Sun, 29th Oct '06, 11:50 pm::

Been a busy week and quite a productive weekend so far. I'm designing a few websites and setting up some computers. I had a lot of little chores to do and eventually got around to finishing them up. Took a little courage but I finally returned my digital cable box yesterday and canceled my cable TV service. I still have cable Internet but no more TV. Right now, I'm reading Kurt Vonnegut's book Slapstick. It's a very relaxing feeling to lay down on my sofa with a good book in my right hand and feel Giga and Tera purring in near-unison on the sofa's edge, with my left. I like it when time stops.

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Calm Down!Tue, 24th Oct '06, 9:00 pm::

It's finally getting cold here in Florida. I went to Myakka River on Saturday and here's my pics from a nice 4-hour morning paddle.

On Sunday I started an online web-comic: Calm Down! I'd always wanted to write my own comic strip but never felt talented or funny enough. I always thought it's really difficult and needs a lot of creativity and artistic effort to get started. Having been a fan of xkcd for a few months now, I figured if he can do it, so can I! Though in reality, I just wanted to do something for myself. It doesn't really matter to me if most people don't find my stuff funny or give a damn about it. For me it's just a learning process. Maybe if I keep at it, it might actually become funnier and poignant.

The Calm Down! comic strip has a male and female character and the layout/format is pretty much fixed, with only the title and captions for the three frames changing. I drew the initial stick-figure characters and later my friend Tony drew me two very cute characters. The language is quite informal and the subject matter is just about anything that pops into my head - from stupid boy-girl jokes to linguistic paradoxes. I think the comic's audience is pretty limited and definitely doesn't have a mass family-values-type appeal. Even some of my good friends don't find it funny so I'm aware of it's niche appeal.

I'd say the male is bookish-smart yet childish while the female is matured, rational, and grounded in reality. I will probably write a new strip every other day and as time goes by, I hope to develop the characters into ones you could relate to and somewhat take a liking to. It will be a slow but hopefully fun journey.

Monday night, I went to The Castle in Ybor City, Tampa to chill with Sandra. I wasn't prepared to dance and neither was I dressed in the night-club-black, but she coaxed me into dancing for almost three hours! I got home, went to bed, worked all day, and here I am finally turning on the heater in my house.

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Thu, 19th Oct '06, 11:45 pm::

My uncle's visit yesterday brought back so many memories of the good times I had during my four years in Jersey. And best of all, he loved my work place, met lot of my coworkers, and absolutely loved my kitties! We had a great time and got some yummy Thai food at the beach. He left early morning today.

Tonight, I had Japanese Habachi dinner for the first time ever. It was great! I don't think I've eaten so much in a while. Good times. Tired now and need some rest.

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Imagination SchmaginationSun, 15th Oct '06, 7:55 pm::

If you know me personally, you could use the adjectives 'practical' and 'realistic' to describe me. I'm not shy about the fact that I have my feet solidly grounded in reality with a near-absolute lack of fantasy in my life. Every thought in my head has something to do with things I've done, things I want to do, and things I want to understand. It can be math problems, computer algorithms, process-flow diagrams, kayak trips, how-to-build-X guides, or even socio-political disagreements. Every single thought is based on something real and concrete. In my life, there are no video games, no role-playing, no fiction novels, no drawings, no story-telling, no fantasy, and certainly no imagination-beyond-what-is-actually-possible.

Yet that doesn't mean I don't have ideas or creative thoughts. I do. Tons of them! But every idea is about something that I can do realistically. Every creative thought is about something I can make possible given my skill set and abilities. Over the course of years, I have become so practical that there is no room for flying llamas and unachievable goals in my life. Now, despite shaking my head at Anne McCaffrey readers for so long, I'm beginning to think my way of thinking is just not right.

While each person has those "special and different" qualities in themselves, I think most people have a unique blend of realistic and idealistic tendencies i.e. to say, some people are more grounded in their acts and thoughts while some others are just "out there." Like everything else in life, balance is the key. Just a decade ago I used to love reading fiction. I loved making up my own stories or rather, extending the ones my dad so enchantingly spun. My earliest memories of playing with my toys consist of kingdoms and wonderlands I had imagined. Gradually though, I migrated towards function, away from form. Who cares about a magical land with funny-looking creatures anymore? I have to build something that's actually useful! And I did. Lots of little useful things I built up.

Then one day I could build no more. I don't know why but my true desire to create just vanished. Nevertheless, out of sheer habit I kept going on, a piffle made here and a trifle made there; always wondering whatever happened to that fire in my belly that had forever made me stay up late at nights working on something fantastic. I had some idea but couldn't put my finger on it. It wasn't until I was spellbound by the 2005 film Mirror Mask earlier today that I realized the true span of my impasse. I have forgotten how to imagine the extraordinary.

The emphasis on the extraordinary points to the crux of the matter. My imagination engine is working fine, it's just not working right. I can imagine a pretty backyard and greener grass. I can imagine a week long vacation driving through the curvy cliff-hanging roads of Washington and Oregon in Fall. I can imagine performing Eskimo rolls while white-water kayaking in Colorado. My imagination engine is allowed to imagine this because my Reality-Sentry has analyzed the activities and approved them based on their high probability of success. What I haven't imagined is curing cancer. What I haven't imagined is becoming a Best-Seller author. What I haven't imagined is inventing the Anti-gravity shield. I haven't thought of these things because, come on, what's the chance of me actually doing any of that?

Big deal. I don't think of what is almost certainly impossible. What's the problem there? The problem is that with time, the Reality-Sentry becomes stricter and stricter. It starts with classifying world peace and flying flip-flops as impossible and then slowly starts to include robotic vacuum cleaners and online video-publishing websites into the impossible-to-do list. After all, I don't know much about robots to make an automatic vacuum cleaner and where am I gonna get the bandwidth, time, and publicity to actually make my own video-publishing website worthwhile?

What you just witnessed was my brain putting anti-gravity shields of science fiction and video-sharing websites of reality into the same impossible-to-do category simply because it tried to answer "what's the chances of ME doing THAT?" without actually letting my imagination and hands have a shot at it. While this certainly saves me from wasting my time and energy on every foolish idea, in the end the ideas that I'm left with are so dull and easy to accomplish that I don't even feel motivated enough get started with them. The other day when I was sick of tailgaters, I wanted to make a device that measures the distance between your car and the one behind you and flashes a warning when get too close. A practical idea indeed. Certainly not impossible to do with some proximity sensor chips, a MIPS processor, and a few LED lights. It's so simple a fool could do it! Which is precisely why I didn't.

This is not to say that every simple idea is worthless. The world definitely needs more Ron Popeils to make our lives easier. But for me, easy and possible just doesn't do it. If I'm embarking on a personal project, it has to be something outrageous enough for me to get excited over. However, with such a starved imagination engine, I'll never really get much fodder to be excited over.

Of the few things I'm proud of myself about, the willingness to find my own flaws and make amends under any circumstances is something I truly feel good about. I may suck but at least I fess up to it and do something about it. I need to dream again. And dream big. Not for success, not for fame, and not for fortunes glorious. But for myself; to help me create that which is truly fantastic.

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My worst enemyThu, 12th Oct '06, 10:45 pm::

I've noticed that I am at my clearest when I'm the most confused. I fear.

On days when everything makes sense and scheduled events transpire with clockwork precision, a part of me isn't even awake. It happens every now and then. You wake up one morning after a good night's sleep, your clothes fit well, your hair looks presentable, the drive to work isn't bad, lots of little things align just in place so as to make your afternoon go by smoothly, and the evening ends with a relaxed sense of pride at your own accomplishments, however minor. Wonderful as such a day sounds, I might as well be in a deep slumber dreaming of perfect little citadels of blissful existence, oblivious to the discord that is real life. Ergo, I patiently await the hours when I feel alive, prickled by the dilemmas faced by many a person as I; nervous, for the outcomes shall determine the banal course of actions that I must undertake over the consequent fortnight. Anguish is such sweet sentiment.

Crisis is but the true test of one's mettle. My youth was adorned with hypothetical advice on overcoming life's predicaments from persons grayer than me, sadly, mostly on the outside. But I was trained well. I learnt which battles to pick, when to hold my ground, and whom to kindly forgive. I was warned of hurdles I might face and how I would have to conquer every obstacle life threw at me. They told me everything I needed to know about dealing with life's adversities, sadly, mostly on the outside.

Today my mortgage is paid, my car's filled, my bills are dealt with, and I have food on my plate. I achieved everything I was told would be difficult to achieve and I'm only twenty-six. I still don't feel like I'm done. Now what? More meaningless goals that need to be accomplished in the outside world so as to somehow satisfy my mind? That's not going to help much.

It took a while but I've finally realized what they didn't tell me growing up - I am but my fiercest foe. Nobody intimated me on the disagreements I would vehemently vent against myself betwixt my own ears. I grew up under the misguided impression that as long as I was strong and courageous, I could sail straight through the rough seas of life's tumultuous ocean. How naive was I to presume that my most crushing challenges lay without me. Unsurprisingly, being unmindful of the confusion that lay within me, I attributed my gut discontent to fabricated external failures, unfounded as they might have been.

I stand now at the union of confusion and clarity. Here the stream of inner conundrum that pulled me down, mocking my flailing hands, meets the river of clarity that lifts me up and carries me on towards a destiny I have yet to make. My eyes glow in the light of understanding, knowing slightly more about myself today than I did yesterday. Yesterday when everything was perfect and I was asleep. And today when perfection is a bankrupt tale and my eyes are wide open.

I've noticed that I am at my clearest when I'm the most confused. I smile.

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Unusual favorite thingsMon, 9th Oct '06, 11:00 pm::

People make lists of favorite things all the time, from movies to music to travel destinations and cuisines. Bleh boring. Here's something more interesting.

My Top Ten Absolutely Unusual Favorite Things that You Didn't Know:

  1. Favorite Conjecture: The Collatz Conjecture or more commonly known as the 3n+1 problem.
  2. Favorite Portmanteau: The philosophical Grue.
  3. Favorite Element: Ununquadium on the Island of Stability
  4. Favorite Veridical Paradox: The Monty Hall problem
  5. Favorite Fallacy: The Fallacy of Sunk Cost or Concorde Effect
  6. Favorite Recursive Link: See link
  7. Favorite Woodwind: The Japanese Shakuhachi
  8. Favorite Anecdote: Taxi Cab # 1729
  9. Favorite Precipitate (Meteorological): Virga
  10. Favorite Vestigial structure: Goose bumps

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Mon, 9th Oct '06, 9:25 pm::

This weekend was a lot of fun. Since my friend Vu works for Gulfstream, I was able to get a 1.5 hour tour of the entire Gulfstream Aircraft Plant - got to see how they actually make all those $30m corporate jets. Pretty cool. Later we watched some Star Trek movies. On the way back, I stopped by Gainesville again and played some Scrabble with Tay & Kaela. Got home around midnight yesterday.

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Sat, 7th Oct '06, 11:20 am::

I'm in Savannah, Georgia right now visiting my friend Vu. It was a long drive and on the way I stopped by Gainesville, Florida for some good dinner with Taylor & Kaela. I'm here in Georgia till tomorrow and then driving back home. Tay just left his on-campus job for a better web designing job and Vu just bought a new house here. It's kinda cool seeing your friends grow out of college and get on with the next phases of their life.

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Fri, 6th Oct '06, 7:45 am::

I think I'm seriously addicted to nature and am having a withdrawal for the last few days. I want to go somewhere wild again...

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Wed, 4th Oct '06, 7:30 am::

I got tons of phone calls, emails, and e-cards already from so many people that wuv me!!! How does half the world know that it's my b'day today? My 'blog doesn't even have the old 'this day last year' feature anymore. Hehe. Thanks everyone!

I guess I've developed some sort of a party-image because everyone keeps asking where I'm gonna party tonight. Honestly, twenty-six is a no-milestone-zone and comes with absolutely no age-related benefits. At 18 you become an adult, 21 you get to drink (in US), 25 you get a big discount on your car insurance, 30 you can finally get started with a mid-life crisis and buy a sportscar and leather pants. But at 26? You find out your wee-little cousins are 17 years old and that's about it! Creepy :)

Anyways, I'm off to work in a few.

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On writing formal lettersSun, 1st Oct '06, 1:40 pm::

One of the most underappreciated things in our litigation-happy casual-khakis modern existence, is a strongly-worded letter. Over the last few generations, with trained lawyers purporting to do all the "dirty" work, the practice of regular people writing formal letters for their personal objectives has become nearly obsolete. Did some company do something terribly wrong to you? Find a lawyer & sue them! What? No lawyer wants to take your case because it's not really worth over $1,000? Well, then stop whining! Suck it up and move on.

Often in our daily lives, we come across instances where we feel wronged and defenseless though not legally victimized. We give up, thinking if it's not worth a lawsuit then we should forget about it. When in fact, we do have a recourse. A little determination and a few hours of text-editing can do what weeks and months of complaints and nagging via phone calls and meetings cannot.

Last year, I had a lot of problems at my old apartment complex before I moved to my new house. So many little things had been going wrong that I just wanted to say screw you to the apartment people and get out as fast as I could. However, I had signed a letter earlier saying I'll clean up the entire apartment before I leave, failing which, they'll charge me ridiculous amounts of cash for pesky little things - $25 for failing to defrost the fridge, $2 per bag of trash I leave. With a new house that still needed setting up and lots of cleaning, I was in no mood to clean an old apartment after I had tons of problems with it. So I did what any text-loving person would do. Wrote them a strongly-worded letter and asked for stamped confirmation of their receipt of the letter and their signed & time-stamped follow-up decision.

In the end, I didn't have to go back and spend 10-12 hours cleaning the apartment. They didn't charge me anything for cleanup or maintenance. Cost me less than 2 hours of my idle-time sitting on a computer and typing away like I do anyway. If you're curious and not afraid of the dreaded PDF format, here's the ass-kicking letter to my apartment complex, the real name replaced with [Del Boca Vista]: Letter to Del Boca Vista.

In case you're wondering, I exaggerated a LOT in the letter. Things weren't half as bad as I claimed they were. But hey, I didn't wanna clean up! And I shouldn't have had to after going through all of that!

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