huge.

Monday, June 04, 2007

When you wake up feeling old

I got absolutely nothing done last week on account of a case of food poisoning that kept me out of commission for the whole week. There is a small possibility that I gave this food poisoning to myself, but Adam and Brad convinced me that it's quite difficult to food poison oneself, particularly for someone of a fastidious nature like myself. So I will continue to blame this sketchy Szechuan place with ridiculously bad service in the 99 Ranch. (Shankar also had some stomach discomfort the next day, but Shankar is one to make to such claims. I'm going to assume they were for real though as this would show that I'm not just sissier than everyone else at our table.)

Two days in, I was feeling quite a bit better so I got a burger for lunch. This was a poor idea. Ordinarily after two days, I would be basically raring to go already, but not this time. Oh man that burger did bad things to me. I suppose it's time to face it: I'm not the young buck who would shrug off a stomach bug in a day or two anymore. I'm getting old. I'll be 25 soon, which is exactly mid-twenties, not like this 24 early-mid-twenties shit.

You know what makes me feel especially old? People who text. A friend once asked me why I didn't follow her instructions; it turned out she had texted them to my landline. Oh, look at you, all texting and shit. Pull out your cell phone and call someone -- oh, no, you're just texting. And more power to you. Just know that I will never be one of you.

Not that I mind text messages at all. I think it's a great idea, and certainly very practical when someone's in a meeting or something. No, I just don't think I can text. I feel like texting is something that people younger than me do, you know? People whose first game system was an N64, those are the people who can really text. People my age text, but we're not very good at it. Watching us type out a message on a cell phone is like watching our parents type at a computer -- all hunt and peck, all "oops where's the backspace". It's something we weren't brought up with. But people younger than us, they can do 40WPM on those little keypads. They have a command of shorthand that I imagined only secretaries from the 1950s had. It's ridiculous, I'll never be able to compete with that.

(I have written exactly one text message in my life. Adam texted me from a meeting once with a small typo: "I'll be a little tate". I responded: "Me tuber". Again, I have nothing against texting, I am happy to receive them, and one day I will probably write a few myself. However, this one was good enough that I'm content if it's the first, last, and only text message I ever compose.)

On the flipside, you know what makes me feel young? Blackberries. (Not the fruit, the cell/e-mail pocket contraption pioneered by Jim "Bals" Balsillie's company Research In Motion, with the little QWERTY keyboard.) I feel like the Blackberry is something that people older than me have, mostly because their work makes them carry one. People younger than me won't need them, because they can already read their e-mails on their cell phones and write them out on the keypad. Fancypants.

I suppose people my age who have more money than me also have Blackberries. Blackberries also make me feel poor.

Current Music: Rufus Wainwright - Going To A Town

Thursday, May 31, 2007

In conversation with Dickolas (Non-random quotes from a couple days ago, provided with context)

I just opened up my gmail

and the "sponsored link" at the top is "Apparel for Busty Women"


"Are you Busty but not plus sized? We have Styles for the Busty Figure"

I'm trying to figure out what I wrote in my e-mail to warrant that

are you maybe "plus-sized"?

yeah, but I try not to write e-mails about it

Monday, May 28, 2007

I have GAS

Once I got in an argument with my mother and she complained to me that I would never stop wanting to buy guitars. I told her that no, I won't buy more guitars, I have a good working set now and I basically have all my bases covered. Well, I suppose mother may actually know best here, because I have a serious case of Guitar Acquisition Syndrome at the moment, without money to finance the habit.

This morning the apple of my eye was the Epiphone Masterbilt AJ-500R, a very classy low-to-mid-range acoustic guitar in the style of Gibson's classic J-45, with all solid construction and a nice, plummy low end. Today also happens to be Memorial Day in the US, which means Guitar Center (their spelling, not mine) has its annual Memorial Day sale. I told myself I'd go early in the morning to buy a harmonica or two, nothing more; deep down, though, I knew that if I saw that guitar for anything south of $450, I'd buy it. I still have not forgotten that argument with my mother, and damned if I don't want to prove her right. Moreover, if I'm being really honest, what I really need is an amp. However, I figured it was defensible as my very nice Martin acoustic is languishing unplayed at home in PoCo, and all I've got here is a beater beginner's Yamaha which comes from the time before beater beginner's Yamahas were actually good guitars. Even above and beyond that, the neck is frustratingly narrow, which precludes me from good clean fingerpicking.

As it happens, I didn't get an early morning start on account of mild food poisoning, which led me to not return to basic function until 2PM today. I viewed this as a positive, as the more I thought about that Epiphone, the more I wanted it. This is good, I told myself (although that's about the only good thing that this current bout of food poisoning has done for me today). Yes. I am master of my urges.

At 4PM I went to Guitar Center and made a beeline for the acoustics.

There was still one AJ-500R on the shelves, and sure enough, it was still as nice as I remembered. I thought about checking out other, cheaper, acoustics, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I've been playing for a long time now. This guitar deserves to be owned by me! Just as a reference point, I picked up a used Gibson J-45 and plucked a few notes on it. Very nice, but for $1600, that's not happening.

The salesman dude who helped me the last time I was there saw me playing that and said "Wait, $1600? That's not right...." I put the guitar down and went back out to buy a harmonica, but the salesman found me and said "Hey, if you like the J-45, it's eleven with case".

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa.

I didn't snap it up. And remember that guitars are way cheaper than just about every other kind of instrument; saxophones, pianos, violins all cost thousands upon thousands. And don't tell me you've never had GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) yourself. A new graphics card for your computer. Seasons 5-7 of Friends. A new pair of shoes. A new dress. You've not had my life -- don't judge me.

But now I am telling myself "Hey, $1100 for a guitar that will last a lifetime is pretty decent. The Martin might get damaged in transit if I tried to bring it here. This guitar works better with my voice than the Martin anyway. It's not even a top-end Martin. It's still technically my dad's guitar. What I said to Mom only applied to electric guitars. It'll retain its resale value. This guitar deserves to be owned by me!"

Damn you, Gibson.

Current Music: David Bowie - Andy Warhol

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What's Wang This Week

This is my favourite clip -- an outtake, no less -- from the excellent documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, a film about Wilco and the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

I've been following the news about Jim Balsillie wanting to buy the Predators and moving the team to Canada. I of course would love to see this happen, especially if the Preds go on to win the cup the following year, just like what Colorado did to Quebec City. My officemate is from Tennessee and he tells me that the Preds don't have much of a fanbase in Nashville (hell, he's a Pens fan), so I think this would be great. Living in California, I think I have a good understanding of how little hockey means to Californians and most other Americans I have met. It's like sticking a square peg into a round hole. It doesn't work. I imagine it's not much better in Tennessee.

Of course, it's easy to say that as an outsider. However, I was a Vancouver Grizzlies fan, and I still feel jilted by the NBA. I figure it could have worked in Vancouver had they not had inept management and had basketball players actually wanted to play in Vancouver. It would really have helped had the team won more than 22 games in any one season while they were in Vancouver.

Jim Balsillie, if you manage to move a really good hockey team like the Preds to Canada, I promise that I will try not to make jokes about your name ("Bals").

The only thing I have trouble imagining is where they would put the new hockey team. Having never been to Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, or Hamilton, I shouldn't say, but I would never have thought of any of them being real major-league sport cities, much in the same way I wouldn't imagine a hockey team in Burnaby or Surrey; yet that is probably where the team would end up. Another team in Winnipeg might be nice, but they can probably afford to hold out until the Coyotes inevitably get tired of trying to keep ice frozen in Phoenix and move back.

[table of women beside ours]:
[office gossip and chatter]

[leans over to me, conspiratorially] Large groups of women scare me.

[thinks this over] ... I scare large groups of women.

Current Music: Wilco - The Thanks I Get
EDIT (12:46AM, June 4/07): fixed the spelling of Jim "Bals" Balsillie's last name

Answers to last post's riddles

What do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a jar? Phil

What do you call a man with no arms and no legs, stage centre? Mike

Friday, May 11, 2007

What's Wang This Week

Yeah, so I didn't write much for a couple of months there. Sue me.

Around two months ago, I agreed to give a talk the day before Spring Break on stuff I worked on as an undergrad. This required me to remember the stuff I worked on as an undergrad, which basically amounted to re-learning it. So that took a couple of weeks. It was stressful but the talk went quite well, so I was pleased as punch to be heading into Spring Break on a high note. More or less immediately after the talk, I learned that I couldn't schedule my qualifying exam for next semester, because I'm a foreigner and they need me to do it by the end of my 3rd year so that they only have to pay resident tuition for me. Hooray!

I ran the hell away from my problems for the week of Spring Break and then I came back to Berkeley, put my head down, and powered through. I had five weeks to prepare for my qual, which seemed like not much time, but I had to give another talk two weeks before, so I did a big crunch for the first two weeks, and then spent the last two weeks trying to keep focused on fixing up my presentation, but ended up mostly just annoying my officemate. Anyway, last Thursday I did the qual and successfully avoided not being the first person in history to fail the qual in this department. Hooray!

So I told Tim the other day, "if it were possible to make love to a song, then right now I'd be trying to convince you that a half 'Rat Trap' baby is yours".

-- Théa

(I mean, it's an alright song.)

I celebrated passing the qual by doing all of the lazy fatass things I would ordinarily do that I hadn't done because I was doing qual prep. The day after my qual I returned to Fenton's, a local ice cream place where I once ate three pounds of ice cream in 20 minutes to get a free t-shirt. Because the first time was so, uh, hurried, I went back so that I could actually taste their ice cream and see if I liked it. (I did.) I washed that down with a few White Russians, because when I go dairy, I go all dairy.

And now I am blogging, because I have so many wonderful quotes to share with you from the last two months. I'll try and write them down as I remember them.

... and so none of the American students who got into both here and Stanford came here. They all went to Stanford. Three of them even had the gall to write a rejection e-mail saying "Thanks, but we're going to Stanford. But we'll see you soon for an assistant professorship!"

Oh. [pause] But, I mean, those guys didn't seem like they were very strong students. They won't get jobs here.


The week prior, Regan and her family visited San Francisco and I took time out to go have dinner with them. (I justified it since that was the day of the department picnic and I may as well take the whole day off if I'm gonna take half the day off.) We went to a restaurant called The Stinking Rose (motto: We season our garlic with food!) which is, you have probably guessed, a garlic-themed restaurant. (It seemed like a solid opportunity to take a girl to a garlic restaurant.)

I was looking for the cricket scores, so I called Vince because I knew he would be in front of a computer.

-- Shankar Bhamidi

Previously I had eaten at a place called Wild Garlic in Vancouver, which I had thought was a pretty good garlic restaurant. Well let me tell you something: The Stinking Rose does not fuck around. When they say they are a garlic restaurant, they mean it. Their signature appetizer, the Bagna Calda, consists of about 60 cloves of garlic roasted in olive oil and butter with just a hint of anchovy. This stuff was so good. You could take a piece of bread, cut it in half, then spread three cloves of garlic on each half. Roasted garlic is of course super-mild, so this isn't bloody murder or anything, but after about 20 cloves of it, it does start to build up. I decided to try the garlic relish that was just sitting at the table, thinking it would be a bit of a good change. That's when I remembered that raw garlic is not super-mild. This stuff was set to stun -- and I liked it. The onslaught didn't stop there: each entrée had about six cloves of pickled garlic on top for garnish. No, not for garnish... for flavour. They do not fuck around with that shit. I went home and drank some green tea, which helped with the breath a bit. But then the garlic breath came back, so I brushed my teeth. That helped a bit too, but then it came back again. I started to imagine that every time I got it out of my mouth, the garlic would just come back again because I had eaten so much that it was coming out of my skin, or at least coming out of my esophagus, so I gave up and went to bed.

So, anyway, the day after my dairyfest was spent mostly eating good bread from the Cheeseboard and playing Super Paper Mario, which was a post-qual celebratory purchase. As I ate this bread, I thought it would be great to make a Bagna Calda of my own for dippin', so I looked up recipes and found one that actually comes from The Stinking Rose's own cookbook. Excellent, I thought, so I was about to head out the door to pick up the ingredients. But! Then I happened to scroll down and got a look at the nutrition facts: one serving contains 72% of the recommended daily fat intake, and the recipe yields 8 servings1. And I was going to eat... more than 1/8th of what I made. I decided against making it. Ordinarily I might still have done it, but remember that I ate probably upwards of a pound of ice cream and then at least half a cup of cream the previous night. Instead I made their super-strong garlic relish, since that was one of the two recipes they have on their own website, and consequently I don't think I've had good breath at any point in the last week.

So, after the department picnic, my brother had two comments. First, that there were a surprising number of normal people there.


Second, "Why is it that every social group I meet in California is led by an Asian guy in touch with hip-hop culture?"

[thinking: "Brad? He's sort of in touch, maybe... but he's not my leader..."]

he meant you


I think he's thinking of when you said "That's how I roll"

(Later I also remembered that I took a cup with a few drops of iced tea in it and poured it on the ground for my fallen homies. That's how I roll.)

One week before the exam, the jazz ensembles had the final concert for the semester, which was rather poorly timed for me, but was fun nonetheless. Besides that, I've spent most of my music time playing guitar and singing to myself in my apartment. I do this a lot really late at night. This week it's been ridiculously hot in Berkeley, so I had the window open. For the first time, the neighbour actually came and knocked and asked me to keep it down, probably because it was like 2AM. This had never been a problem before; I assume it was a problem this time because everyone's windows were open on account of the heat. Anyway, that's embarrassing, and I'm just glad I wasn't playing "Let's Get It On" or something at the time.

I've spent a lot of my playing time practicing playing the harmonica and the guitar at the same time. For the never-played-harmonica crowd out there, what you might not know is that between phrases you basically have to shake the spit out of the harmonica. This was a fairly disgusting thing for me to learn when I started playing harmonica, but then I decided to just run with it. (In fact, the first thing I learned about harmonica was to play it by blocking holes in the harmonica with my tongue.) The big challenge for me -- besides my awful coordination, which is a deeper problem than just musical -- is that when you play the harmonica in the harmonica holder, the thing angles downwards, and I drink a lot of water, and as such my mouth is rarely dry. As such, spit doesn't just collect in the harmonica: it flows into the harmonica. I basically bought the harmonica holder so that I could play "5 Days in May" by Blue Rodeo, you see, and I can typically get through the first harmonica bit just fine, but then after a couple of verses and one chorus, I go to play the second harmonica bit but the harmonica just doesn't work. There has to be a way to keep the harmonica going, some kind of automated spit valve maybe, but I have no idea what that could be. I don't particularly relish the idea of jumping up and down to try and shake out the stuff while I'm not playing it.

Speaking of which, I have no idea how you horn players do it. Spit in your instrument? Gross.

Do me a favour. Next time you're with a woman, take screenshots.

-- Steve Kwan

So I've been introduced to a whole family of jokes recently that I never knew existed: the "man with no arms and no legs" jokes. A friend told me yesterday that these jokes were maybe popular 20 years ago but they are enjoying a recent resurgence, much like synth pop. What do you call a man with no arms and no legs lying in front of a door? Matt. What do you call a man with no arms and no legs hanging from the wall? Art. The laughs just keep coming!

What do you call a man in a...

Does this man have arms and legs?

Oh, crap.

So yeah, I've been coming up with a few of my own. What do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a jar? What do you call a man with no arms and no legs, stage centre?

What do you call a man with no arms and no legs in a jar?



The day of my qual itself was kind of weird. On one hand, the qual went decently and I passed, so that was great. However, that was also the day of Game 5, Canucks/Ducks, and we all know how that turned out. It was a day of ups and downs. Also, Adam and I decided to order pizza for the game (up) but the pizza was disgustingly greasy (down). It did come with good wings though (up). A few days ago I found out that Roberto Luongo's "equipment malfunction" in Game 5 that made him miss the first five minutes of overtime was actually a bathroom break. So it was a disappointing end to the Canucks' season (down), but fortunately the ending was about as amusing as it gets2 (up).

Unfortunately, I no longer see Luongo as superhuman.

In discussion with Angie, it was suggested that I celebrate my post-qual freedom with five steaks. I had this thought that I would have five steaks, and then after the fifth one, I'd get back to work. Well, this weekend I cooked a brunch of steak and eggs with some "hash browns" (that is, I slice potatoes and fry them until they're done). It was gonna be great; just like the steak and eggs I used to have at ABC Restaurant as a kid. The only thing missing would be the slice-of-orange-and-parsley-sprig garnish. Well, I learned a tough lesson that day: there is such a thing as a steak that is too big for lunch. (Also, it probably helps if it hasn't been frozen for weeks and thawed in the microwave.) Also, I learned that three eggs is much more than I remember. I think the underlying lesson here is, I'm too old for this. Anyway, that one meal was just so overwhelming that I'm just going to forego the other four steaks and get back to work.

I went to see Sloan last week, the day right after this massive explosion totalled a very busy junction on the freeway. Fortunately, that meant all public transit was free, so we got to the concert without paying a dime in tolls, gas, or fares. The concert was fantastic. They played way less new material than I was expecting, and way more of their old hits. I realized then that Sloan has now become a band that could really just play their big hits (or at least big Canadian hits) for an hour and a half. (Chris said something like "Okay, thanks, now we're gonna play a few off our newest record, before we get back to the hits. Thanks for your patience." It was awesome.) Also, I realized I am now old.

What do you call a man with no arms and no legs flying through the air?

Current Music: Feist - The Reminder

1. To be fair, if you only spread the garlic on the bread and don't use all the oil/butter, it's probably not so bad for you.
2. Look, potty humour is funny, okay? I ain't got to apologize to you for that.

Thursday, May 03, 2007



EDIT (1:44AM, May 4/07): changed the link to a more permanent, but no less sad, recap of the game

T-minus 12 hours until qualifying exam

It's go time, bitch.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Last night I saw Sloan in San Francisco. It couldn't have come at a worse time for me, but as we waited for them to get set up, I got all giddy and I knew it had been a good idea to see Sloan instead of working more on my quals.

During the second or third song, Patrick moved over a bit and started scanning the audience. He sort of stared in our direction, so I yelled and threw my hands up in the air. He grinned, nodded, and pointed, then hustled back to his microphone to lay down some harmonies.

In that instant, I forgave him for "Backstabbin'".

(Jay gave a little nod when I did the same to him.)

Friday, April 27, 2007

I'm an innovator

You hear about double hamburgers and double cheeseburgers all the time. But you never hear about double hot dogs.

Until now.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Note to self

It's Galen's birthday.

Current Music: Air Supply - All Out Of Love

Monday, April 23, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

T-minus 75 minutes until delivering Statistics Student Seminar talk

It's go time, bitch.

Current Music: Kenny Loggins feat. Michael McDonald - This Is It
P.S.: I bet you thought I forgot about Features Week.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Where have you been all my life, Facebook group "Mediocre NHLers of the 1990s"?

As I get closer to my qualifying exam, the work just piles up. Unfortunately, the energy is wearing down, and so I find myself sitting idly at a computer more than I should. I'm in one of my "the internet bores me!" phases where I am stuck in a rut of reading maybe four websites a day and then re-reading them because I don't want to bother typing in any other URLs.

Naturally, I turn to Facebook. Especially of late, with Facebook seemingly catching on back home, there's been a flurry of activity there. However, every time I visit Facebook it seems like I go there with the expectation that I will get hours of entertainment, when really, it provides minutes. So, I keep going back there, hoping for some kind of momentous news on my News Feed. Almost always, there isn't, so I just return a poke (or two) and log back out.

That is, until I found "Mediocre NHLers of the 1990's", which has the potential to provide me with the hours of entertainment I so desire. Mind you, there are people who don't seem to grasp the difference between mediocrity and downright sucking1, as well as that between the 1990s and other decades. Still, there are true gems of mediocrity in there, and every single one of them warms my heart.

Looking through the pictures in the group (all posted under the requirement that the name of the player be given -- "REMEMBER, THEY'RE MEDIOCRE, WHO'S GONNA RECOGNIZE THEM") takes me back to NHL 94, where players were conveniently distilled down to a single number describing how likely they were to score when they shot/stop a shot. The comments kill me too. So far, the players and comments include:

  • Bob Corkum

  • Guy Hebert

  • Terry Yake, a personal favourite

  • Michel Petit, who IIRC was rated in the 50s in NHL 94, which is the truest measure of mediocrity

  • Dave Babych: "Possibly the slowest player in NHL 93"

  • Troy Gamble: a commenter suggests that if Las Vegas ever gets its NHL franchise, longtime Canuck backup Gamble and Maxim Bets are there for the ceremonial puck drop

  • Sergei Krivokrasov: "For some reason, he was apparently good enough to have the scoring stick icon on NHL 2001."

  • Rick Tabaracci

  • Paul Ysebaert

Also on the group is a discussion on the best hockey names ever. I'd have to suggest Dale Hawerchuk myself, but it's hard to argue with Hnat Dominichelli, Zarley Zalapski, and Hakan Loob.

And I'm only on #231 of over 750! Thank you, Facebook.

Current Music: Elvis Costello - Pump It Up

1. Disclaimer: every single one of these players is far better at hockey than I am. I can't skate backwards. I can barely skate forwards.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

How else will I segue from "Heart of Gold" to "Spanish Flea"

I bought one of those harmonica rack thingies

so I can play harmonica and guitar at the same time


except that when I wear it, I feel like a gimp

you probably look like one too

my roommie Lorne used to have one, but we mostly used it as a sandwich holder.

that's awesome

so you don't need to use your hands

so I think I should duct tape my kazoo to this thing

oh no

don't try to play kazoo and harmonica in the same song


in one song, I could sing, whistle, play kazoo, and play harmonica

I suppose I could also hum

and talk

you could also get hit in the face with a burrito.

which is what you'd do to me if I tried that?

if not me, then someone

but it's also so that I can sing and play kazoo in the same song

that's gotta be acceptable

singing along, then, kazoo solo

I'm sorry

I can't support you in this


all along it has been a dream to construct my harmonikazoo

you made it into one word. Oh no.

just like I will make it into one *instrument*

with duct tape

please write a blog post about this

Current Music: Blue Rodeo - 5 Days In May

Thursday, April 12, 2007



Yours truly,


P.S. At 12:31AM!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Random quotes from my past, provided without context #40

My mom's milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. And she's like, "I'm married, y'all. So I'm not interested in a relationship."

-- Mike Higgins

Current Music: The Shins - Turn On Me

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Note to self

It's Peter's birthday.

Current Music: The Manual - Orbit

And why is there a team in Phoenix

After watching the first period and the scores of the Leafs beating the Habs to eliminate the Habs last and remain in the playoff race, only to watch Ryan Smyth's Islanders eliminate them this afternoon, I could do nothing but marvel at the situation. Now, instead of having four Canadian teams in the playoffs, there are three, and one almost wants to say "Thanks a lot, Leafs".

But then one must also say the same to the 2006 Cup Finalist Edmonton Oilers, too, who managed to destroy not only their own playoff chances by trading Ryan Smyth to Long Island, but indirectly the Leafs' as well. So thanks a lot, Oilers, for immolating not one, not two, but three Canadian teams.

And in the end I guess the Penguins will not move to Winnipeg.

Go Canucks go.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

In conversation with Dickolas (Random quotes from my recent past, provided with some context)

She was never really willing to understand me, I think. Like, for example, she really didn't like the Math Club, refused to get to know people there.

Nobody likes the Math Club, Rich.

So does this mean you're not going to have fun for the next month?

Yeah. But, you know, I've been thinking of giving up fun for a while anyway.


I mean, it's fun for a while, but...

What does the box for the Wii look like?

Well, it's white, it's about this long [gestures], this wide [another gesture], and this deep [another gesture], it has a picture of a Wii on it, and it says "Wii" on the side.

We will see each other Friday, yes?


Okay, great.

That is my only plan for the week that can't be broken if [extenuating circumstance]. You're special.

Aw shucks. Now I feel bad that you're not more special than my bowl of ramen noodles.

Current Music: Crowded House - Fall At Your Feet

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A testament to poor eating

Since I've been back in Berkeley things have kicked into high gear. I have to do my qualifying exam in a month, so I have a lot of prep to do. Simultaneously, I also wish I was still on Spring Break. Thus, I have very little time or energy to devote to cooking.

Fortunately, Safeway had mandarin oranges (well, Clementines, but who cares) and Giants- and A's-themed sacks of peanuts: perfect nosh for a guy like me. Mandarin oranges for an easy-to-eat sweet-tart pick-me-up, and peanuts for my upbringing in a blue-collar suburb.

Unfortunately, I bought a 1.5kg bag of salted peanuts, which I'm realizing now is a lot of peanuts. Also, I already had a few oranges lying around from my last box of oranges, which by now are all shrivelled up and/or moldy, so I had to eat those first. I took the biggest bowl I own and started eating peanuts and throwing the shells into the bowl. Later, I dug into the oranges and threw the moldy ones into the bowl, and the peels of the ones that weren't so shrivelled up that I wouldn't eat them with them. The next day I added another layer of peanut shells and two more orange peels and one more moldy orange. One more layer of peanuts today and the bowl was full.

My first thought was not to empty the bowl and start over, but to pour in alternating layers of green jello and cream until it formed a trifle. I thought it would be a conversation piece... a testament to poor eating. But then I thought that perhaps aspic would be a more appropriate choice, since the peanuts were salted. Also, the orange layers were too thin compared to the peanut layers.

In the end, I emptied the bowl and started over. I was hungry.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Note to self

Figure out if Brad's birthday is actually on April Fool's, or if he's just making an April Fool out of everyone who believes it.

Current Music: The Jayhawks - Save It For A Rainy Day

Note to self

You forgot Divyesh's birthday on Monday, you wad.

Current Music: The Jayhawks - Save It For A Rainy Day

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Don't tell ME what to do

I just got an e-mail from Ticketmaster titled "Don't miss Rush".

Listen, you, I'll miss Rush if I damn well feel like it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


I'm home right now for the rest of the week of Spring Break. I'm sorry I haven't been in touch with those of you in Vancouver recently to put together plans to meet up, as I have been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest1. If you wanna get in touch, drop me a line.

But the real reason I'm writing anything down now when I should really be sleeping is that every time I fly home for a holiday, I always forget whether or not I packed a towel, and end up bringing an extra towel back to Berkeley. So this is a written reminder to myself, on the only thing that I read every day2, that no, you did not bring a towel, so don't bring any more towels back to Berkeley.

Also, you should probably buy a couple of new towels when you do get back to Berkeley, as they really aren't that expensive and yours are starting to look kind of sad. I hear Target has towels.

1. I stole that from Regan.
2. What, I'm a good writer, okay. Sue me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The first step

I wrote this.

Wish me luck.

Current Music: The Shins - Girl Sailor

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Get your jazz on

Tomorrow (that's Thursday, March 15) the jazz ensemble I play in, UC Jazz Intermediate II, is playing our noon concert for the semester. It'll be 12-1, either outside on Sproul Plaza or inside Naia lounge. If you're free and feel like taking in some intermediate jazz, drop by and I'll blow you a kiss or something.

Any (clean) panties thrown will be returned.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What Was Wang A Few Hours Ago

I wish I had the time and energy to write a proper WWTW but I just don't. However, a couple of hours ago I was at a department function (it's visit week and lots of students are visiting for a couple of days to check out the department). I decided to order the chocolate raspberry layer cake for dessert, because it looked to be the biggest thing on the menu (and because I wasn't paying for any of it). I got it and it looked pretty good, with some whipped cream and a mint leaf on the side as well as a few dabs of raspberry coulis on the plate for decoration. I took a bite of the cake, which was pretty good. I dipped the next bite into the coulis, and put it in my mouth.

Hm. Something's wrong here.

I took a closer look at the sauce and thought, "That doesn't quite look right." It was salty, for one thing; it didn't taste of raspberries, for another. I tried to place the flavour. Was it kumquat? Was it some kind of sour plum? That would explain the saltiness. I tasted it again. "I mean, it could be kumquat," I told myself. I dipped another forkful of cake into another dab of the stuff and took another taste. "Really does taste a bit like sour plum," I thought. I took a closer look. I was dumbfounded.

Is this ketchup?

"No, no way," I told myself. It couldn't be ketchup. It was a very nice restaurant, and I was raised in a blue-collar industrial suburb. "It must be my own low mind that is causing this. This is clearly a sauce whose complexity and aroma is lost on my untrained palate," I convinced myself. I took another bite.

Fuck. It's ketchup.

But! I wasn't paying for the meal, so I thought it would be gauche to complain, especially because there was still enough doubt in my mind that it really was some kind of savoury plum-and-kumquat concoction. In any case, it wasn't doing any favours to the whipped cream or chocolate raspberry layer cake. I avoided it and tried to dig as much whipped cream out from the ketchup-kumquat-plum-whatever it was next to, and ate on in silence.

A few minutes later, though, a professor said "Did they serve us chocolate cake with ketchup?!" and I just let loose. "So I'm not the only person who noticed!" Other people said "No way!" and I said "Go ahead, taste!" Shankar took one bite and said "Oh, yeah, that's ketchup." I was hugely relieved that someone else had been in a position to criticize. Yes! The emperor has no clothes! The emperor has no clothes!

Unfortunately, by this point my own self-doubt had caused me to eat three of the five dabs of ketchup, mostly with my cake. So now I'm the idiot who ate his chocolate cake with most of the ketchup that was provided.

On the plus side, this has solidified my reputation as the guy to whom "all the weird stuff" happens to.

Current Music: Ron Sexsmith - All In Good Time

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Note to self

It's Thomas's birthday.


Current Music: Crowded House - Fall At Your Feet
EDIT (9:06PM Feb. 28): fixed the photos

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Which LUG are YOU?

Which LUG are you?

You are Richard, the heart of the LUGs. You are the gregarious one and have been described as a people person, owing to your jolly nature. Due to clumsiness you may lack natural prowess at things like video games, but you make up for it with hours of practice. You're also probably thinking about dinner right now.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla | Join
| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code


Three things.

First, my plan to make a trip to San Jose to watch the Sharks and Canucks on March 9 has fallen through because apparently people in San Jose have decided to embrace hockey and the only tickets left are at least $65. Similarly, I'm not going to see the season closer between the Sharks and Canucks.

Second, I pounced on some plane tickets during a big Air Canada sale and so I'm going to be at home for Spring Break for six days. Clear your calendars, Vancouver, I'm coming for you and I'm not fucking around. I'm here and I'm queer!

Third, does anyone who is going to be in the Bay Area on April 30 want to go see Sloan in San Francisco? Does anyone want to come to the Bay Area and go see them with me? Tickets go on sale tomorrow. Ple-e-e-e-ease?

I just noticed that the new Blogger handles your profile differently. It now says that I am located in "Berkeley, CA, I bowled a 43 once". Maybe it's in the Virgin Islands or something.

It's so cliché to make a joke about being gay, only to follow it up with a disclaimer saying you're not gay. I hate that, a lot. Once, just once, I wish I had the balls to say something like that and just leave it hanging in the air. So what if I was? None of your goddamned business! Fuck you for asking!

Fifth, I wish that was my joke, but it isn't.

I really need a haircut.

Current Music: Sloan - All By Ourselves