Saturday, February 28, 2009

An Ode to Nickel City, arcade the way you remember (and want) it

There is NO scary mascots, no company team building events, no overblown space stuffed with TABLES & BARS. Just a good old-fashioned penny (albeit nickel) arcade the way you remember it from your childhood, IF you are old enough. FREE classic games in the back of the room completes this little piece of heaven. Is that Pac-Man I see? Yes, I do suck at the game, that's why FREE is just perfect for me!

Posted via email from submom's posterous


A flower for Joey Roth, the designer of Sorapot

Humbleville, Interweb - Local woman awoken from her solipsistic stupor by designer's sincere, genuine interest in feedback of his creation. Submom received a wake-up call when designer Joey Roth replied directly to her random vent of his creation, Sorapot. When asked to reflect more carefully, Submom admitted that she DID enjoy watching the Chinese flower tea bloom in front of her eyes inside the ingeniously designed Sorapot, when she had time to do so. "The last time I remember when I was able to sit down and relax was the day after Christmas. I have been on my feet ever since." Her defense for her unfair criticism? "I only have one hand now because of my Twitter thumb, and I was getting frustrated last night because you cannot disassemble this teapot with only one hand!" Submom vowed to refrain from being a spoiled bitch, and to stop and smell, eh, drink the flowers. She compared Mr. Roth's reaction to her complaints to the likes carried out by "Lands' End who has my undying loyalty as a customer." After a pause, Submom said quietly, "Honestly? I didn't think that an artist living in NYC would care about the feelings of a suburban mom. We must seem like philistines..."

Posted via email from submom's posterous

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To @Wired: Whoever gave my husband the idea that Sorapot, instead of an IPod

was a good idea for a great Xmas present... is a f** idiot and can come & take it!

My husband's attempt to surprise me at Xmas was a success if he only meant to surprise me... This "teapot" was an overpriced piece of, eh, paperweight. If you have no intention of washing it, then do NOT get it for me!

Yeah. Now can you honestly tell me that it looks just as stylish sitting on my kitchen counter next to my high tech rice cooker, as the air-brushed picture you have shown?

Seriously? And you did at least 2 reviews of this last year? The review in May was not enough for you, and you had to give it another plug again towards year end, AND on the 2008 Wish List?

My husband, who, despite my well-known wish of getting an IPod, decided that Sorapot was just as good, if not better. It has been two months now since I am the owner of the most expensive glass teapot in the whole god damn world. Why am I pissed every time I have to gingerly take this thing apart and wash it and then assemble it together? Well, you be the judge! Sorapot or IPod??!!

Posted via email from submom's posterous

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Power of Twitter got to @RainnWilson whose followers surpassed 100,000 today...

Who says that size does not matter? When I first started following Rainn Wilson (of The Office Dwight the Beet Farmer & B&B Operator fame) on Twitter, he only had a meagerly 60,000+ followers. And that was like, last week. Here is a Tweet that he just sent out, in celebration of the 100K threshold which his Twitter account just crossed.
A job well done. Now he is in the big league, playing with the big players, the likes of Mr. and Mrs. Kutcher.
Mr. Wilson actually often has witty and wise things to part with his followers. Like a prophet to his disciples. Well, most of the popular Tweeple have taken on that quality. And I am looking forward to the day when Mr. Wilson's followers reach 200,000 plus. Then I think he will start growing horns with all that power going to his head...

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Celebrities on Twitter: @Stephenfry has the most followers because he rocks!

I cannot believe that in my previous post of celebrities that tweet I forgot about Demi Moore. Sorry Mrs. Kutcher. And of course, her lovely, always good to look at, but probably illegal for me to fantasize about because of his young age, Mr. Kutcher.

Mr. Combs. How could I have forgotten Mr. Diddy? Yes, indeed, you are Diddy. THE Diddy.

And of course, Ooops I did it again. I forgot yet again our lovely Ms. Spears. She has 230,328 followers as of this moment. Amazing! But it does not seem that she does tweet herself. Sometimes. But not always. This cuts down on the fun exponentially.

My NEW fav? Stephen Fry. Mr. Fry has truly embraced the Web 2.0 social media phenom. If you cannot beat them, you join them. And do a much better, top-notch job. I wonder whether that's the Brit spirit at work. He is constantly taking and sending pics to Twitpic, so that we could live his celebrated life vicariously. Thanks much, man! You rock! You will never see this post, but a true fan will not mind. And keep up the good work.

As of now, Mr. Fry has 241,247 followers. Please please please. Keep your lead position. When Ms. Spears has more followers than you do, then we know the world is going to the loos.

p.s. Twitterholic tracks popularity of Tweeple. Check it out. It serves as a barometer of our times. Me thinks. Prez Obama, naturally has the lead. He is the World Lead so he has to win at every single competition...

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

There has been NO way for us common denizens to converse with celebrities. That is, until Twitter opened the door...

This is Twitter's stated mission (or designed usage) on its homepage:

"Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"

Here is my observation: most of the people are using Twitter, not to keep their social network updated with what they are doing, how boring would that be? but to keep track of what celebrities are doing in real life.

Because they are famous, anything they say seems to carry so much more significance. A one-word Tweet becomes some sort of cypher waiting for you to discover its higher meaning. Their random observations of life are so much more hilarious simply because they are famous -- on the Internet, you cannot argue that it is funny because of the delivery. This is NOT Seinfeld. "Newman!"

(Speaking of Jerry Seinfeld. Did you hear that he is going to do a reality TV show about marriage? I bet he and his wife are happier than the lot of us because they have a 24-hour nanny...! So what would his advice be? Become really wealthy and then your marriage life would not be bogged down by arguments about who does more when and what...)

Rainn Wilson. MC Hammer. Luke Wilson. Elizabeth Banks. Jimmy Fallon. Neil Gaiman (he WAS already a celebrity in my household, now with the movie Coraline, he IS a celebrity...), LeVar Burton (of Star Trek fame, Yes, the cool blind dude!, and of Reading Rainbow, eh, fame), Shaq (yes, THE Shaq, under the moniker, The Real Shaq), and I am sure I probably miss quite a few. With some of them tweeting constantly. One cannot help but imagine Rainn Wilson tweeting on his BB in between takes of The Office. Does he show his Twitter stream to his co-stars? Do they suggest to him what he should tweet next? Do they laugh at clever responses back to @RainnWilson?

Yes, responses!

In the Twitterverse, you, apparently, are allowed to "Reply to" these celebrities' Tweets. And if you are lucky, if your star shines on you, THEY may actually Tweet back @ you. This stuff is what dreams are made of. And the real stuff that the wet dreams are made of? That is when the stars FOLLOW you back.

Then you will be a made man (or woman). You have arrived in the Twitterverse.

Here is my brush with fame today with a 10-foot pole:

Wil Wheaton, Gordi in Stand by Me, and also of Star Trek fame, although he probably prefers to be known as one of the Geek gods, a published writer, and a celebrated blogger (see: The Geek Gods), lives in the Twitterverse (again, see: The Geek Gods).

In one of his hundreds' of Tweets today, he gushes about The Onion:

"I love the Onion so much, I want to marry it!"

After I alerted The Onion about the raging endorsement, The Onion responded with a ringing rejection:

"America's Finest News Source Politely Turns Down Marriage Proposal From @wilw"

(My seminal role in this comedic exchange can be proven by the timeline shown in the search result, and of course, this picture).

God, I am a loser...

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Who gives a damn? Certainly not me. Best GIF file, ever!

Click on the file if you don't see what's so funny. I laughed so hard my lunch came out.

TMI? Well, click on the file and see what I say to that...

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sushi for you, Obama-san!

The chef did try very hard to make it non-offensive. A friendly gesture really. Look at the USA flag and the similes!

I am actually using this to test POSTEROUS

My first reaction was:

No! Not another Web 2.0 blogging/tweeting site...

How do they expect us to keep up? Very soon, only SAHMs, celebrities, VC guys, and hackers will have enough time on their hands to keep up with all these things.

Yeah yeah yeah. Spam me for blasting SAHMs. I was one for 2 years so I know. Despite all your complaining, you DO have downtime to go online... So there. Be quiet and get back to your chatrooms. (Or, I am just jealous, ok? because I have to work!)

Posterous should thank RainnWilson on Twitter. His tweet I am guessing would bring an onslaught of people to check out the site at least. Moi included.

So do I replace my blog with my own page on

I am not crying as hard since I do not have attachment to Twitpic or Flikr. BUT, do they support mobile apps?

Posted via email from submom's posterous

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In praise of Kome Kome Shu: Sake that is easy to love and drink

If you have never tried Sake, or if you tried but didn't think that Sake is for you. Give it a try again. But this time, try the Kome Kome Shu. Literally, Rice Rice Wine/Booze.

The alcohol content is much lower than the common varieties out there, at only 7%. And it is SWEET, not dry. So easy to drink, it feels like elixir to go with your sushi. Or a lot of non-Japanese dishes. It reminds me of Riesling -- and I love Riesling. I am the one stocking up on Dr. Loosen at Costco when they carried them for $9 a bottle...

Don't believe me? Here is a glowing review of KomeKome Shu written by one Jeremy Kaplan, a guest sommelier in NYC (as of March 2007 when this review was penned):

"[The diners] are usually shocked, and 99% of the time super pleased. Even Japanese customers are taken aback by this sake. We sometimes leave the bottle on the table so the customer can study it, which in this case is dangerous for our bottom line and usually means the sake will get poured again, by the customer! A definite no-no. Of the many wines we pour by the glass, this is the one most people ask us to write down.

What's nice about this sake is that it opens people's minds to sake. It drinks so much like a wine that they better relate to it. And then you hope it opens the way to try other sakes. Which is the best way to learn. Taste, drink, taste, drink... and best with friends who also want to go down this same path."

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"Coffee makes grown-ups look better in the morning"

My 6-year-old proclaimed all of the sudden last night when he watched me taking off my face (make-up). I burst out laughing and asked him to elaborate.

"You look funky in the morning when you don't have your coffee. Then when you come home from work, you look pretty. And then you look funky again when it is bedtime. You and daddy just look better after you have your coffee in the morning."

Moments like this make me appreciate being a mother.

This morning when he woke me up though, he said, "You should go and have some coffee now. You look funky." I dared not ask him what he meant by funk-ee...

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Utah Senator Butt-Arse calls Gays immoral. And polygamy is? Where is the Big Love?

No flaming please.  I didn't mean to compare Gays to Polygamists.  But if Utah Senator Chris Butt-Ars (A-ha!) has his right to speak what is on his mind, to spout garbage based on stereotypes and gross generalization and nothing else, despite being an elected public official, then I have the right to generalize the State of Utah as still the hotbed of polygamy, and then to generalize polygamy as the Pantheon of immorality. 
Hey, it is a free country, right?  Butt-Ars's Republican colleagues in the Senate seem to believe so.
Here is the gist:
In an interview for a documentary film, "Butt-Ars called gays 'the greatest threat to America' and likened them to Muslim radicals. He said homosexuals lack any morals and want special rights.  'It's the beginning of the end,' Buttars said. 'Oh, it's worse than that. Sure. Sodom and Gomorrah was localized. This is worldwide.'"
Butt-ars has been stripped of his chairmanships by Senate Republicans after a closed-door meeting brought about by the outcry, and his Republican colleagues were outraged and they are standing behind him.  (I wish I had loyal friends like these...)  Butt-ars likewise refused to apologize, but rather relished the pride of taking a stand for his own beliefs.  (Imagine: what if we all had showed respect for the slave owners who took the stand for their own beliefs?  Hmmm...)
Below is the lengthy quote from The Salt Lake Tribune because you simply cannot make this stuff up! 
"I want the citizens of Utah to know that the Utah Senate stands behind Senator Buttars right to speak, we stand behind him as one of our colleagues and his right to serve this state," said Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville. "He is a senator who represents the point of view of many of his constituents and many of ours. We agree with many of the things he said. . . . We stand four square behind his right [to say what he wants]."

Buttars, R-West Jordan, said he "totally" disagrees with his removal from the panel. In a statement he plans to post on the Senate's Web page, he said the action was an attempt to "shy away from controversy." And, he said, he would not apologize for his comments.

"I don't have anything to apologize for," he said.

"When it comes right down to it," Buttars said in his statement, "I would rather be censured for doing what I think is right, than be honored by my colleagues for bowing to the pressure of a special-interest group that has been allowed to act with impunity."

Wow.  Are you kidding me?  Is this for real?  In this day and age?  I must be incredibly naive to be astounded by these news lately so easily.   
This and the Cartoon from the New York Post yesterday are reminders that we should not be complacent about "How far we have come along" despite the victory of having elected the first African American POTUS.  Baby, we've still got a long way to go...

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#Piqqem now has 270 followers...

It is amazing to see how a Tweep (or, what's the name for a company/entity that tweets? And Christi on Southwest... is she a Tweep or is the Tweet Southwest's?) grows the number of followers. I wonder whether there is a 3rd party Twitter apps. out there that tracks number of followers for selected Twitter accounts at the end of each day. Then we can do some trendline analysis, plug in significant events into the timeline, and do some regression.

The power of word of mouth. The tipping point.

#followfriday and/or #fridayfollow

When does it become so big that it stops being effective?

Once again, I wish I were back in Grad School: so many fascinating topics to choose from for virtual Performance Studies. What would Ervin Goffman have said about all this in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life? Maybe nothing. Can Sociology be applied to virtual societies where you don't see people, rather, you see the texts representing them?

Note to self: Buy lottery tickets. Win. Go back to school.

p.s. Piqqem acquired 3 more followers in the time of my writing this post. Yes, probably not as fast as how some celebrities acquire followers, but still... I am intrigued.

But, wait, there is more!

Note to self: Google is your friend!! When in doubt, Google. Even my 6-yo would say, "Let's google!" when I cannot answer one of his rapid-fired questions. But as always, beware of what you read if the source is wikipedia. Anyhow, did some googling, and answered my own question wrt. 3rd-party tracking apps. No need to go outside of the house: the Twitter team has thought of that from the beginning. DUH. Check out #hashtags to see what's being tweeted about right now. And for sure, soon it will be written up in the WSJ. When that happens, you know you need to find the next hottest thing.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Crowd sourcing to beat the market: the new tag "$" on Twitter

Thanks to Wired, I know now what "$" and "#" mean in Twitter-nese. Yes, I am a N00b...

The enigmatic title "On Twitter, $ Is the New #" serves as a test: If you have to ask, I guess this is not meant for you...

I am ashamed to admit that I didn't know about the search.twitter URL until I read the Wired blog. How handy. Now I know why so many Tweets had a "#" within them. Duh.

Vanity search-ers now have a new venue and new obsession also, I guess.

I like how Twitter is explained as a distributed social network rooter in SMS, yet larger than SMS:

"Though Twitter has roots in the world of text messaging, it's a distributed network. Your tweets are broadcast, and what may feel like a one-to-one communication is actually one-to-many. This enormity of scale has made it easy for individual tweets to blossom into wide-reaching conversations, but it's also made those conversations much more difficult to follow."

So if you want to talk about a particular publicly traded company on Twitter, just add "$" in front of the company's ticker, e.g. $GOOG. And a company is already utilizing this, or at least attempting to. The idea that Piqqem has is intriguing to say the least:

They have "urged Twitter users to adopt the dollar sign tag in order to help it keep track of how people on the web are feeling about a particular company's stock. The plan is to use that data to beat the market and give more informed trading advice." Sourcing the wisdom of the crowd.

It is going to be a very interesting experiment: stuff that researches and dissertations are made of, IF they survive long enough to get enough attention.

In addition, I am curious to see how many Twitter followers Piqqem has. As the writing of the Wired blog, there were 185. Now there are 190. No, 191, since I just followed them also.

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The New York Post chimp cartoon - Not at all funny no matter how you look at it...

New controversy alert! February is not over yet, and as many of us have held our breath fearfully awaited, the FIRST racist cartoon about our FIRST Black Prez is out! My fellow Americans, once again, you do not disappoint...

So the unfortunate New York Post published this cartoon today and also on its website.

Take a deep breath, and be honest with yourself: what is your first reaction?

Perhaps only a kid who is not yet aware of racial stereotypes, historical racial relationships, and cultural symbols embedded in the American Psyche would not see it, but most of us do:

OMG! Are they kidding me? Is it what I think it is? Is the cartoonist referring to President Obama as a chimp shot dead? In this day and age? Is there irony in this? A sarcasm attacking racism or something but I simply cannot decipher it somehow?


1. Our Prez is Black. There is no any other way of saying it. He is.

2. The stimulus bill is his first legislative effort (and I thank him for it!!) and there are a lot of rumblings and grumblings about it

3. The cops as pictured are White. There is no any other way of saying it. They are.

Please tell me there is more to this cartoon. It has got to be. It is the 21st century, people, and we just elected our first Black President. Many are even thinking of abolishing the African American History Month because it does not seem like we need it any more.

Ha ha. Not funny. I want to cry.

The trusted Rev. Al Sharpton came out immediately and protested loudly:

"The cartoon in today's New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this when in the cartoon they have police saying after shooting a chimpanzee that "Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill."

"Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?"

One can argue that you are being a racist yourself if any time a monkey is depicted, you immediately think of the signal = signified : monkey = African Americans

Isn't that a racist way of perceiving the world? Aren't you walking around with some colored glasses?

Well, let's be honest with ourselves. We all are aware of each other's external appearances. There is no escaping it. And we are all aware of the deep-seated stereotypes about each other permeated throughout our collective cultural references. There is no escaping that either. (I was not born in this country, and I have been taught to be aware of these in the years I have been in the U.S. mostly just by watching TV shows and movies, and trying to understand what the significance is in a lot of the cultural and social references...)

Because of this, the statement by New York Post's Editor-in-Chief defending the cartoon seems rather weak:

"The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."

Is Col Allan from Mars? Born two centuries ago? There is simply no excuse.

Yes, I get his argument: the cartoon allegedly refers to the "breaking story" about the Chimp shot dead in Stamford, CT, which happens to be the headline story in NY Post.

(Is there any wonder nobody really reads it? Asking a question such as "Why did the chimp go berzerk?" is just plain stupid. Why? I'll tell you why: he was a chimp. If you are going to keep a chimp as a pet in the city and take him on walks in busy streets, yeah, you bet your ass he's going to go berzerk. If not today, some day!)

But this requires the readers to:

1. Know about the chimp story (which I had no inkling of since it has not been twittered about...)

2. Immediately infers the caption "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill" as a comment on the stimulus being so dumb that "even a monkey can write it."

IF I have to jump two steps ahead in order to laugh at a cartoon, then the cartoon is NOT funny to begin with. Rule of thumb for telling a joke: If you have to explain it, it is NOT good. So DON'T TELL IT!

I cannot help but have this gnawing feeling that perhaps this is exactly what they wanted: getting us pissed. Perhaps, New York Post has won since I am sure their website is getting the record high number of hits, ever. collected 10 cartoons by Sean Delonas. Make your own judgement.

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Americans pay $650 billion more for health care than comparable countries...

It is technically $643 billion, the additional amount Americans paid for health care in 2006 compared to the other countries with comparable wealth and health, according to the research article "Why Americans Pay More for Health Care?" in the December 2008 issue of the venerable McKinsey Quarterly. (Ok, probably not as venerable as The Harvard Business Review, but still a good thing to be inserted into your conversation with your interviewers...)

Please don't freak out: this article is actually quite easy to follow and it is written in plain English, so there is no "Huh? WTF are they talking about?" or "Do they know what they themselves are saying?" moment. I promise. In addition, there are a lot of charts. We love charts! And these charts actually say something and make sense. Bonus.

Some quick takeaways:

Countries spend more on health care as they become wealthier.

The main source of this gap of $650 billion? Outpatient care. "Outpatient care is by far the largest and fastest-growing part of it, accounting for $436 billion, or two-thirds of the $650 billion figure. The cost of drugs and the cost of health care administration and insurance (all nonmedical costs incurred by health care payers) account for an additional $98 billion and $91 billion, respectively, in extra spending."

"Today, the US system delivers 65 percent of all care in outpatient contexts, up from 43 percent in 1980."

Although in theory this shift should have cut the cost down, in reality the overall cost went up because of the high utilization rate of outpatient care. However, it is not because we go to see the doctors a lot more often, rather, the average costs per visit has gone up and the number of expensive tests, such as MRIs and CT scans, are performed more frequently.

The root cause of this? Insurance and low out-of-pocket expense.

There is no check in place to guard the price increase. On the contrary, seeing a doctor may be like buying a high-end purse -- if it is expensive, it must be good. And vice versa.

The article concludes thus, "In the United States, the 'average' consumer of health care pays for only 12 percent of its total cost directly out of pocket (down from 47 percent in 1960), as well as for 25 percent of health care insurance premiums, a share that has stayed relatively constant for the last decade. Well-insured patients who bear little, if any, of the cost of their treatment have no incentive to be value-conscious health care consumers."

This sounds familiar but now we have the numbers to back up our suspicions: in order for any health care reform to work and stick, it is important that we carry out the education and cultivation of a new generation of patients that are "value conscious" and treat the burden of health care, even when they do not have to pay for it DIRECTLY, as ultimately their own INDIRECT cross to bear.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mankind's reach for the sky - The Tower of Babel apparently did not teach us anything...

Instead, we seem to pride ourselves on it. Free will. The power to accomplish the unthinkable. The art of one-upmanship.

Many did not realize that the 2300-foot tall Burj Dubai is "only" the world's Tallest Structure, and not the Tallest Building yet. Until Burj Dubai is completed and occupied, the honor of "The World's Tallest Building" currently still rests with Taipei 101. The grand opening of Burj Dubai is slated for September 2009. Hurray!

The Empire State Building held the title for over four decades, The Sears Tower, 24 years; yet they seemed to be the exception: Chrysler Building was the tallest for only one year before the Empire State Building took the honor away; The World Trade Center, 2 years; The Petronas Towers, 6 years. It has been almost five years since Taipei 101 was open in 2004, and the world cannot wait for a new Tallest Building. Here is a compiled list of timeline of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

But wait! There is something in the making to top Burj Dubai even before Burj Dubai is officially crowned:

According to the latest issue (March 2009) of Popular Science, or as they are known on the street, Pop Sci , (sigh... as if they didn't give themselves a cool name, the young kids would stop reading them...), Burj Mubarak al-Kabir, at the height of 3,284 feet, is being planned by the Kuwait government on the Tigris and Euphrates river delta, as part of its "the City of Silk" city development. In comparison, Burj Dubai is merely 2,684 feet tall (as originally planned; nobody knows how tall it will actually be until this September when it is finished). In order to withstand the high wind at that height, Burj Mubarak al-Kabir is designed as "three interlocking towers, each twisting 45 degrees top to bottom to help stabilize it... [The tower overlap in the center to form a triangular core.] No matter which way the wind blows, two of the three towers will always brace the building."

Like the Washington Monument with a height that is easy to remember: 555 feet, Burj Mubarak al-Kabir will be 1001 meter tall, "One thousand and one meters for One Thousand and One Nights. It's the difference between bragging rights and telling a story."

Take that, Burj Dubai. Ouch!

By the way, the supposedly 2nd tallest building to be built, The Chicago Spire? Not gonna happen, if ever, any time soon. It is currently a big giant ugly hole in the ground both literally and figuratively... construction has been put on indefinite hold because the developer have not been able to secure additional financing, at the same time when the world-renowned Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, filed a lien against the developer. Such a shame.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ever woner the worst question your child could ever ask you?

I found out tonight. I actually have never even pondered this. But when I heard it from my 6-year-old today, I knew, in my heart, this has got to be the worst question a child could ever ever ask of you, the parent.

Not "Am I going to die?"

Not "What happened to (insert: any family member that just passed away)?"

Not "Where do babies come from?"

Not "What is SEX?"

Not "Are you and daddy having a divorce?"

Not even "Did you and daddy plan to have me?"

Or "How do you use a condom?"

The worst question, if your child asked you the same, your heart would drop like an anvil all the way to your stomach (pardon me for the cliche but I never say I am a writer), and you would have the sick feeling in your stomach, and you would know, with no uncertainty, that somewhere, somehow, you must have screwed up big time. You would wish that you had not yelled at him, had not snapped at him, had not taken your frustration at your own situation (oh, foolish foolish immature girl's dream that you would grow up to be somebody and not "just a mom") out at him. You would wish that you were more patient, had more time to spare, were more like "other kids' moms", were more content. You would wish that you were happy enough just being, well, you.

My child asked me, quietly, tonight,

Mom, do you hate me?

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Happy Valentine's Day. And here is a necklace to remind you of your big fat behind...

Is it just me. or does not the entire jewelry line based on Jane Seymour's Open Heart design remind anybody else of a buttock?

The first time we saw the commercial on TV, either from Jared or Kay Jewelers, purveyors of cheesy jewelries, my boys cried out, at the same time, "It looks like a butt!" And I had to agree with them.
So nobody at those jewelry stores, when they were just looking at the designs, BEFORE they turned the design into actual goods, saw that and said, "Maybe we should look into something else..." ?
So, maybe it is really just me then.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Latest Poll: Less than 40% of Americans believe in Evolutionism... Wonder whether Canada fares better

as they have more Democrats and Liberals than we do?

This is the latest poll by Gallup this month, in honor of Darwin's 200th birthday, an update from the Economist Daily Chart that I posted a week ago: data for that chart was from 2006, and at that time, less than 50% of the Americans believed in Evolution.... What happened??!! We all collectively took the stupid pill?
Well, I am not sure what an "honor" the result would be. Darwin is probably turning in his grave.

Summary of the survey findings:

"On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, a new Gallup Poll shows that only 39% of Americans say they 'believe in the theory of evolution,' while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, and another 36% don't have an opinion either way. These attitudes are strongly related to education and, to an even greater degree, religiosity."

What bothers me the most, or surprises me the most, is the fact that only 86% of the people holding a postgraduate degree correctly answered the question: "Can you tell me with which scientific theory Charles Darwin is associated?"

One can argue that whether you believe in Evolution is a matter of heart, which is subjective, and should have nothing to do with how many books you have read (esp. if you have been reading all the wrong books... and the definition of "wrong" varies by which side you are on...) But the theory with which Darwin is associated? This is basic knowledge, people! If you cannot answer this question correctly, you should march back to your alma mater and give them back your diploma!

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Betrayed by The Huffington Post? I want my Virtual Lives separated!

It is clear that I intend to keep my blog anonymous. Not that it matters to anybody anyway since in the grander scheme of things, I AM anonymous: one of the masses, does not matter whether my name is known or not. However, in the unlikely case when someone at work or a family member stumbles upon my blog, I really don't want them to know what I really think about things. I mean, some of the things are better left unsaid, un-discussed. If I could have discussed an issue or a subject with anybody at work or in my social circle, I would probably have discussed it with them and got it over with. No need to use this blog as my "therapy sessions". It is the same as when I leave comments on the Huffington Post. There are acquaintances and co-workers who I don't want to become privy to how I see things.

I made the first mistake when I signed up for the Huffington Post through my Facebook login. Lo and behold, my Profile name is now my real name, and when you click on my profile, you are prompted to a screen to connect with me through Facebook. Again, 99.999999% of the world population will not care or bother, since my name or "Jane Doe" does not make any difference to you. Again, however, in the unlikely chance that someone I know comes across the same posts and the same comments, I don't really want to be "found out."

Ok, lesson learned. Luckily the comments I left were pretty neutral and fair. No moral, emotional, outbursts of any kind. No bawdy remarks. No curse words (since they are not allowed in the first place). I left my first profile as is, nothing to be done about it. There does not seem to be an easy way to disenroll myself from THP. I am lazy. Whatever.

I created a second profile. This time I made absolutely sure not to log in through Facebook and used an inconspicuous handle. Things were going along well. No personal information divulged through my profile. Until just now...

Somehow, the system working behind the scenes detected my Facebook login when I was logged into THP at the same time, and automatically connected the dots on its own. Now my profile picture shows a tiny "F" at the corner and when you click on it, the screen shows my name, that I am on Facebook, and would you like to connect with me on Facebook.

Now the tiny F is a BIG GIANT HUGE F to me!!!

This brings back the memory when a tiny window creeped up from the bottom of my computer screen after I finished with my Blockbuster queue, announcing (not even asking!) that my friends on Facebook would be able to see what movies I would be watching. The window then quickly disappeared before I could click on the button "No F*ing way!"

In the age of social media, Web 2.0, etc. etc. it is probably boggles the mind of those who design these nifty, intelligent, systems that someone, like me, may not want to have all of their virtual lives tied up in a nifty bundle, that someone may still prefer to lead an anonymous life while pouring her heart out.

It is ironic. But we live in an ironic era, no?

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Towards the discussion of race with a 6 year-old...

Every day is a trial and error in my effort to bring my kids up the "right" way...

Here is an incident happened last month which I have been chewing over and over:

My 6 year-old came home excited one day to tell me all about what he had learned at school about MLK, about Rosa Parks, about the civil rights movement, and about what it was like before for people of color. (Except, of course, he did not use the ultra PC term, "People of Color"...)

"Do you know that the white people had their own sinks, and they wouldn't even let the colored people use them? And do you know that the white people get to sit in the front of the bus, and the colored people have to go sit in the back. And guess who gets to sit down if there are no seats left? The white people!"

On one hand, I was glad that he learned so much and seemed to be grasping the concept/idea. On the other hand, I winced every time he used the term "colored people". I sat him down and gently asked him where he'd learned that term, he said from
a book he read at school. My guess was that the book describes the situations in the past, esp. in the South, and there were signs on which "Colored people only" and "Whites only" were shown. But as a Kindergartner, my son did not understand that the term is no longer in use. Political correctness is not factored into his choice of vocabulary yet.

Although he is probably too young to understand the concept of Political Correctness, I did try. I explained to him that we no longer use that term to refer to people with tanned skin, and that now we use the term "people of color". For example, mommy is a woman of color. He looked at me, puzzled. I am not sure how much he understood.

I wrote the teacher a long letter and here is her response:

"We read the book last week. The book we read showed the signs for 'Colored Only' above water fountains and bathroom doors, as well as referring to those terms in the story. There was quite a discussion about unfair laws. We talked about everyone having color in their skin. People are not white or black - there are different tones of color. The phrase you used, 'people of color' was introduced. We also used, 'African-Americans' as a term as well.

I try to keep the concepts simple and easy to understand because the terms are so abstract. The main goal is to teach how we are all alike and all different as well as respect."

By god this whole thing is complicated since NAACP has "Colored People" in its full name: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It is confusing sometimes even for adults, let alone Kindergartners.

I was caught off guard again when my boys heard on NPR the term "Black women", when a lot of discussions happened around Michelle Obama's role as the first Black First Lady, and what it means for Black women, and also, especially, young Black women that are just forming a sense of themselves. My 6 yo asked, "What do they mean by Black?" Probably the first time he heard the term so loud and clear, and it registered in his head that it means more than just a color but something else.

So we started a discussion on "African American" = "Black", but you want to be careful when you use the term Black because you need to use it appropriately otherwise people may be offended or hurt. And the most appropriate term is probably "African American".

"Why do they call themselves Blacks? Their skin is not black, just tanned. Like your skin is tanned, just different. But Auntie R's dad (who is Asian Indian) is not Black even though he has dark skin too?"

(I mused, inside my head, about the usage of the term "Blacks" to refer to any non-white people, including the large population of Asian Indians and their UK-born descendants in the U.K. That would have made my duty as a parent a lot easier! But I refrained myself... Maybe some other time...)

From there, we got into a discussion on why President Obama is African American and NOT African even though his father was from Kenya. And the conversation quickly turned (or deteriorated) into who is American and who is not... And the question inevitably came up: "So Samantha next door is Korean and not American?" "No, no, no! She is American just like you guys. It is just that her grandparents came from Korea and that they still honor some Korean customs and traditions... If you want to label her, she would be Korean American. But you know, it does not matter what kind of American you are, and you shouldn't label people anyway. It does not matter: you are all Americans!"

So, yeah, I was mentally kicking myself for singing to the tune of "We are the World"... and secretly praying, "Gosh. Please please don't ask me what being an American mean... Not on this car ride... I need to write a thesis just to answer that question!"

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Abraham Lincoln rocked this house last night!

In commemoration of Lincoln's Bicentennial on February 12, PBS is showing a series of documentaries on Lincoln, both his life and death. Last night, PBS aired the extremely well-made documentary on Lincoln' death, "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln".

Ok, who has heard of a 6-year-old crying because he had to stop watching a documentary to take a bath? Mine did! He cried through the whole bath to the point of hyperventilating, and only stopped crying when he was led in front of the TV to finish watching the documentary. It must be because of all the things on Lincoln he has been learning at school this month... I wonder how much he was able to understand?
This is the same kid who exclaimed, "Abraham is so lucky! He was born on President's Day!"

It was enlightening to learn that John Wilkes Booth asked for newspaper to be delivered to his hiding place (some pine bushes) so he could read about the public reactions to Lincoln's assassination; he was surprised and saddened by the fact that he was perceived as this monstrous murderer and not as a savior who carried out God's will to save the nation from self-destruction. He kept a meticulous journal while in hiding detailing his reasoning and conviction for doing what he had done, hoping that the future generation would see the light and agree with him.

In addition to "The Assassination", there will be a series of shows dedicated to Lincoln this week. The most notable one, in my view, is the 2-part series by Henry Louis Gates "Looking for Lincoln". Gates is an outstanding historian dedicated to African American histories. There have been considerable attempts to re-evaluate Lincoln as a pragmatic politician, as a man of his time (harboring the necessary biases and, frankly, racism). And in Gates' own words, "My urge to judge Lincoln outside of his times is a strong one." Of course, none of these theories or "re-reading" are taught at the grade school level.

"He was preeminently the white man's President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans. He came into the Presidential chair upon one principle alone, namely, opposition to the extension of slavery. His arguments in furtherance of this policy had their motive and mainspring in his patriotic devotion to the interests of his own race. To protect, defend, and perpetuate slavery in the states where it existed Abraham Lincoln was not less ready than any other President to draw the sword of the nation. He was ready to execute all the supposed guarantees of the United States Constitution in favor of the slave system anywhere inside the slave states. He was willing to pursue, recapture, and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty, though his guilty master were already in arms against the Government. The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration."

Like many prominent historical figures existed outside of the school textbooks, Abe Lincoln was a complicated individual, shaped by his times and circumstances, worked with whatever conditions he was thrown in. Frederick Douglass recognized this because he continued to say:

"I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined."

To be able to explain the complexities of who Lincoln was (and is), I will need to be able to explain to my kids the complexities of race. The school curricular seem to concentrate on teaching our kids that everybody is the same yet different at the same time, that in the end, it does not matter what the color of your skin is. By singing to the tune of "We are the World" (I am dating myself by bringing up this song...), the real issues of race and ethnicity and the reality of remaining racism are then glossed over.

Once again I asked myself: how much of the ugliness should I teach them and at what age? And yes, I am fully aware of their privileged position to even have such a choice about "when to learn about race and racism"...

p.s. The Freedman's Monument is not without controversy itself. Many in the African American community are infuriated, and perplexed to say the least. You can see why from the picture of the statue itself...

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Moment: JetBlue & Southwest tweeting each other...

Saw this on my Twitter homepage. It strikes me as really adorable. I do hope that the actual airlines remain competitors since a collaboration between the two little giants (and they are really not little any more despite the images they are trying to cultivate...) will be the end of low airfares.

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I declare: Nintendo Thumb = Text thumb = Twitter Thumb. At least in my case…

No more texting for me!
Finally after living with the pain in my left thumb for three weeks, I could not ignore it any more. Luckily a colleague whose wife is an excellent hand surgeon volunteered his wife's time and I was able to bypass the long wait time typical at orthopedic surgeons' offices around the country. The verdict: Yup. I've got it: Tendinitis of the thumb, (or Thumb tendinitis), commonly known in the 1990s as Nintendo Thumb. Now, it is mostly caused by texting.

Dr. M, who by the way is the kind of intelligent, accomplished, generous and beautiful individual that I would wish my daughter to grow up to be like if I had a daughter, put my hand on a splint and delivered the grim news: take 2 Aleves twice a day, and if the condition does not improve in a week, I will have to take a cortisone shot right in my palm. The best way to cure any malaise caused by tendinitis.

I am keeping my fingers crossed (the ones that still can).

I have given birth twice. Somehow, however, I am not too keen on receiving a big giant needle on my palm.

It is kind of embarrassing for me to be getting myself into this predicament. What am I? A high school girl? I don't even text that much, and now I need to swear off texting. Perhaps it is now a good time for me to reconsider a service such as Jott which enables voice to text (text messages that is).

(Too bad Jott was once free during Beta but not any more... )

Here is another realization:

You don't appreciate how good we have it for having the opposable thumbs until you no longer have them! I want my opposable left thumb back!

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Monday, February 9, 2009

"That's so Gay" is NOT so funny! This has nothing to do with sense of humor...

Steven Petrow's post on Huffington today really struck a chord:

"That's so Gay" is Not So Funny

I am so happy and relieved that someone brought this subject up, again. Since Huffington is purportedly the most linked blog site in the world, hopefully more parents and teachers would be reading about this.

I have been extremely bothered by the prevalent usage of this word to refer to anything "ridiculous", "hideous", "tacky," "stupid," "OMG I would not be caught dead in this" amongst the young crowd, and by young, I mean 4th graders -- my son personally encountered this verbal bullying at the bus stop and the perpetrator was a fellow 4th grader.

So what's the big deal? We cannot even make jokes now?

Mr. Petrow wrote:

"According to a recent Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) survey, 'anti-LGBT bullying and harassment remain commonplace in America's schools' and that remarks like 'that's so gay' foster a homophobic environment and worse. The GLSEN findings showed that 75 percent of high school students reported hearing remarks such as 'faggot' or 'dyke' frequently, with nine out of 10 often hearing 'that's so gay' or 'you're so gay' (meaning stupid or worthless)."

When my son was "insulted" with this word, yes, I understand, not for his perceived sexual orientation but as a stand-in word for anything negative in general, I immediately wrote a long letter to the teacher asking her that if we don't nip this in the bud now, how far are we going to let it go?

I am glad that I am not alone in sounding the alarm. Of course, this phenomenon is way beyond the school yard, people use this expression at work places all over the country. Words like this are particularly pernicious exactly because of its seeming harmlessness. "Oh, you are a baby if you cry about it and cannot take the joke." So we learn to shut up and keep quiet.

The increasing popularity of the usage of "Gay" as an insult is indicative of the underlying homophobic mentality permeating in our society, despite decades of working towards acceptance by the "mainstream". This is, the way I read it, part of the backlash against the gains made by gays and lesbian. They have co-opted the word "queer" so that now it conveys pride in self-identification in some specific uses. It is then not too far off to see the co-opting of the word "Gay" as revenge by the not-so-enlightened amongst us: they are trying to turn the previously neutral and PC "label" (for lack of a better word) into a slur. "You took an insult word from us so that we can no longer hurt you with it. Guess what? We are going to turn how you have been identifying yourselves with into a insult equivalent of anything undesirable..."

Clever maneuver by the not-so-tolerant.

What does this say about how we really feel about those who are different from the "norm" deep down, behind the door, if we allow the use of this word on the playground and in the school hallways as part of the litany of insults that our kids can hurl at each other?

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

I am intrigued. Wouldn't you? How one employee single-handedly MAKE the hotel...

This has just come to my attention that the number 1 rated hotel in Beijing is... Drum roll please...

A frigging Holiday Inn!

Yes, they do have true 5 star hotels in Beijing.

Granted Holiday Inns do get a worse rep in the U.S. than in many other places around the world. Don't think it is because we are more pampered here: it is true that Holiday Inns outside of the U.S. seem to be a bit more than meeting your daily bare necessities. But, Number 1 out of 1,168 hotels reviewed on TripAdvisor??!!

Apparently, it is also the Winner of Traveler's Choice for Best Bargain/Best In Top 25 Cities.

Morevoer, the spread of the ratings are quite convincing: of 165 reviews, 127 rated the hotel as a 5 overall, 28 - 4, 5 - 3, and 5 - 2. Not too shabby. So there does not seem to be any major argument against this hotel's #1 standing.

But still, a Holiday Inn? So naturally, I am intrigued. Wouldn't you? Especially since many, and I mean MANY, of the reviews specifically mentioned the one employee, Storm, in their titles. This Storm is the most famous in Beijing next to Sand Storm, as far as Western tourists are concerned, it seems. And he is much much much beloved. Some choice examples of the review titles: "Loved Storm", "One word: Storm", "Storm makes it great", "Wonderful Hotel, Wonderful Storm"... You get the idea. Even some travel blogs gave Storm honorable mentions. This one employee basically single-handedly made the Holiday Inn Central Plaza in Beijing a gem, stand out amongst all the other similar surrounding hotels. (Sort of like how HoJo Annheim has become a legend and best-kept secret amongst all the Disneyland aficionados...) Storm has taken on almost a legendary status judging by the reviews I had time to go through. It is amazing what this guy would go through in the name of Customer Service.

Unfortunately, I cannot find a picture of him online. Is he even real? Maybe this is one of the biggest Internet hoaxes: that Storm is actually a fictional character? Maybe Holiday Inn Beijing has employed many Customer Service "handlers of white people" and they all call themselves Storm? Somebody needs to profile this man named Storm! I need to know that he has been recognized and appreciated for all those extra steps (literally in many stories) that he took for the guests staying at the hotel. Somebody needs to call InterContinental Hotels Group and confirm that they do take notice of the employee who was cited as THE best feature of the hotel.

Barring the not-yet-written profile/interview, I wonder whether I need to travel to Beijing so I can confirm that Storm is not a high-tech robot designed to carry out the most mind-boggling, highest standard, Customer Service, ever experienced by Western tourists.

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

When co-workers and relatives joined Facebook, I stopped telling the truth...

I believe there should be a boundary somewhere. I was hoping to use FB to dish with my friends in the Cyber space: sort of a virtual hang-out place where you can talk about things that bothers or interests you on a daily basis, mundane and trivial, yes, but things that shape your experiences in life and make up who you are nevertheless.

Is there a polite way to say Thanks, but no thanks, to a Friend request? Other than pretending that you did not see the email glowing in your inbox waiting for you to respond? "You Have a Friend Request". For the meagre number of friends I have on my FB account, I guess I should be grateful that I have such requests waiting. But I am wary.

Gone is my ability to complain about my in-laws since well, they are all part of my Peeps network. Gone is my ability to curse on FB when their mother joined FB. (Yeah, I wonder why the younger generation hadn't started a mass exodus when all us old farts came rushing in?) Gone is my willingness to post anything on FB because I don't really want to leave any substantial evidence (complete with time stamp) when I am supposed to be working but obviously I am not. Gone is my desire to share my Obama-mania on FB in deference to my Republican Friends (though that's probably an oxymoron?) and in-laws. Gone definitely is my urge to update my status "Waiting in line at the grocery store" when I am allegedly "working from home"... (And, let's be honest, does anybody need to know? And once you start asking this question, does anybody need to know anything that is broadcast on FB? Not all of us have something earth-shattering to share on a daily basis. One can, however, try and have a child every year to keep life interesting and FB-worthy I guess...)

So now I am back to square one. Staying anonymous so that I can be all that I can be.

Oh, joy.

(Comic strip from Inky Girl)

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Metablogging: Maybe we are all egomaniacs...

and if we were, or, if I were, I would not be sitting here at 6 am worried about my being an egomaniac and what all this blogging and twittering and facebooking says about me as an individual.

Is it not enough to live an anonymous life? Or, Why is it not enough to live an anonymous life?

I asked myself guiltily.

What does this say about me? Does this mean I am so ill content in my own personal, real, life that I need to create a separate persona for myself in the cyber space? What kind of wuss am I that I cannot do something about my "real" life?

Doesn't "We Are All Egomaniacs" have a nice ring to it? Nice name for an alt. rock band?

Here is what the venerable (or at least expensive) Forrester Research has to say about Microblogs, i.e. Twitter and its like:

"The current darlings of media attention, microblogs appeal to both the egocentrism and the voyeurism of Web 2.0 aficionados."

From Oliver Young's research article on Enterprise Web 2.0 (published in November 2008)

Mr. Young is a fine researcher with a good head on his shoulder, let me preface by saying this. The irony of his comment on microblogging is that, and I suspect that he himself has sensed the irony, he is on Twitter (with 337 followers and not all of them are friends or FOAF).

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Fewer than 50% Americans believe in the Evolution Theory... How many of the rest believe in aliens?

Numbers (or Bars) speak louder than words. Draw any conclusion based on your own bias and convictions. And don't send me any hate mail, but this visual impact is too much for me to bear. I feel dizzy. Would be interested to see how this affects the government's and Bill Gates' professed belief and vowed actions to improve science standards for education in the U.S.

Seriously, if you have any gripes, sign in to the Economist and post your comment there. As of now, there are 161 comments: obviously this is a topic that is close to home, to people's hearts and brains. (But if you ask me, it is obvious which side has more brains than the other...)

Now that I have a few moments to calm myself down from the initial impact, come to think of it, the number is not that surprising considering that this is the land that proudly hosts the Creation Museum as a historical and scientific institution. Let's be thankful that we are still behaving better than Turkey! Woohoo!

Courtesy of The Economist's Daily Chart (February 5, 2009)

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I am beginning to empathize with Maleficent who wasn't invited to Sleeping Beauty's christening...

We all know the story of the Sleeping Beauty. The version I remembered has it thus: The Queen and the King gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. At the celebration party, the Queen invited only 12 fairies because she only has 12 place settings. (I didn't make this part up. That's the version I read as a child and remembered...) The 13th fairy got wind of the party that she was not invited to and threw a tantrum, and the rest, as we know, is history... In the Disney version, the "wicked" witch was cleverly given the name Maleficent, a play between Mal (as in "malfunction" and "malice"?) and Magnificent.

I found out just now that there is going to be this big powwow meeting discussing new product ideas at my company, and two of my 3-person team were invited. Guess who is the only female of this whole group and the Engineering team and was NOT invited?

Was the 13th fairy really a WICKED faerie? Maybe she had just reached the boiling point when she was once again dissed by the Palace: apparently she is not as pretty, not as young, and she wears mostly black, unlike the other fairies. So perhaps she said to herself, "Enough is enough. This time I am going to speak up because I am PISSED AS HELL!"


One of the Perils of Working while Female: once in a while, when I feel I absolutely need to speak up, I hesitate because I am afraid to sound like a woman scorned...

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The Comcastic Super Bowl Happy Ending. Watch porn and we'll pay you $10!!

This story is too funny to be true. I have to hop over to to make sure that the story itself is not a prank, and verify with The Onion that they did not pen this story. So by now everybody in the US has heard of the surprise given to 85,000 families in Tucson, AZ, home of one of the Super Bowl teams, the Cardinals. They were offered 30 seconds of free porn!

My male friends cried foul, "Why couldn't it happen here?" Well, they would be happy to know that the porn segment that they so sadly have missed actually featured full male nudity. Comcast and the police vowed to get down to the bottom of this. Ha ha. And Comcast is also offering $10 credit to any customer who viewed the clip. (So, even if you did not, just say you did. Or maybe there are people who would rather not discuss this any more... "My eyes! My eyes!")

There is another catch: Apparently, those who watched the Game on high-def TVs were not affected. Only those who received standard-def signals got to watch the free show. I am still trying to decide whether this makes a good argument for finally getting that high-def TV or not...

I just want to say this again,


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Monday, February 2, 2009

"Congratulation, Neil Gaiman!"

Came upon this blog entry on Geed Dad (part of the Wired blogosphere). Was surprised to see that Neil Gaiman's book won the Newberry Medal. Well, not really surprised. Actually was surprised that Gaiman was surprised.

My 5th grader couldn't put this book down. True to Gaiman's fashion, the book is dark (judging by the cover of the book... yeah...): it starts out with a little boy's family being murdered and with the little boy being abandoned in a graveyard (hence the title) and raised by ghosts... Kids nowadays are so much more mature than when we were growing up so I was not concerned that my son was reading about the subject of death and murder at the age of 10. Glad to know that the judges (and many teachers and parents) feel the same way. We should never talk down to our children as if they live in a cocoon. I believe that's a main reason why Gaiman is so popular with kids with a good head on their shoulder - he treats them like adults and speak to them truthfully about unpleasant subjects.

"On Monday Neil Gaiman was awarded the most prestigious award in children’s literature, a Newbery Medal, for his new book, The Graveyard Book. The news rocked the world of kid’s literature and was a surprise to Gaiman himself. Neil Gaiman is a beloved author for many GeekDads for his children’s literature. The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish and The Wolves in the Walls have been bedtime storybooks for my daughter since she was tiny. But Gaiman is also famous among GeekDads for his more adult literature, such as Sandman and American Gods; his movie adaptations, such as Stardust and the upcoming Coraline; and he is also a GeekDad in his own right, often relinquishing his blog to his daughter Maddy." (Jan. 31, 2009)

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Oh, Michael! Now you are not going to be on the Wheaties boxes!

Unless we begin to serve the Breakfast of Champions in a BONG!

Apology is good. But it would have been better if you immediately came out and admitted it. Now go fire your publicist. He tried to cover it up for you. Yeah, right. Like any news outfit was going to sit on the big fat juicy story of "Michael Phelps caught smoking weed!", or people were just going to ignore this. This is the payout that every tabloid has been waiting for.

This is a dumb move because you did it 3 months AFTER your stunning Olympic performance. You didn't realize that you are now famous? You didn't think anybody was going to follow you, watch your every move, and catch your every action on camera? Where have you been living? Under a rock? Haven't you ever heard of Lindsay Lohan, Britany Spears or Paris Hilton?

And another thing: NO CAMERA ALLOWED in the BONG ROOM!

Since it happened at a student party, there are two scenarios: someone pretended to be your pal and sneaked in the party. Or, one of your buddies sold you out... That would be the most troubling part of this whole story, for me.

It seems that you were trying to cover yourself up by smoking the pipe while standing sideways. How about wearing a disguise next time? What kind of role model are you for all the dopeheads on college campuses?

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Go Madam Secretary Hillary! You look good in pink!

Hillary Clinton was officially sworn in as U.S. Secretary of the State this afternoon. Didn't know that clock didn't start ticking until now for her. Isn't this a very nice, and "human" picture of her? Why couldn't the press show her laughing naturally like this BEFORE November 4? And in pink too?

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I love Bacon. But not this much... Bacon Flavored Jelly Beans?!

Now I have seen it all... Prove yourself to be a true bacon lover, get Bacon flavored Jelly Beans for this Valentine's Day!

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I repeat: There is NO FREE lunch. Only Freemium.

Chris Anderson (the chief over at my favorite mag, WIRED) is coming out with another book, FREE, this summer. As a precursor to the big PR blitz for sure to come, he penned an article on WSJ, "The Economics of Giving It Away", published today.

Mr. Anderson is the god of generating buzz words (think "The Long Tail") and cool, attention-grabbing titles (such as this one). And this article, like his previous book The Long Tail and the mag that he edits, is an interesting read.

"Does this mean that Free will retreat in a down economy? Probably not. The psychological and economic case for it remains as good as ever -- the marginal cost of anything digital falls by 50% every year, making pricing a race to the bottom, and "Free" has as much power over the consumer psyche as ever. But it does mean that Free is not enough. It also has to be matched with Paid. Just as King Gillette's free razors only made business sense paired with expensive blades, so will today's Web entrepreneurs have to not just invent products that people love, but also those that they will pay for. Not all of the people or even most of them -- free is still great marketing and bits are still too cheap to meter -- but enough to pay the bills. Free may be the best price, but it can't be the only one."

Companies need to find a business model that most likely will be based on the "Freemium" model: Free products and services subsidized by the few that actually are willing to Pay. And the Paid price will most likely be extremely low. Companies just have to make it up on volume. Think all the online RPGs that charge gamers $5 a month so that they can get cool weapons for their characters or customize their avatars. I am not sure how well this model will succeed though since my 10 year-old boy refused to pay, out of his own pocket, for the privilege of making his avatar look super duper cool, after I approved of the expense. "Nah, who cares what I look like?" So he uses the money saved on more Pokemon cards. (Hmmm, where is the logic in this decision?)

And I love this line: "The standard business model for Web companies that don't actually have a business model is advertising." (and here is a cartoon to match).

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The Lipstick Index: Myth Busted?

The first time I heard about the Lipstick Index was from a Mary Kay rep: I learned from her that the three recession-proof products are lipsticks, alcohol, and cigarettes. It is not difficult to understand why alcohol and cigarettes are recession-proof: if you are addicted to something, you are going to get your drink on, in good times or hard times. (The same can be said of drugs and "purchased sex", then? I imagine a flat line across the chart for these addictions?)
Above is the Daily Chart from The Economist on January 23, 2009, comparing national GDP to lipstick sales from 1989 to 2007.

The term Lipstick Index was coined by Leonard Lauder, the chairman of Estée Lauder, in 2001 during the recession. Lipstick sales in the US jumped by 11% in the 3rd quarter, (and more excitingly for the would-be theorists, the sales increased 25% for cosmetics during the Depression). The common theory states that lipsticks is a relatively inexpensive luxury for women with tighter purse strings. But statistics shown here does not show an obvious trend to prove this theory.
In my view, there will always be people who can purchase luxury goods when the rest of us are forced to "eat cake". The retail anecdotes for this past Christmas season tells an interesting story: when stores were saddled with unsold inventories, 3 (relatively) big-ticket items were hot hot hot, couldn't keep them on the shelves: Nintendo Wii, Uggs Boots, and Amazon's Kindle.

Go figure!

Now if anyone could explain to me the attractions of those Uggs Boots...

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The Economist Daily Chart: World Internet Users now over ONE Billion!

I only recently discovered that The Economist online includes a "Daily Chart" section in which a snapshot of an intriguing world phenomenon or a trivial yet fascinating trend is presented daily.

Three things make this moment deserve our special attention:

1. The number of Internet users surpassed one billion for the first time.
2. There are more people online in China than in the USA. This should not be surprising considering the sheer size of the Chinese population (1.3 billion vs. 300 million). However, it is mind-boggling still because of the pronounced gap between economic classes, incomes, regions, education, access to modern technologies, etc. amongst the 1.3 billion Chinese living in Mainland China.

3. The Internet penetration may have reached saturation point in the United States, whereas in China, and other countries that are playing a very impressive game of catchup, there is a lot of room for growth, and grow it will.

(Glad to see that the data used include only unique users above the age of 15 and excludes access in Internet cafes and via mobile devices. Nice - makes this more meaningful even after one takes it with a grain of salt...)

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