Friday, August 29, 2008

Off to Yosemite today

Off to Yosemite today with a bunch of folks.  We'll be back on Sunday afternoon.  Yosemite temperatures should consistently be north of 80-90 degrees.

I'm also going to drive a rental Mazda 6 on the way.  My co-driver, Adit, is also an avid car enthusiast.  He owns a Mazda 3s Touring Sedan with a 5-speed manual transmission, so already loves Mazdas.  His has a 2.3 liter four-cylinder engine putting out 156 bhp.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chocolatier Review - Rohr, Geneva

I had occasion to taste some chocolates by Rohr in Geneva; These are sold at three main locations, of which I went to Place Du Molard

I had only one piece of each type of chocolate, and they are smaller than individual chocolates one gets in the US (roughly half the size of Godiva chocolate pieces found all over the US); I ate them roughly 28 hours after they had been manufactured. With these two points, I'm hoping I got the right taste of each chocolate.

  1. Marzipan - taste was ok.  The after-taste was quite good, for over a minute.  But I would probably prefer packages Marzipan chocolates.
  2. Milk truffle with Bailey's infusion - Very good!
  3. Dark truffle - Good.  Might have preferred shell to be less crunchy, as it masked some of the chocolate taste.
  4. Extra dark (70%) truffle - Very good! Felt like 60% - 65% cocoa
  5. Cappuccino - Very good!  Wish the taste lingered longer after finishing.

Chuck Norris fact of the week

Chuck Norris doesn't stub his toes. He accidentally destroys chairs, bedframes, and sidewalks.

Chuck Norris karate kommandos

Mexico to have Mobile Payments

Mexico is following in the footsteps of Asia and Europe, and beating the US at enabling new payment systems and methods. 

Folks can now link their savings accounts to their cell phones, so they can use them to make payments in participating vendors, which include quite a few stores, some restaurants, and even taxis.  Thats quite cool.

Most of the big Mexican banks are on board, including Citigroup and BBVA.  But less than a third of the cell phone carrying folks will be covered, since not all mobile operators have signed up yet.  Telefonica SA and Lusacell are on board, but the big gorilla in the market, America Movil, isn't on yet.  And America Movil has 65% or so of the mobile market in Mexico.  So hopefully they'll sign on soon.  If this becomes big, I'm hoping the movement can move north of the border to the good old US of A as well.

The payments, by the way, are supposed to be sent via text messages.  I guess that easier than creating a new app or system.  But it doesn't seem to be the most elegant solution possible.  (But then again, Paypal uses email - and I do love using that)

Swimming Tuesday

Swam 2 km again, and in roughly 48 minutes again. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Swimming Monday

I went in and swam on my own late today.  2 km in total, with some laps swum one-handed (to give the right wrist a rest). 

I took a total of 48 minutes to complete the 2 km.  That means 4 minutes and 50 seconds per 200 meters.

In the Olympics, the medium - to - slow guys swam 200 meters in about 2 minutes.  That means I take more than twice their time!  (forget for a minute about the fact that I'm swimming twice as long, so can't give it my all for 200 meters).  This isn't a fun stat. 

I'm going to continue swimming 1.5 - 3 km at least thrice per week.  At the same time, given the above insight, I am now going to start working a bit more on the following two things:

  1. less rest; I'm currently resting a little every 25 - 50 meters (i.e. whenever I need to turn around in the pool).  I need to swim more laps continuously, which means I need to learn how to do a quick turn
  2. Speeding up.  This is easier when I'm swimming on my own, because then I don't need to worry about social interactions.  But I need to cut down my time!

Videos, New Lara Croft Tomb Raider - Alison Carroll

As I had mentioned earlier, Alison Carroll is a trained gymnast, and has been practicing Lara Croft's moves for 6 months or so.  Looks like the new movie should have fan boys drooling!

Here's her interview by Channel 5:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Game Preview - Quantum of Solace, James Bond 007

Well, the Leipzig gaming convention is going on, and is currently breaking all sorts of records (more on that later).  They showed a glimpse of the new Bond game - Quantum of Solace.  It looks darker, seems to have more hand-to-hand combat, more running (as in free-running!) and had an Aston Martin on the convention floor.  Woohoo!

Here's the game trailer

And here's a live in-game demo - looks nice

Car Review - New Jaguar XF

I haven't driven the new Jaguar XF yet.  I wasn't even paying attention to it coming out, until I saw one driving next to me on Hillsdale blvd in San Mateo/ Foster City.  I haven't reacted to a 4-door sedan like this in quite a while - it was quite the stunner. 

Will the XF bring back Jaguar?  Lets hope so.

Until I have test-driven it, here are some photos. 

What an interior!

On the showroom floor

I love that grill

The side panels and lines remind one of the XKR

With pretty pretty lighting

The back here looks like it was designed by Lexus.  To older tastes... but thats what Jaguar was always good at, eh

And finally, a shot of the XF concept.  Ooh, can I have one!

Chuck Norris fact of the week

Ok, here's a Chuck Norris Fact that is quite poignant.

In ancient China there is a legend that one day a child will be born from a dragon, grow to be a man, and vanquish evil from the land. That man is not Chuck Norris, because Chuck Norris killed that man.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Auto Review - Porsche Panamera!!

I love spy shots, spy videos, spy anything for new upcoming cars.  The Porsche Panamera has been a badly kept secret for a while; this uber German car, coming out in 2009, has been photographed and video taped quite a bit.

After the jump, we have 2-minute video footage of the Porsche Panamera, that shows off all the car's lines, as well as some really nice photos.  I have to say, I'm still reserving my opinion on the car - I can't quite figure out what to make of its shape, and the fact that Porsche is now making.... gasp... sedans!  But if I had the chance.. yes, I would indeed want to drive it on the autobahn.

Hope its worth it, to have Aston Martin and Porsche diving into the 4-door sedan market.

Porsche Panamera

Porsche Panamera  Porsche Panamera

Swimming Saturday

Swam 1.5 km, part of it one-handed.

Everyone else got out of the pool early, so I couldn't keep swimming for too long.

Friday, August 22, 2008

5th Gear Supercar experiment - head turners

The 5th Gear guys put up a pretty interesting social experiment.  They took three supercars and parked them on a busy street for 10 minutes, then counted how many people stopped and stared:

  • McLaren Mercedes SLR  Three Hundred Thousand Pounds!!
  • Porsche Carrera GT Three Hundred Thousand Pounds!!
  • Lamborghini LP640  Two Hundred Thousand Pounds!!

So who won?  The counts were:

  • McLaren Mercedes SLR  - 19
  • Porsche Carrera GT - 78
  • Lamborghini LP640 - 84 people counted, numerous more just standing around and not moving

So I guess I'm buying the LP640;  If I'm spending that much dough, I do want folks to envy me. 

Swimming Thursday

Swam 1.25 km today. I was gunning for 2 km, but the injured wrist started hurting, forcing me to stop

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jerry Seinfeld likes Bill Gates (and Henry Blodget is a fogie)

I hate those stupid Apple ads, where they have a guy like junior Steve Jobs acting superior to a guy meant to be Bill Gates.  I like PCs, I like Bill Gates, and compared to Apple, I also like MicroSoft.  Ok, my opinion, fueled also by all the trouble I have with my iPhone.

Anyway, MicroSoft is trying to make over its image (again), and is paying Jerry Seinfeld...... TENN MEEELLION DOLLARSSSSS ...... to appear on ads with Bill G.  I would have done the ads for ten thousand dollars, but I guess MS didn't get my email.

So the first part of this blog post is about the fact that I like this move.  I love Seinfeld, quote lines from the show and his stand-up routine all the time, want to own as many Porsches as he does, and can totally buy him being pally with Bill Gates.  Good.  Lets all buy Vista. 

Second part of the post - an article by Henry Blodget today, on Yahoo Finance Tech Ticker.  The article is titled - "Microsoft, Trying to Be Cool, Hires Uncool Comic for Ad Campaign".  In the article, he even says he expects Seinfeld to appeal mainly to "fogies like us". 

You know what?  That just proves to me that Henry "Securities Fraud" Blodget knows as much about pop culture as he does about tech issues.  Seinfeld is popular among everyone from 16 - 60 years of age (I'd go further, but didn't check the comScore or Nielsen NetRatings data).  Seinfeld "uncool"?  Puhleeze! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympics, US basketball team

Whats up with Carmelo Anthony?  Why is he on the olympic team, barely seeming to care on defense most of the time, forcing up mid-range jumpers at other times?

I had been one of the few people who felt Melo deserved the NBA rookie-of-the-year award over LeBron the year they came in.  After he lost out, I secretly kept wishing for him to do really well in the coming years, to show folks he was as good as LeBron.  Silly me :)

The olympics are showing yet again just how different King James and Melo are - both are insanely physically dominant.  Both aren't good at team defense.  But LeBron is always trying on defense.  LeBron is pushing and steamrolling his way to the basket instead of settling for jumpers. 

Melo, my boy, you're letting me down.

Olympics, US basketball team

The US basketball team has been quite dominant so far.  Perhaps not as much as some would like, but at least that makes for slightly better basketball.

Watching the US - Australia match live now (damn NBC, waking me up at 5 am!).  There are 12 seconds left in the first quarter, and Australia is trailing by 2 points.

So far, I'm still not super-impressed by the team. Perhaps because my expectations were so high.  But I just don't like some of the things I'm seeing.

Kobe Bryant: Kobe seems to spend 50% of his time playing within the offense, and 50% doing things on his own, forcing shots, missing dunks (admittedly tough ones), and generally  behaving as if Chris Mihm were his center, and Smush Parker his point guard (Smushy-P was a point-guard?  hahahaha!).  Why?  I really don't know.  The guy is quite smart, and should know coach-K's system, having 'almost' signed up at Duke instead of going for the draft after high school 

(shoot, now I've been brain-washed!  why am I quoting meaningless things?).  His shooting percentage is awful, and I've seen him missing 3 dunks in the past 2 games.

On the positives - yep, Kobe is defending well.  He is pressuring well, cutting off passing lanes when he needs to, giving good help defense and weak-side support, and following up on steals by other players. 

The US team is good enough right now to win with Kobe playing like this.  Just think - what if our boy was playing up to his full potential?

And on a great note to end this post - Kobe just rounded the baseline and dunked, and on the follow-up play faked out his defender with a really sweet behind-the-back fake to lay it in.  Woohoo!

Chuck Norris fact of the week

The original draft of The Lord of the Rings featured Chuck Norris instead of Frodo Baggins. It was only 5 pages long, as Chuck roundhouse-kicked Sauron’s ass halfway through the first chapter.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Swimming Monday

Started very late, so just a quick 1 Km. Practiced the butterfly stroke, and freestyle with breathing on the left side (normally breathe on the right)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Swimming Friday

2.5 km today. Using both hands mostly, right hand seems to be much better

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Funny - Googling Chuck Norris

This is really funny!  On,  enter the term:

Google Chuck Norris

without any quotation marks.  Then instead of the "search" button, click on the "I'm feeling lucky" button. 

Chuck Norris fact of the week

Chuck Norris doesn't sleep.... he waits

Swimming Tuesday

Swam 2.55 km. Pace was a bit faster, but swimming in a dark pool, so more effort expended in checking where the wall was! Good workout.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

iPhone App Review - Flashlight

Some iPhone apps are handy,

Some iPhone apps are tight

One app I liked a lot today

Was John Haney's FlashLight.

This app essentially turns your phone into a flashlight - and hey, you can have nice bright colors, too!  I played around with it in a dark walk-in closet.  Quite fun, and actually works well. 

Watch out, for those who need to be aware - there is a strobe-light version that is quite jarring.  Definitely don't use if you are susceptible to attacks. 

iPhone 3G Solar Charging Case


Lets face it, the 3G iPhone has a battery life problem.  This is exacerbated by the fact that there are now so many new toys, apps, what have you to play around with all the time.  People at my office keep the phone charging all day, connected to their laptops.  Some have car chargers, to be able to utilize the time they spend driving during the day. 

This is all quite silly, isn't it?  Well, there's now a $54 solar charging case for the phone.  It is okayish looking, and with dubious product value, specially for the cube-dwellers among us.  But if there's a way to sneak a little more juice into your phone, then $54 might not be a bad price to pay for it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Michael Hill - article in Los Gatos News

I found a pretty good (old) article on my roommate in the Los Gatos News (which, by the way, is sponsored by topix).  The full article is given below:

Hill steeped in the language of music

By Paul Freeman / Entertainment Writer

Menlo Park musician Michael Ian Hill is working on a new CD, a follow up to this year's "Learning English Through Music."

Working for NASA isn't the common steppingstone to a pop music career. But Menlo Park resident Michael Ian Hill is an uncommon musician. His infectious brand of power pop is out of this world.
Hill moved to the Peninsula in 1999, earning a master's degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. He subsequently landed a job at NASA's Human Factors Lab. His work involved video and audio perception, 3-D graphics and virtual reality for use in testing and training astronauts.
The son of two gifted musicians, indie film composer John Hill and singer Susan Christie, he wrote songs in his off-hours. By the age of 10, growing up in New Jersey, Hill was experimenting with guitar, piano and synthesizers.
"I've always been interested in music," he says. "Often it was more of a when-I-had-the-time sort of activity. Only recently did I decide that it was something I wanted to take to the next level and really get serious about."
Turning 30 spurred Hill to shift from science to the arts. "I was always torn between these two directions. I've always been a computer geek, as well as a music geek.
"Gradually, I realized that music was more exciting to me and I had to take notice. You can't keep all your options open at once. You've got to commit to something and do it. I don't know what will happen. I only know I have to try. I didn't want to look back, regretting never having given this a shot."
Hill knew this endeavor would require a great deal of effort. "My dad works very hard at what he does. Any type of music career is a tremendous amount of work. "
Earlier this year, his first CD was released in Japan. The title translates as "Learning English Through Music." The album was created in conjunction with a Silicon Valley company called English Vitamin, which provides language and cultural lessons for the Japanese market.
Hill believes music can be an effective teaching tool. "If you have the extra element of remembering a melody, it's a good mnemonic device for keeping something in mind," he said. "My goal was to have a record that would not only provide educational value, but would also stand alone as good music."
He achieved that goal, fashioning such fun, fabulous songs as "To Love a Girl," "In the Summertime" and "Michelle." It's irresistible music, in the Beatles, Jellyfish, Apples In Stereo vein.
The songs also teach prepositions. One number sprinkles the various uses of the word "at" throughout the composition. "It's hard to have music that doesn't reveal too overtly that it has a purpose," he said.
Hill believes this could be a teaching template used in many situations and many countries. "Music is a way of connecting cultures. It links people together."
Hill is working on a new CD - and he won't have to include words like "in" or "on" a certain number of times.
"In a way, it was kind of nice to have that structure, that restriction," he said. "When you have the entire universe of options open to you, it can be staggering sometimes. You don't know where to start. If you just concentrate on making something that's good, it frees you up."
The work is off to an intriguing start, inspired by months he spent in Japan.
"That time was very enriching creatively. When I first got there, I felt pretty lonely," he said. "You can't talk to that many people, if you can't speak the language. But it was surprising how quickly that loneliness went away, replaced with a feeling of being mentally stimulated. I was continuously learning about the language, the culture, the environment."
He also studied the modern music of Japan.
"One theme is a connection with nature. For example, every year in the spring while the sakura (cherry blossoms) are blooming, a number of popular songs come out which talk about the flowers. This is a type of thing that I haven't seen much in western pop music," he said.
The imaginative story Hill tells with this album begins with Japanese office workers leading normal lives, then veers into a dream world containing such sci-fi elements as fallen cosmonauts and lost satellites.
The new songs will include Japanese lyrics, as well as English.
"The Japanese language has different sonic qualities," he said. "It's more rhythmic than English, because there are a lot of consonants. It's a staccato type of thing. So I'll use it where those sounds are appropriate."
Hill, who is a member of the Bay Area band Great Teacher, named for a Japanese cartoon, looks forward to performing his new solo songs.
"When you're writing music, you're completely in your own world," he said. "You don't know how it's going to be received. When someone actually hears it and likes it, it becomes more real for you."
He knows that can take time. In 1970, his mother recorded "Paint a Lady," a brilliant folk-psych album, that wasn't released until 2006.
"If you believe, in your heart of hearts, in the music you're working on, then it probably will eventually reach other people. And for me, that's the whole point of all of this."
Learn more about Hill and music by visiting

Swimming Sunday

Swam 1 km - short and sweet, as didn't have much time. Right hand getting better, so smaller percentage of laps were swum one-handed

Swimming Saturday

Swam 2 km. Right hand getting better, so smaller percentage of laps were swum one-handed

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chuck Norris fact of the week

There is no theory of evolution.  Just a list of creatures Chuck Norris has allowed to live.

Chuck Norris fact of the week

Apple pays Chuck Norris 99 cents every time he listens to a song




Swimming Tuesday

Swam 25 laps, or 1.25 km, mostly one-handed. Some laps had minimal use of the right hand, some were legs-only. I improved the stroke a bit,so swam faster too.

Swimming Sunday

Right hand still busted, so swam mostly one-handed. Completed 20 laps, or 1 km

After trying a number of styles, I found the best way (for me) to swim one-handed was a modified dog-crawl. The arm starts in the breast-stroke position at water level, but instead of pushing out, pushes straight down.