Gadgets

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I love getting new gadgets. They're like toys for adults (not to be confused with adult toys...) - though to be honest, I'm still a kid at heart. So what gadgets am I proud to own? Let's look!

Music Player
80gb iPod Classic - I bought this my first year at UCLA, to replace my old one that had died. Of course, that was back when 80gb was enough to hold my music library... I'm over 100gb now. I was considering getting an iPod Touch for a while, but wasn't sure if I was willing to trade capacity for features. No longer have that dilemma, thanks to my newest gadget (at the bottom).

Video Game Systems
Xbox 360 Premium w/ 20gb Hard Drive - Bought this over summer before my second year, because I wanted to be able to play Halo 3 when it came out. In addition to playing games, it does a good job of playing DVDs and video files from my USB hard drive, allowing me to watch them on my TV instead of my computer screen.

Nintendo DS Lite - Gaming on the go! Great way to pass time between class, or just kill a couple hours with simpler games. I'll be honest - I bought this so I could play the new Pokemon games, but I'm glad I did. Have picked up a few other cool games as well, and it's a nice casual (and portable) alternative to my Xbox.

Digital Camera
Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS - I absolutely love this camera. I had some really bad luck over the years with point-and-shoot cameras, mainly because I was sticking to the $100 range. My third Nikon died only a few weeks after my trip to San Diego, and I just returned it, spending the money on clothes instead. But after doing some research, I settled on the PowerShot, and couldn't be happier. It takes really crisp pictures, has lots of features, and has put up with more use than all my previous cameras put together. If you're getting a point-and-shoot camera, aim for a Canon, even if it'll put you closer to $200. Totally worth it.

TV
Olevia 32" LCD HDTV - I bought this for myself as a 20th birthday present, to replace the crappy CRT I had been using. I wanted something to let me use the HD output for my Xbox games, but I got an unexpected bonus with this purchase - a built-in HD tuner! So now I can pick up local channels in HD in Dykstra, which is great for watching Heroes, The Office, Glee, 30 Rock, and football. I'm a little spoiled by this HD though... coming home to our non-HD 42" TV is kind of disappointing.

Laptop
17" Toshiba Satellite - My old Toshiba was a good, reliable computer, but it was time for an upgrade. So I got this one for my 21st birthday, and I love it. It's a pretty good computer for $700. Super fast, and has cool little things like a built-in 10-key pad. One of my co-workers actually bought the same computer a week after me, and he loves it too. The only "problem" with it is that it's a pretty big computer, so not super-portable. But I rarely move my computer around (except to set up camp in a new location, like during finals), so it's not a huge deal. And now, it's a total non-factor, thanks to this:

Cell Phone
Motorola Droid - I finally got a smartphone, and I really don't know how I did without for so long. I LOVE my Droid. It's super fast, and can do so much. It does have a few quirks, but nothing a few free app downloads couldn't fix. It's so nice to know that even when I leave my computer, I can still do pretty much anything I'd want to. I imagine that it'd be like this with any smartphone, but I really like that it syncs with all my Google data. I love Google's services (like Blogger!), so this interconnectivity is pretty sweet in my book! Plus, the camera is pretty awesome - takes some good pictures/video, especially for a phone camera.

Of course, I still have a wish-list of gadgets to get. Most of these fill niches that aren't quite covered by my other gadgets, but some are just fun little things I'd like to have:

- Flip Video Camcorder (the Droid takes pretty good video on its own though, as does my camera)
- SanDisk Sansa Clip + MP3 Player (My iPod is kind of bulky to exercise with, so a small clip-on MP3 player would be great for that)
- 19"-22" Monitor for my computer
- Netbook (I really do treat my laptop as though it's a desktop computer, so having a super portable computer would be nice. But for now, my laptop & Droid combine to cover most bases)
- PS3 (has some good exclusive games, and it's a Blu-Ray player)
- Surround sound system
- New sound system for my car (tape deck is a little outdated...)

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Art and Avatar

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Ever since I saw Avatar (read my thoughts here), I've been thinking a lot more about what constitutes "art", and how we should judge it. Of course, you can only get so far before you hit a major roadblock - how do you define "art"? CAN you even define it?

I've joked (as have many, many people) about how just painting a solid red square is hardly art. Then again, I've seen this (or something similar, at least) on display in a San Diego art museum, so obviously there are some people who consider it "art". This is a difference that needs to be reconciled before there can even be a conversation about art.

I think a big problem comes from the inability of people to (consciously, at least) make the distinction between art as a subjective concept and art as an objective concept. For example, when I say I don't think a red square is art, what I really mean is that I don't think it's GOOD art. Objectively, I agree that it is art. But subjectively, I don't think it's worthy of the same kind of praise as say, the Mona Lisa.

Which is all a big buildup for me to say that for the rest of this post, when I talk about art, I'm doing so objectively. Art is something created by somebody to have some kind of aesthetic feel to it. It's a vagues definition, yes, but it really boils down to intent. If it was made with the intent of being aesthetically pleasing, it's art (objectively).

If I'm talking about art in a subjective sense, I'll bring in words like good or bad. So, with that out of the way, click below to read my thoughts on Avatar (no spoilers) as a work of art.


So then what defines a movie? Again, being intentionally vague, we can call a movie any kind of story set to moving images. It doesn't require sound, dialog, or even that the images blend together (so you could in theory have a slideshow of images be considered a movie, provided it tells a story). Though, most modern movies do include all these things, because they generally help tell the story.

By these definitions, Avatar is most definitely a movie. And since James Cameron made it to be aesthetically pleasing, it is most definitely a work of art. The interesting questions are, is it a GOOD movie, and is it a GOOD work of art? Note that these are two distinct questions. A movie can be a good work of art without being a good movie itself. And I think Avatar fits into this category.

Of course, we're hitting subjective here, but I enjoyed the experience of watching Avatar. I loved the world it was set in, and thought that the many subtle touches (moss glowing as it's walked over, for instance) simply added to that. From an aesthetic standpoint, the movie was amazing. And because of the technology involved to make it, the leaps forward in 3D viewing, and the overall visual depth of the movie, I certainly consider it a good work of art.

When you look at Avatar as a movie, however, then you need to compare it to other movies, by the criteria that you would judge other movies. This includes the visuals, as well as the dialog, story, music, and much more. Here is where I think Avatar goes to being sub-par. The story, as I've said, is totally unimaginative. I don't think it even tries to be anything other than a rehash of previous things. The dialog is poor (though with some unintentionally funny parts), and the score is nothing special. The wonderful visuals cannot carry it as a movie, even though they define it as (good) art, so as a movie, it is sub-par.

Just for fun, let's compare it to another movie. The one I have in mind is also a sci-fi epic that pushed the boundaries of technology for its time. And it also had a story that was a social/political allegory for its time (and an aggregate of many stories that came before) just like Avatar. That's right, I'm bringing in Star Wars.

I don't think there are many people who try to argue that Avatar was a better movie than Star Wars (the first one, to keep it fair). That's because while they have many similarities, the manner in which Star Wars was put together vastly exceeds that of Avatar. They aren't on the same level.

But when you compare them as art, they're closer. Star Wars is still quite a bit better in my book, because it is good art on many more levels. But the way you experience Avatar is unlike anything I've ever seen, and indeed, unlike anything that's been created so far.

So while it may be a sub-par movie, it's a great work of art. The biggest problem is that the vast majority of people can't make this distinction between art in general, and movies in particular. This leads to lots of reviews giving it extremely high praise as a movie simply for the visuals. And like I told Vicki, we really need to qualify our reviews.

If only the masses would go for that...

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Movie Review - Avatar

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So I got to see Avatar in 3D yesterday (for free!). In case you haven't heard much about it, Avatar was a movie that James Cameron has had in mind since pretty much after he finished with Titantic. The movie focuses on a conflict between humans and the indigenous people of the planet Pandora. It's also supposed to be a breakthrough in filmmaking technology, using cameras specifically designed for the film.

There was a lot of hype for this movie, and I'd heard great things, so I was excited to see it. And ultimately, I think it was an enjoyable movie. Visually, it was one of the most impressive movies I've ever seen. A lot of times, I felt like I was watching a really long cut-scene in a video game. The 3D was really well done, which gives me a lot of hope for the future of that media. There were no 3D gimmicks - it was just used to add good visual depth to the movie. The environments were incredibly detailed, and you could just get lost in how awesome the scenes were.

The problem with the movie, however, was that it was predictable. And by predictable, I mean it was completely unimaginative. A lot of reviews compare it to Dances With Wolves, Ferngully, and Pochahontas, which are all good comparisons. About 10 minutes into it, you realize you've seen this movie before. You know where it's going. There are no twists (at least, none that you won't anticipate).

Really, without the stunning visuals, this movie is pointless. It's actually a pretty bad movie, just cased in a stunning shell. My friend Dan couldn't get past how bad the story/dialogue was, and he hated the movie. Personally, I think that the simplistic plot allowed me to just focus on the visuals and enjoy that, so I liked it for that.

Ultimately, it comes down to how you feel about this, and what you're expecting. It's definitely a movie that you'll either love or hate watching. I happen to fall into the former camp.

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13-9

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The story of why I chose to attend UCLA instead of another school is an interesting one, but it's one I'm going to save. Come the end of the year, I'm sure I'll have some nostalgia posts to make, and that's a good one for then. BUT, there is one aspect of it that is relevant right now - one of the factors that pushed me toward UCLA was the fact that they had a football program, and a big sports rivalry.

And, as superficial of a reason it may be, this reason was validated on December 2, 2006, when the UCLA Bruins defeated the (then #2) USC Trojans. The final score was 13-9.

Here's a highlight-reel recap of the victory (in poor quality, sadly):



I remember watching as USC had the ball, driving downfield for what could have been a game-winning score. I remember standing ON my seat, 70 rows up, cheering with a mixture of both excitement that we were so close to winning, and fear that we were about to see it slip away.

Then, John David Booty drops back, and fires a pass to his left. It's tipped in the air by a UCLA linebacker, who then turns around and dives for it, intercepting the pass, and sealing the UCLA victory.

The stands exploded with cheers, UCLA players were running all over the place, everybody hugging and yelling and high-fiving. There was a sense of pride that washed through that stadium, and we all knew we'd witnessed something amazing.

And now, 3 years later, we have that moment again. The disparity between our teams is less than it was then, though we're still the underdogs. UCLA has all the momentum going in. And I'm going to be there, like I was 3 years ago. I'll be wearing my Bruin Blue, yelling and cheering for our team. And when we win, and that wave of euphoria washes over the small contingency of UCLA fans in attendance, I'll be proud to say that I witnessed it. Proud to be a Bruin.

GO BRUINS! BEAT $C!

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1 Second of Fame?

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So, I might be in an episode of HEROES in a couple months! They were filming a scene on campus, and (thanks to a tip-off from Lauren) I went to go check it out. Walked alongside where the scene was being filmed, and there were some extras in my area so it's possible that I'll be in the back of the scene for a brief amount of time. Of course, that depends on how large the viewing window of the camera was, and if they even use that take, but it's a possibility at any rate.

Here's a picture of the scene, which involved Claire (Hayden Panettiere) running. She's the red arrow, I'm the blue arrow, and the camera is the orange arrow (it was moving on a cart parallel to me, shooting toward Hayden):



So, yeah, in Episode 16 of this season (called "Pass, Fail"), look for when Claire runs through a quad. If you see a guy in the background of the scene, walking the same way she's running, in blue jeans and a brown shirt, that's me! If it happens, and I can find it, I'll post a screenshot.

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Best. Tailgate. Ever.

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(I know I recently launched a dedicated football blog, but this week is going to see a few football-related posts here too. It's Blue and Gold Week, with our big showdown against U$C next Saturday, and it's also my final year as a UCLA student, so I have a lot of memories and thoughts I want to share.)


Today marked my final tailgating experience as a college student. Spending my Saturdays at the Rose Bowl to cheer on the UCLA Football team has been a staple of my Fall quarter these last 4 years, so this last day meant a lot to me.

Drove up with Ariel, Natalie, and Tony, and we worked with sandwiches and beers as our tailgating "meal". Tony and I also went to hang out with Alex, Vicki, Carlos, Holly, and the rest of them for a bit. And when we got back to our site, the group next to us had kind of expanded to include us, so we hung out with them for a good while.

And who should show up as part of that group? Renae, who worked with me & Ariel a few years ago in Dykstra, and lived on my floor (with Tony). So that was a pleasant surprise!

Then, on our way into the game, Tony and I swing by to visit Katie, another former Dykstra RA. We joined them for a couple games of flip cup, and had a visit from Darth Vader during a game of beer pong. Ridiculous, and totally awesome.

Once in the Rose Bowl, it was just a great time. Saw a bunch of friends, UCLA won handily, and it was great to hear from some of the senior players afterwards. Then Coach Neuheisel came out to speak, getting us fired up for the game next week at U$C. And then came finally buying and eating a bacon-wrapped hot dog on the way out.

And while this may not SOUND especially different and exciting, it was just a perfect way to end it. I feel very at peace with everything.

Of course, there's still one more game. One last rivalry game. We won't be favored, but we do have a legitimate chance next week. And I can't wait. Go Bruins!

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Happy Birthday Dykstra!

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Fifty years ago today, the first residence hall on what would become known as "The Hill" at UCLA was dedicated. Named for Clarence Addison Dykstra, a former Professor, Provost and Vice President at UCLA, Dykstra Hall would eventually become the first co-ed dorm in the country. Currently home to almost 1000 residents, as well as its 27-person student staff team, Dykstra Hall is known for its social and welcoming atmosphere, which has enticed many residents to return to the hall in their second and third years.

To celebrate Dykstra's 50th, the Student Leader team put on a giant party in the quad. With various games & activities, and lots of free food & giveaways, the party was a fantastic celebration of D-Luv, true to the culture that makes us love Dykstra.

Oh, and there was an opportunity to "pie" the RAs. Watch as Ariel, my friend and fellow Dykstra RA, takes a shot at me:



I can truly say that Dykstra is the greatest hall - there's a culture here that starts with the RAs and SLs, and moves down to all the residents, that just can't be matched anywhere else.

So Happy Birthday Dykstra! I can't imagine my UCLA career without you. Here's to 50 more years of D-Luv!

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Pointless Protest

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So the UC Regents are meeting this week at UCLA, to discuss, amongst other things, a mid-year fee increase. Naturally, this has pissed a lot of people off. They don't want to pay more, and I can't blame them.

There have been some protests already, and more are planned for today. And though I have no desire to have higher fees, I don't see the point of these protests.

I'm not sure what the protesters think they're ACTUALLY going to accomplish. The Regents KNOW this won't be a well-liked decision, but guess what else they know? That you're STILL going to be here and pay it. Or, if not you, then somebody else gladly will.

The perceived value of a college education is SO high that your protest carries absolutely NO threat of not having people to pay the fee increase. When they invariably pass it, you'll continue to bitch and moan, only you'll be paying 15% more to do so.

This isn't the case with ALL protests, of course. But in this case, the protest is pointless. Unless your goal is to simply annoy the hell out of those of us who are trying to, you know, access what we're paying (too much, and soon to be more) for.

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Random Thought - Sliding Doors?

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I was thinking about this just a moment ago... why do we still use hinged doors so prominently? I mean, just consider how often you have a door set next to a wide expanse of wall (I'm thinking of the Dykstra corridors right now)? Rather than having a door swing open, why not slide it into the wall? And I don't mean sliding glass doors, but imagine a nice, solid wood door that slides into the wall.

I mean, you might need to include a track of some sort, which might not be the most aesthetic option, but there might be a way around that. I don't know. I just had the idea. Maybe it's just that sliding doors remind me of secret passages, and that just sounds awesome to me.

Thoughts? Would you want sliding doors, rather than hinged ones, in your home?

[Edit: Just realized that it'd be harder to weatherproof sliding doors, so maybe the exterior ones would have to be hinged. Still, you could do it inside at least.]

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New Football Blog

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So, I've been blogging a lot about football lately, and I realized that most people who read my blog probably don't care about football. And it doesn't really make sense to put those posts here, because they don't fit the general theme of my personal blog.

So, I made a new blog, just for my football thoughts. If you enjoyed reading my football posts here, then check it out. All my existing football posts have been moved over there. I haven't gotten around to making it look good yet though, so you'll have to deal with a very dull appearance for a little while.

2-Minute Warning

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A Lesson in (Dis)Respect - UPDATE

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So I promised an update on my last post, and here it is - Infinity Ward pulled their "Fight Against Grenade Spam" video the other day. Kotaku posted a follow-up post on this, including some of the Twitter conversation that led up to it. You can see the whole thing, and that author's take, by reading their article. Here's what I consider to be the main points about this whole situation:

I've played a lot of Call of Duty online. I've been called a fag (as well as many other derogatory terms) while playing. The anonymity of the internet allows for little kids to feel "all grown up" by doing so. It's annoying, but there's no real way to stop it (though you can mute them, and ignore it - which I do). And while this isn't by any means the vast majority of the people I've played with, it does happen with some regularity. That's what, I believe, Infinity Ward was playing off.

I don't believe they're bigots. I don't believe they intended to offend the gay community. And while they never came right out and apologized, the comments by their PR guy seem to support this (keep in mind that he didn't create the video - though he did promote it. That is his job, after all):

I think it was more of a social commentary joke of that stereotype than it was a fist-bump of acceptance to it.

To which another person replied:
The problem is that it was so poorly handled/executed that it looks derogatory. It seems to enforce the asshole-ry.

The PR guy's final comment:
I agree. I think the core gag is great, the end is a bit too far from the intent of the joke & can appreciate the concerns. Pulled.

Not exactly the apology I was looking for (in that there was never a "sorry" aspect), but I'm ok with it. I agree that, without the FAGS part, it's a fine ad. It's relevant to their community of fans, and kinda funny. But the end result takes away from that, and he agreed. And he pulled the video (though other users have since reuploaded it, so it's still around). The fact is, he admitted that it wasn't ok, and took the necessary action. Besides, had they apologized, it probably would've been the standard PR apology, which would've included pretty much everything their PR guy said, but in a less personal way.

I'm a big believer in that what you should really judge people by is not the mistakes they make, but their responses to them. Everybody is going to screw up, and things like this are going to slip through the cracks. It wasn't intentionally offensive, and it was responded to acceptably and quickly. So I'm ok with that.

Now, back to being excited for this game!

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Fight Against Grenade Spam - A Lesson in (Dis)Respect

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Everybody who reads my blog, or knows me personally, knows that I love games. And there's one video game that I've been really excited for - the new Call of Duty game, Modern Warfare 2. It's the sequel to one of my favorite games, and pretty much everything I've heard about the game so far has only served to heighten my excitement for it.

There was (or still is, I guess) some controversy surrounding decisions they made about the PC game, but I've kind of glassed over all that. I understand why it's bothering PC gamers, and I don't think they're wrong to be upset. But the fact is, the changes don't affect me, since I play on the Xbox, so I haven't bothered to get worked up about it. Especially with all the last-minute marketing moves they've been making.

That is, until I saw this one today (UPDATE: They removed the original video, but many copies still exist on Youtube. I've linked to a different one for reference):



I do hate grenade spam. Getting killed by a random grenade is very frustrating (there's no way to defend against it, after all). And for the majority of the video, I was enjoying it. Then, at the end, I realized the not-so-subtle acronym.


Fight Against Grenade Spam = FAGS. Awesome. Keep in mind this was put out by the developers (or publishers, but that doesn't really change the point) - a professional company. Not some random kid on Youtube - an actual, profit-seeking, can't hide behind the anonymity of the internet, company. And they folded gay-bashing into their marketing.

I'm really shocked by this. It was a totally unnecessary, unwarranted use of an offensive term. The fact that they "hid" it (again, not subtly) in an acronym doesn't make it any better. I'm really interested to see how this all plays out. There's a bit of a discussion going on over at Kotaku on this - some people (like me) are critical of this move. Others think we're overreacting. Either way, I imagine Infinity Ward (the developers) will have to make some kind of public comment soon.

I see this public comment going one of 3 ways (there are other ways they could do it, but they're less likely than these three, in my opinion):

1) Apologize in a standard PR manner
2) Apologize sincerely
3) Claim it was unintentional (followed, most likely, by a PR apology)

I expect to see the first. I would love to see the second. But if they decide to play the arrogance card, and go the third route, I won't be buying the game when it comes out in November. I can move past a public accepting of a dumb mistake, but I won't support a public display of bigotry.

Here's hoping they do the right thing. I'll update if something new comes up.

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Video Game Addiction

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One of the editors on Kotaku (a video game blog) recently wrote an article detailing his former addiction with a video game called EverQuest. I found it very interesting to read, because video game addiction is a legitimate concern, but not something I've ever witnessed first-hand.

People have suggested (jokingly, I hope) that I'm addicted to video games, but I don't feel that. And after reading the article, I know that I'm not. I do play a bit, and definitely more than anybody I know personally, but not to the point where it becomes a problem. Especially since it fills in the time when I don't have other leisure activities going on - going out with friends, watching TV, reading, etc. are all activities that take the place of gaming - not things I do in addition to it.

Still, to read about the impact the addiction had on his life was very powerful. Definitely an eye-opener, and a big thanks to him for opening up not only to the Kotaku community, but to essentially anybody on the internet.

I Kept Playing - The Costs of My Gaming Addiction
(Michael Fahey - Kotaku)

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The Ocean

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The weather lately has been fantastic. Ever since the rains, the sky has been exceptionally clear - very few clouds OR smog. This, as you might imagine, has made my drive to work (along the Pacific Coast Highway) a very beautiful one. As I was driving yesterday, I just couldn't get over how awesome the views of the water, sky, and waves crashing along the shore were.

So today, I went to work earlier (so I could leave earlier), and brought my camera along. I scouted out a good spot to pull over on the way up, so when I left, I knew exactly where to go. I pulled into a small turnout looking over the beach. I stayed there for about half an hour, as the sun was setting, and took a bunch of pictures.

It was really beautiful, and just so peaceful. I didn't use the time to really get deep in thought about life or anything (like I thought I might) - I just enjoyed the experience. I'm so glad I did this, and I'd highly recommend doing something like this every once in a while. I've been in a really good mood all night.

This, combined with a few other conversations & such I've had lately, have just put me in a very positive, life-loving frame of mind, and I'm enjoying every moment of it.

I uploaded a good number of the pictures I took to Flickr - check them out here.

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Text Messages #8

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I haven't done one of these in a LONG time. But I have been saving up texts, so there are lots to read over in this one. I put a jump link at the bottom, so it wouldn't overtake my entire blog - make sure you click "Read More" to see them all. Enjoy!

From Caity, regarding work:

Work is so boring I've resorted to speaking in a british accent.

From Lauren, and her irrational hatred of foliage:
Ugh. I was doing my crossword and pine trees is one of the answers. My night is ruined. I hate pine trees.

From Aubrey, mocking me:
oh man, the sock hop is lively, we need your tribal white man dance up in hurr.

From Ariel, regarding Facebook:
Your face is on the Highlights of my facebook. YOUR WHOLE FACE. Which makes it one of the Highlights of my weekend.

From Ariel, when UCLA had some visitors:
Whoops, I must have been mistaken. I thought I was going to class on a [college] campus, but clearly this is a playground for ten thousand first graders.

From Aaron, regarding lunch:
i dont know what's going on with this day... im behind a stoned guy at subway [drooling] over the counter as he orders and going "yeeeaah" with [each] ingredient added"

From Caity, regarding Star Wars:
There's a COOKBOOK. Wookie Cookies and other galactic recipes. Holy wow.

From My Mother, when I was contemplating getting a Mac:
What r u smoking?

From Aubrey, while waiting in line for breakfast:
there better be a diamond buried in my scrambled eggs.

From Aubrey, regarding the integrity of UCLA Housing's infrastructure:
yay! someone tried to press the up elevator button on my floor and a flame/smoke came out! hooray!

From Courtney, regarding music in Africa:
I'm driving thru the African bush and foreplay/long time is on. Cue my awesome solo here. Where the Heck are my drums?!?!
Ok so after that last text... the next song that came on was Wanted Dead or Alive. No joke!! And I couldn't text you because I was out of service!! I died inside.

From Caity, mixing Disney with Harry Potter:
Jafar is definitely a Slytherin.
Actually i decided he's a poser. Slytherins always win. Jafar definitely failed.

From Alex N., regarding WeHo:
I'm drunk. I don't know. THere's a man on stilts dressed as a tree and I'm scared

From Alex N., regarding a kid with a pukka shell necklace:
Tell him 1998 Hollister called and it wants its jewelry back.

From Caity, regarding Comic-Con:
Oh my gosh I'll totally bring my robes! With my lightsaber AND wand I'll be unstoppable.
It's like epic darkness no matter what! No jedi OR gryffindor stands a chance. Heh.

From Caity, regarding cars:
Okay fine. So what if corvettes are sexy... I can't believe I just admitted that.
Oh i'm just driving along and as i look to my right i think "Dang, that car is pretty hot, oh CRAP it's a corvette! Eff." and that's that. Hahaha

From Aubrey, regarding food:
sometimes, in the dining hall, i can see a serving dish with something yellow and mushy in it. on a good day, its mac and cheese. on a bad day, its corn. today was corn.

From Caity, on the way to the HP:HBP premiere (with a picture):
Yes i did draw a dark mark on my left forearm :)

From Caity, at the HP:HBP premiere:
I JUST GOT HIT IN THE FACE WITH A BEACH BALL. IN THE THEATRE.

From Ariel, regarding magic:
David Copperfield just made me disappear!

From My Sister, regarding Twilight:
i like both but not jacob with long hair... if theres any with short hair i like that.. otherwise i really like edward too :) its kinda equal :)

From Ariel, regarding stupid radio checks:
[Building] duty, your radio sounds FRIGGIN FANTASTIC!
[Building] duty, meow.

From Lauren, bashing U$C:
Best statement ever: someone just told me he chose USC over UCLA like the rest of his family cause he didn't want to take the sats. He says they don't care @ USC.

From Zach, randomly texting me one night:
does jigglypuff need a moonstone to evolve into wigglytuff?

From Alex L., when the power went out in the apartment over summer:
Omg yes! Find something solid iron, salt the doors and windows, and listen for scratching sounds. Be careful.

From Aubrey, regarding fiscal responsibility:
during these rough economic times, its nice to see a dinner ordered for the chancellor's residence with salmon, caviar, brie-stuffed artichoke, and grand marnier chocolate mousse.

From Christina Lee, regarding our Vegas adventure last year:
Ha ha yeah that was quite a drive... As in the longest drive ever. As in Yayyy lets do it again this year!

From Ariel:
Way to bring back the awkward donkey. Always a classic.

From Aaron, regarding football:
awful. no blocking. none! i play racquet sports and i know better than this!!

From Caity, regarding clothing:
I'm wearing my Darth Vader socks today and i feel so powerful.

From Alex N., regarding building demographics:
De neve RAs are complaining about having 40 first years. Die.

From My Youngest Brother:
Ahoy mateys! today be talk like a pirate day.. so drink up me hearties n let the rum be flowin. have a good day at sea. A pirates life for me! arrr!

From Matt D., regarding the Day of Service:
I've got 21 people raking a large area with a single rake and single broom. What are you doing??

From Ariel, regarding their Day of Service instructions:
"You're going to go to the basement. You're going to look for a guy named Jimmy."

From Ariel, regarding academic excellence:
Day 2 and I've already fallen asleep in a class. Go me.

From Ariel, regarding awareness of surroundings:
I just walked into my screen. FAIL.

From Aubrey, regarding school:
ahaha omg, one of the kids in my moms 2nd grade class threw a computer and printer and broke them, and ten punched the principal in the face. good times.

From Aubrey, regarding the lack of corn in De Neve:
MUAHAHAHAHA when i become chancellor, there will never be corn again!!!

From Aaron, regarding motorcycles:
i can ride a motorcycle! (in a parking lot at 5 miles per hour in first gear)
i passed the riding test! im getting my license in 2 weeks =)

From Ariel, regarding entertainment:
Lol for some reason putting a gameboy and wine together seems weird.

From Aaron, regarding Chargers QB Philip Rivers against the Denver Broncos:
got sacked bro

The following are texts I received on my 21st birthday:

From My Sister:
HAPPY 21st BIRTHDAY!!! YAY!! I LOVE YOU!!! <3 <3 <3

From Natalie R.:
Happy 21st Jeremy!!! I hope its an awesome year for you and how could it not be? Youre 21!!!

From Courtney (RIGHT at midnight, my time - impressive!):
U better be drunk & ready 2 make bad decisions. Happy bday jer. Wish i was there to see u become a man. I'll buy u a drink soon. Love u! Dispatch copy!

From Alex N. (at 2am):
If you can read and understand this message now, then YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT. If it is Saturday morning and you hate your life, then CONGRATS!!!!!

From My Dad:
so, have you recovered yet?

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Postsecret

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I really liked Postsecret when I first found out about it, and I still make an effort to visit it every week. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that lately, Frank Warren (the guy who runs it) is pissing me off.

I think a part of my problem stems from the fact that he's using a blogging platform, but he's not really maintaining a blog. For starters, there are no comments allowed. Not on individual secrets, nor on the entire set of Sunday Secrets. While I understand it to an extent (especially disallowing comments on individual secrets), it still goes against the basic ideas of a blog. And quite frankly, it restricts conversations about the secrets, which I think have the potential to be really powerful. But maybe they'd just get overrun with internet douchebags, so this isn't a main concern of mine.

A bigger concern is the lack of an archive. If you only have one page, and can't go back to view previous entries, you are not blogging in any sense of the word. He's simply maintaining a website on a blogging site, which is silly. But beyond that, I don't understand why we can't view past secrets. Part of the point of Postsecret is that when I view the secrets, I see some that speak to me. But they don't all speak to me that week, and that's fine.

But why can't I, a month or two later, browse through old ones, and find some that maybe speak to me now? Blogger allows you to maintain these old posts, so there's no upkeep needed on his end. Frank Warren is making a conscious effort to deny us access to older secrets. It's his prerogative if he wants to do that, and I know that he doesn't "owe" us anything in particular, but I still think it's a dumb design decision to make. Just open them up to us!

Admittedly, these are minor gripes, especially since he offers this all for free, at his own time expense. Except that's where my third gripe comes in:


During the holidays, and again this week, I've seen him mention donations & book sales as the driving force behind what keeps Postsecret free. This week's message states:
"The only way I've been able to dedicate myself to this project for five years is through book sales. If you have bought the new book, thanks for keeping PostSecret alive, and the website free of paid advertisements."
This, so far as I can tell, is complete crap. Look at the URL for Postsecret - it's http://postsecret.blogspot.com. Very similar URL structure to my blog, right? That's because he hosts ON Blogger. Which is FREE.

That's right... the hosting for Postsecret costs nothing. Not even ads (you'll notice that my free blog has no ads either). But what about the photo hosting, you might be asking? Well, I'm not sure where he does it, but you could EASILY put the secrets on Flickr, using a free account. So thinly veiled threats that we might start getting ads on Postsecret if we don't get him more money are really offensive to me.

Yes, I know he travels to conferences and whatnot, but I'm pretty sure he gets paid for that. And he makes money off the books, so he's definitely turning a profit on the Postsecret project.

This is America - if he wants to milk Postsecret for all the money he can, then more power to him. But don't lie to us about it. If this is your only source of income, then fine - I think that's silly, but milk away. Just be straight with us. Be honest with the people who have opened their hearts and lives to you. They deserve better.

[End Rant]

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Rubber Bands

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Reading this story reminded me of my childhood. Growing up on a street with lots of kids, we had our fair share of war games (as well as soccer, baseball, hockey, football, basketball, etc). And I know my friends throughout the years had plenty of stories from when they "fought" the kids on their streets too (Zach even had a fort in his backyard). Hell, I've even been a part of nerf wars in the apartment. Who says you have to grow up?

In particular though, this reminded me of when my brother Justin got his rubber-band "shotgun". The ability to load two bands, and fire them at once, or in two shots, gave him a distinct advantage over Tim and I, who had nothing but our hands. My dad had taught us how to wrap the band around our hand in a gun shape, but Tim mainly resorted to just using his index fingers and slingshotting it.

(Side note - my dad had pretty damn good aim with the wrap-around trick. He hit a fly in midair from across the table once. Cut the thing in two pieces. We all thought it was the coolest thing. Hell, I still do.)

But while Tim was fine with no weapon, I wasn't. And that double-barreled shotgun caused some problems. So one weekend, my dad and I (but mostly my dad) crafted a pistol out of a block of wood. It had the same basic idea as Justin's - notch the rubber band in the front, pull it back and into a clothespin, and just push it to fire. And despite the shorter barrel length, it fired pretty damn well. Very accurate, at any rate, and the stakes were evened.

It was nice to be reminded of those times, and I'm glad I stumbled on that other story. But I also can't help but wonder how different things would've been if somebody had one of these:

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Chocolate Milk

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It's come to my attention that there is a problem in this world. A problem that sorely needs to be corrected. And that problem is chocolate milk.

I love chocolate milk. Used to drink it almost every day after school. I'd come home, make myself a glass, and read the comics in the paper. But recently, I've been hearing other people's takes on chocolate milk, and it hurts my soul.

Aubrey wrote a post about Hershey's Special Dark Syrup, and mentioned how after making chocolate milk with it, she just couldn't stand to use the regular kind. And Alex told me once about making her chocolate milk with syrup.

Ladies and gentlemen, this needs to stop. You don't use chocolate syrup to make chocolate milk. It's just wrong... a passable substitute for when you run out of the real stuff - Nesquik powder.

I've tried both, and the Nesquik is just leaps and bounds better. You have much better control over the thickness of the drink, and just how chocolaty you want it to be.

Chocolate syrup is best saved for things like fruit, ice cream, milkshakes, or as Aubrey suggested, bodies. But when it comes to whipping up a cold glass of chocolate milk, it's Nesquik all the way. With 2% milk, by the way - skim milk doesn't bond to the chocolate as well, and you get a weird flavor.

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Happy Birthday Ariel!

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Last Saturday was my good friend Ariel's 21st birthday party. And unlike my birthday, Ariel had a big thing all planned out, with far more fanfare. Which, in my mind, is perfect, because while I don't like there to be lots of fanfare about me, I'm all for huge parties in celebrations of others.

So we went to her aunt's house in Brentwood (they went to San Diego for the weekend, and let us use it). Her parents and sister came down to LA, and hosted a big party for about 25 of us, complete with amazing food (TERIYAKI MEATBALLS!), karaoke, and lots of different drink choices. I particularly enjoyed the chocolate cake shots - more precisely, watching people be really skeptical before taking the drink, then wide-eyed surprise that it worked.

It was just a night of fantastic food, drink, and merrymaking. I actually sang a bit of karaoke - Kansas's "Carry on Wayward Son"! Oh, and her good friend Natalie and I teamed up for a toast/roast (a troast, if you will), complete with a fake microphone and a badass paper bowtie for me (as you can see in one of the pictures).

From what I could tell, this night was just what she had in mind. So Happy 21st Birthday, Ariel - welcome to the club!

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Birthday

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So last night, I turned 21. I didn't have anything big planned, but fortunately my friends did. Aaron and Natalie took me out to BrewCo, and when I walked in, about 20 of my friends were there. Pretty awesome.

First thing that surprised me was seeing Ariel up front (with a drink in hand for me!), because I really didn't expect to see her at the bar. Then I'm looking around, and coming out from the back of the crowd is my friend Zach from home! He had come down from Berkeley on a trip to Irvine, swung by for my birthday, and my other friends from home showed up a bit later too.

It was just awesome that so many people could come, including people I really didn't think I'd see there. I'm not one for a ton of fanfare, and I think this played out perfectly. Thanks to Aaron for putting it all together, and to everybody who could make it. I had a blast.

I didn't get too many pictures on my camera, but these are my favorites. It was at the end of the night, and I definitely had a bit to drink, as you can probably tell in these pictures. But it was my 21st, and that's to be expected. I like them, even if we're less than sober.

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Fall of the Peacemakers

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I came across this song while listening to my Last.fm library, and it's become my new favorite song. I love both the music aspects, and the lyrics. Just so catchy and awesome.

Fall of the Peacemakers - Molly Hatchet

Lyrics:
A king without a sword
A land without a king
The truth without a voice
One song left to sing
One song to sing

A wise man told me there's something you should know
The way you judge a man is to look into his soul
And you'll soon see everything.

A voice from the past cried give peace a chance.
He paid our price now he's free at last
And imagine we called him a dreamer.
How many times must good men die?
How many tears will the children cry?
Till we suffer no more sadness
Stop the madness,
Oh stop the madness.

If ashes are ashes and dust is dust
And our journeys end and then we turn to rust
To the sands of the shore
White doves then fly
Peace to all
Tell me why the peacemakers fall
Must we bury anymore

A hush in the crowd as the horse rode by
Black lace veil hid the tears from her eyes
And we all wept in silence
How many times must good men die?
How many times will the children cry?
Till we suffer no more sadness
Oh stop the madness
Oh stop all the madness.

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Impressions from Comic-Con: Lego Rock Band

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A couple weeks before Comic-Con, I won a Twitter contest from the official Rock Band account to be able to play Lego Rock Band at Comic-Con. I even got a special VIP badge and a cool t-shirt (which is, sadly, fading a bit already). So I figured the least I could do is write up my impressions of the game from my brief hands-on time.

So, like I said, my time with the game was very limited. There were lots of people, and I needed to run to a panel to meet up with friends right after I'd played, so I only got to play one song. We did "Breakout" by the Foo Fighters, which was fun (though I'd wanted to play Final Countdown, but the other people didn't, so whatever).

For better or for worse, the game feels JUST like Rock Band. I personally like it; it's literally Rock Band with Lego stuff everywhere. The notes are little Lego bricks, and the characters are mini-figs. Speaking of which, the characters have clever Lego-ish names, which I thought was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any of the neater character designs they're supposed to have (such as Vikings), but I'm sure they'll be pretty sweet.

One noticeable difference (beyond the Lego-skinning, of course) was that guitar solos don't display the percentage notifier (at least, it wasn't there in this build). Now, I don't think this is a bad thing - I'm iffy on the one in Rock Band - but it was a noticeable absence at least.

The only real complaint I had was that due to the studs on the notes, it the fretboard was a little more crowded looking, which did make it a little harder to play. Not much harder, but it was a little distracting. Still, if that's my only complaint, I'm not too worried - it's something I'm sure I'd get over if I played more than one song.

Also got to watch some people play a couple other songs (Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name" was a favorite), and the note charts look pretty good. Just the kind of thing I'd expect from Harmonix.

So yeah, I liked it. I've already committed to buying The Beatles: Rock Band when it comes out though, and a few other games are on my radar, so I may wait a while to pick this one up. But that's more because Rock Band 2 is still as awesome as ever, not because there's anything wrong with Lego Rock Band.

Special thanks go out to Harmonix and the Official Rock Band Twitter for hooking me up with the chance to play.

(Also, I am fully aware that Comic-Con was two weeks ago. In the internet world, it's old news. But I went from hanging out with our guests to studying for finals to camping with my family, and this is the first chance I've had to really sit down and write it up.)

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42 Roads

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I've been re-reading the "Hitchhiker's Guide" series recently, as well as musing about the future in general. On a walk today, I drew an interesting connection. In "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," we learn that the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything is 42. That's a piece of nerd culture that's fairly well-known and appreciated by those who've read the books.

But then what is the Ultimate Question? Well, we don't ever find that out, but a suggestion is made:

How many roads must a man walk down?
So as I walked down Gayley, I thought about the other, more abstract roads I've walked in my life:

Some roads I've walked, in no particular order:

  • Child

  • Brother

  • Soccer player

  • Student

  • Football player

  • Taekwondo student

  • Taekwondo instructor

  • Writer

  • A different road for every girl I've dated

  • Computer Science major

  • Math major

  • Resident Assistant

  • Tutor

  • Web marketer

  • Roommate

  • UCLA Bruin


There are more of course, but these are just the ones that came to me immediately. But I do know I have yet to walk my 42 roads - there are many more to come. I may never again walk some of the ones above, yet there are others I'll constantly return to (and indeed, some I'll never leave).

Of course, the book is just a work of fiction (albeit a VERY good one), but I still like the general idea that you must walk 42 roads in your life (though I suppose more is perfectly acceptable). It just brings me comfort to look at that list above, and know that I have many more roads, many more journeys, many more experiences left.

I plan to walk my 42 roads. I hope everybody else does the same.

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Comic-Con

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I finally went to Comic-Con. Friends of mine have gone in the past, and I've always wanted to see what it's all about. And when some of my friends found out that there'd be a Twilight panel, well, that was that. They were going, and I decided to tag along. I'm going to write up some impressions of the various panels and stuff later, but this is just a general recap.

We drove down to San Diego on Wednesday around 2pm. Once we arrived, we realized that we had a problem... parking at Petco Park (where they directed us) was $20/day, and NO overnight parking. Fortunately, we got some street parking for overnight, and proceeded to set up camp in the Twilight line. It was crazy and tiring, and Twilight fans are NUTS. But whatever... passed out around midnight, and woke up around 6am Thursday morning.

In the morning, we used the Hilton across the street to clean up a bit, moved our cars to all day parking at the Hilton, and got our badges. Speaking of badges, the pickup process was the smoothest thing in the world. Walked in, they scanned my ticket, printed out a badge, and sent me on my way. Efficient to the max. Then, I left the girls in line, and went to the convention floor. The place was madness, but I saw some cool stuff as I was wandering around - some Brutal Legend gameplay, some ODST gameplay, and lots of neat stuff. And then I found a line.

The WB booth (my destination) was giving out free bags, and there were people everywhere. It was a clusterfuck of epic proportions. But I hopped in line, because I couldn't figure out any other way into the booth, and got my bag. Then I picked up my VIP All Access pass (thank you, Twitter!), and got to play some Lego Rock Band. Also played a little Scribblenauts (which was every bit as cool as I'd imagined), and some Batman: Arkham Asylum. Then I had to run back to meet the girls for the panels.

But here's where I ran into a problem. They started moving the line in fairly early. And since we'd camped out, we had a really good spot in line, and they were already inside when I got back to that part of the convention center. And with there being so many people, they weren't about to just let me jump in. Took me about six or seven tries before I found somebody who bought my story of getting separated from my group, and how they had a seat for me, and all that jazz, and somebody FINALLY let me through. Of course, it was looking like I wasn't going to make it, so my seat had been given up, so I sat behind the girls, in between some people from "Twilighters Anonymous" (who get the award for the most failed slow claps ever).

So we sat through about 3 hours of panels - the first two were 3D panels, where we saw stuff for "A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carey, Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland", and the new Tron movie. Also had stuff from "The Final Destination: 3D", "The Hole", and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs". Then came the Summit Entertainment panel, where they gave fleeting mention to "Astro Boy" and "Sorority Row", then proceeded to drive about 6000 girls absolutely insane with their "Twilight Saga: New Moon" panel.

I'll have thoughts about all these panels up later, but the one thing I did notice was how much of a logistic nightmare this was. They don't clear the auditorium between panels, so the only way to really get in for the Summit Entertainment panel (essentially, the Twilight panel) was to go 2 hours early for the 3D panels. Not that those were bad, but I can't help but feel that some people who actually WANTED to see those got screwed by all the people just taking up seats for 3 hours. But there's no real other way to do it either... clearing the auditorium is unfair in that nobody would be able to do BOTH panels (because the line was too long).

I honestly think they should have STARTED with the Summit Panel, so that nobody else got screwed (since that was the HUGE draw of the morning). But they didn't, and there's nothing we can do about it now.

Once the Twilight thing was done, Vicki, Angie, Caity and I booked it to the room where they were having a "Psych" panel. The line was crazy and stressful, and it looked for a bit like we may not make it, but we did, got seats near the back, and had a thoroughly good time there. It was great, and that's another one I'll have a separate post for.

After that panel, we looked around the convention floor some more, then called it quits. Caity, Angie, and I got gas, and headed home, calling my family to help us locate an In 'n' Out on the way. I passed out shortly thereafter, and when we got back to LA, I went straight to bed.

Overall, a very, very fun two-day adventure. But it was extremely exhausting, and definitely tried my patience a few times. There wasn't a lot of stuff that I wanted to buy (though in retrospect, I do wish I'd tried to find a "Watchmen" comic), so the crowds in the convention floor were more of a nuisance than anything else. I couldn't fully appreciate it. If I go again, I'll know to spend more time in the video game area, checking out the upcoming games, and getting more hands-on time with them.

Still, all things considered, very successful first Comic-Con for me.

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Skills for Men

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A while back, I found an article online titled "The 75 Skills Every Man Should Master". I bookmarked it because I really liked it, and I just rediscovered it today while looking for something else. I reread it, and realized that I'm almost halfway through this list (I can confidently check off about 30 of these). You can read the whole list at the link above, but what follows are some of my favorites (regardless of if I've accomplished them or not), and a bonus one that's not on the list, but that I feel should be.


  • Give advice that matters in one sentence.

  • Name a book that matters. (My suggestion? Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Seriously. Also, I disagree with the assertion that Catcher in the Rye doesn't count - any book can matter, so long as you can argue why it does.)

  • Show respect without being a suck-up.

  • Throw a punch.

  • Make one drink, in large batches, very well.

  • Approach a woman out of his league.

  • Be loyal.

  • Play Go Fish with a kid.

  • Speak to an eight-year-old so he will hear. (This one, and the previous one, are absolutely important - you need to be able to work with kids.)

  • Break another man's grip on his wrist. (Everybody, man or woman, should know how to do this.)

  • Break up a fight.

  • Shake hands. (I learned how to do this properly in 5th grade, and I've never forgotten.)

  • Iron a shirt.

And my bonus one (inspired by a few on the list):

  • Cook a handful of meals well. (Being able to cook for other people is an important thing, and you need to have a few different options at your disposal. I'm still working on this one, though I did add Fish Tacos to my repertoire recently.)

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More on Rationality

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Found this article today on the Ultimatum Game, which I wrote about before. It's interesting, and some of the variations they made on the game refute a few of the ideas I suggested.

But I still stand by the idea that people aim to maximize their own utility. So even in the modified Ultimatum Games, people will reject low offers, simply because they don't feel it's fair, and they're essentially buying off their social "comfort" (for lack of a better word).

I don't know, I just find this stuff really interesting. Starting study of Game Theory tomorrow in Econ 101, so maybe I'll have some more interesting things to talk about shortly.

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Happy Father's Day

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Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me so many things:
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me math (with M&Ms!).
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me the importance & value of reading.
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me how to drive (and more importantly, how to drive a stick shift).
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me how to pitch a tent.
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me how to play chess, checkers, poker, and so many other games.
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me the importance of caring for your belongings.
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me integrity.
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me that the world isn't always fair.
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me to listen to what others had to say.
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me to respect the views of others, whether or not I agree with them.
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me to think critically, and form my own opinions (even though ours differ on some things).
Happy Father's Day to the man who taught me the importance of family.
Happy Father's Day to my Dad.

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Games

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I love games. All my life, I've loved playing games of all kinds - card games, board games, random games my brothers and I would make up, etc. This probably comes from my dad, and his side of the family, because they would always play games as kids too. And growing up with three siblings, and lots of kids on our street who were similar in age, we always had people willing to play. So, I'm going to share my Top 10 games (of all kinds). As of now, they aren't in any particular order, because I do actually have to study, but I might come back and reorder them at some point.

Rock Band
This one should be a no-brainer to anybody who knows me. I love playing Rock Band, mainly because it combines my love for games with my love for music. Plus, since each "level" is just the length of a song, it's easy for me to just fire it up and play for 15 minutes before I head out somewhere. Usually, when I have a craving to listen to a song that I know is in Rock Band, I'll just fire up the game and play it!

Dodgeball
In high school (and even now, when I go home), my friends and I would go play dodgeball on weekends. We'd go find a public tennis court that wasn't in use, and my friend Zach would bring out the Water Polo balls that he had (his dad was the coach). Then we'd split up into teams, and play on the court, using the lines as boundaries, and the net as the dividing line, and play for a couple hours. Sometimes, we'd plug in a boom box, and blast music while we did it (techno makes surprisingly good dodgeball music!).

Zap Your Neighbor
This is a game that my dad and his friends came up with back in high school/college. They took an existing game, similar to Uno, and modified it, giving every card a function. The object of the game is to empty your hand of all cards - but there are lots of ways to get people to draw more and more cards. It's essentially Uno, but a LOT more fun (in my opinion). We played it a lot my senior year of high school (a lot meaning, every day in two or three class periods), after the AP tests, where it was affectionately called "Acid Uno". It is kind of slow-moving and complicated at first, but a real blast once you get the hang of it. I'm going to make the rules into a PDF file, and link to it from here later.

Air Hockey
I like all kinds of tabletop games like ping pong, pool, and foosball, but my favorite by FAR is air hockey. It's fast-paced, nervewracking, and intense. Whenever I go somewhere with an air hockey table, I always try to find somebody to play against. I'm not particularly good, but I love getting into the game anyways.

Pokemon (the Gameboy games)
I know people will judge me for this, but I don't care. These games are exceedingly complex in terms of the training and battle mechanics, and they are very deep games (in that there is a LOT to do). They have incredible replay value, and if you ever get bored, you can always start a new adventure. Because that's what these are - great adventure games. I don't bother with anything else the franchise does any more, but I like to get the new games when they come out - it's pretty much the sole reason I still own a handheld gaming system.

Scrabble
Despite being a math major, I do like words. I love Scrabble, and wish I could play it more often. There's not much to say about it - just a fun game that pushes you mentally. That, and it's always fun to drop a bullshit "word", and bluff your way out of having it challenged. =)

Capture The Flag
This game, and its many variants, has been a constant part of my life. We used to play a variant every other Friday in elementary school, and that was always a great thing to look forward to. In middle school, there would be days where we'd play a different version during PE, and it was probably the only activity that EVERYBODY would get into. Most first-person shooter video games have a capture the flag mode, which always requires a good amount of strategy. And my friends and I would sometimes play it out in the parks at night. It's a common activity for floors here to play during Welcome Week, and a group of us actually played "Laser Tag Capture the Flag" during training my sophomore year (that's what the picture is from - it's one of my favorite pictures too).

Manhunt/Infection
These are two versions of the same game that my friends and I would play pretty often during high school. We'd go out to the parks at night, and select one person to be "it". In manhunt, this person runs into the park, and hides, then the rest of us would try to find them, tackle them, and pin them to the ground. We soon replaced that with the more interesting game of infection though - all but one person would hide, and the one "it" person (the infected) would try to find the others, and tackle them. Once you were tackled, you also became "it", and you worked to bring down everybody else. The game would start off very slowly, but as soon as somebody got picked off, the game picked up pace, until it was a whole horde of people trying to take down the last survivor. Yes, we were weird. But it was always fun.

Monopoly
Monopoly is my FAVORITE board game ever. I love getting really into it, cutting deals, making decisions using probability of dice rolls, and so on. It basically sums up my math/econ interests. Oh, and the feeling you get from bankrupting another player? Awesome.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Even though I play Rock Band more regularly, I'd say that Call of Duty 4 is my favorite video game right now. I can play for hours when I get into it, and the online multiplayer is really good. The levels are all extremely fun (with the exception of Bloc), and there are a lot of little things that just make it the best multiplayer shooter out right now. My favorite thing has to be the class system, because I love unlocking new guns & abilities, upgrading them, and combining them in the most effective ways. The single player campaign has a great story too though, and definitely shouldn't be overlooked. And I'm really excited that Modern Warfare 2 is coming out at the end of this year. The fact that this one has kept me entertained for almost a year and a half now bodes well for the quality of the next game too.

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Text Messages #7

1 comments

From Ariel, regarding these posts:

Do it. It makes me feel like I have a purpose in life when I make your Wall of Fame.

From Caity, also regarding these posts:
Oh my goodness i'm so honored to be on your text message blog post

From Caity, regarding Harry Potter:
I'm reading HP3 and wizards think muggles are so dumb, but they don'e even [have] cell phones or anything! Muggles win that one.

From My Sister, who thinks very highly of herself:
yeah.. cuz im too smart for school.. so i go to disneyland and vegas or seaworld.. btw [friend] says hi.. shes too smart for school too

From Caity, regarding cars (and Harry Potter again):
Ahhh.. Maserati. The Firebolt of the muggle world..

From My Brother, regarding his Coast Guard visit:
Its sick dude. I got to sit in a helicopter and he like taught me how to fly. I didn't actually get to fly but he like talked me through controls and stuff. Pretty sweet. I cant wait to join

From Caity, who got inadvertantly caught up in our bowling adventures/madness:
I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO

From Aubrey, maintaining my low levels of faith in the general UCLA populace:
Yay! someone's riding around the hill on a bike iwht a ski mask and shooting people with a BB gun! fun saturday night for me! hehe

From Yong, in yet ANOTHER of his weird moods:
We can only know and come to care for one another by meeting fact to face arduously and by the willing loss of comfort. -Wendell Berry

From Aaron, regarding half of my heritage:
this just in! gov. schwarzenegger pushes debate on legalization of pot in california. looks like we might not need canada after all =)

From Aaron, further attacking that half of my heritage:
shut up and go eat some maple syrup, eh

The following has no context. It's just weird. Deal with it:
Ariel: "Bah humbug!"
Me: "Bah hamburger!"
Ariel: "Bah cheeseburger ...... ?"
Me: "Bah guacamole bacon $6 burger!"
Ariel: "You win."

From Ariel, regarding Spring Sing:
YONG JUST GOT KISSED BY JANICE DICKENSON

From Yong, regarding Spring Sing:
Omg. That wasn't suppose to happen

From Vicki, regarding Julie Andrews:
SHE HUGGED ME. and held both my hands. OMG.

From Caity, regarding Alex's excitement for seeing Julie Andrews:
Make sure she doesn't wet herself.

From Aaron, being a total G:
yes jer the whole club is looking at hurr!

From Yong, regarding his date with Janice:
Love her. She just gave me money
It's worth the coug

From Caity, the mad scientist:
Okay so i have a great idea. WHAT IF i break some glow sticks and put the glowy IN a bubble thing AND THEN blow bubbles?! Glow in the dark bubbles.

From Aubrey:
i love gay pride! ive seen several tight speedos wtih big weenies in them and there's a fat guy passing out twinkies! NOM

From Ariel, regarding bad comedy:
Oh boy, we are in for a treat
Already off to an awkward start
This is horrendous
They need to sit down immediately

From Lauren, also regarding the bad comedy:
That shit sucked

From my resident, regarding karaoke:
[Resident] is singing 'my heart will go on' pretty high pitched, i suggest you come back immediately

Thats enough for tonight. I'm way behind on these... Probably have one or two more post's worth of stuff! But those'll just have to wait.

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Rational or Irrational? (#2)

3 comments

Last time, I wrote about how people would rather volunteer their time freely than do the same work for very low wages. It is an interesting result, because it shows that there are some psychological/social factors that can cause people to refuse money/gifts.

Results like this seem to cause problems in traditional economic theory, because they suggest that people do not act rationally, which is kind of a cornerstone assumption. However, as I alluded to before, I still think that people were exhibiting a rational response. I want to look at 'The Ultimatum Game' now, and further my argument that results like this do not refute the assumption that people act rationally.

The Ultimatum Game is a very simple experiment, involving two players (though you could feasibly extend and modify it for more people). Player A is asked to propose a way to split a pile of money between the two players, and Player B then gets to accept or reject the offer.

If Player B accepts, then both get the money as suggested by Player A. But if Player B rejects the offer, neither player gets any money.

Now, in theory, if the game was played between two rational people, then Player A would offer as little money as possible to Player B. Player B would then accept, because no rational person would reject what is essentially free money.

Of course, that's not how the game is played out. Studies show (according to Wikipedia, and other sources I've seen) that Player B will generally only accept the offer if they're getting at least 20-30% of the sum. Another interesting observation is that as the sum of money goes up, the offers by Player A become more and more fair (that is, closer to a 50-50 split).

So the question that arises is, why do people act in this way? After all, it would make sense to accept a 15% share, because the alternative is getting nothing. And also, if we're talking about a $40,000 pot, then you'd expect Player B to be MORE likely to accept a low offer (15% of this would be a $6000 payout), so you'd then expect Player A to make a LESS fair offer.

Now, I don't have exact answers, because I've never conducted research on this topic. I have ideas though (I didn't come up with them, but I've seen them elsewhere and agree):

First, people reject highly uneven offers because they feel it's unfair, or that they're being taken advantage of. What it essentially comes down to is that these low offers don't pay enough for Player B to accept the inequity. Most people would accept a 49-51 split, because their payoff is much greater than the inequity. This is interesting too, because it implies that people can be paid to ignore inequity/injustice. And I definitely think this is true... everybody has a price.

But if this is the case, why would you offer a more even split when the stakes rise? After all, with higher stakes, you can hit the other person's 'buy off' price to accept inequity with a lower percentage offer (if that makes any sense). But in this case, you need to think from Player A's perspective. If we're talking about $40,000, then I (as Player A) would definitely want to make sure I get my cut. So I'd offer a much fairer split, to ensure that I get my money.

After all, I'd rather take $20,000 for sure, rather than risk them rejecting an offer that could give me $30,000. Player A is essentially buying insurance by making a more equal offer.

But now, another question arises: If these are rational decisions (and I'm arguing that they are), AND if the 'expected' results are ALSO rational (which I also believe they are), then don't we have some kind of conflict? And what does this mean for economic theory?

I say that we don't have any conflict here, and that this only serves to reinforce the economic theory of rational people making rational decisions. See, I was a little sloppy earlier in explaining the rational consumer aspect of economic theory. What it actual suggests is that all consumers act rationally to maximize their own UTILITY, not their monetary wealth. Utility is essentially happiness - I'll accept any offer that makes me happier (be it due to more money, or because I feel better about myself, or whatever). This is why people volunteer their time for no compensation - they're still getting some kind of benefit (psychological, most likely). They're increasing their utility.

So when we look back at the game, if Player B is going to feel bummed about the offer, they won't accept it, even if it means giving up money. And Player A will offer to take less money, if it means that they don't lose out.

See? Rational. Now, one last question - do you agree?

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Rational or Irrational?

3 comments

There was study I came across online once (that I sadly can't locate now), that had an interesting result. And while I can't provide a link to it, I can explain the gist of it:

Essentially, the study tracked people's willingness to do work in various situations. They started by figuring out how many of their subjects would be willing to volunteer for a few hours (at a soup kitchen or something), with no form of compensation. Pure community service. They then offered to compensate these workers with a small amount of money (say, $2 total).

Perhaps surprisingly, fewer people wanted to work under these conditions. More people were willing to work for free than for $2. Now, the question is: is this rational?

From a purely economic standpoint, the answer is clearly no. The more that you are offered for your work, the more you should want to do it (at least, to a certain extent - if you're making $1000/hour, you'll probably be fine working only a handful of hours/week). So in that regard, this is highly irrational behavior.

I disagree though. I think this is perfectly rational behavior, and it's exactly how I would've reacted too. I think that psychologically, there is a difference between volunteer work and paid work.

When I agree to volunteer to do something, I'm doing so with no expectation of compensation. I have agreed to 'give away' my hours of labor for whatever personal satisfaction I get from volunteering. But as soon as you go to put a price on it, my mindset changes. You're now hiring me, and I don't work for $2/hour.

And the thing is, it's kind of insulting. I know the money is a kind of 'reward' or a 'token of thanks', but you're still putting a value on it. And in this case, the value is too low.

I'm sure you can get into the social/psychological aspect of this much more, but I find the results interesting, because it sheds light on the idea of using gifts to show your gratitude. And in particular, it shows that if you go about it the wrong way, you can breed resentment.

Case in point: UCLA's Office of Residential Life. At the end of the year, all members get a small gift as a 'token of gratitude' for all the hard work they've put in (and it's a LOT of work). But the problem is, this item is usually something fairly worthless - a padfolio, a ceramic 'bank' that looks like a Lego, a poor-quality tool kit, etc.

And what that says to the employees is, "we value your hard work and your many contributions at a level equal to the value of this [item]". And with something so worthless, it breeds a feeling of unappreciation - the exact OPPOSITE of the intent.

Anyways, I think it's interesting, and has an important real-world consequence that people should be aware of. What do you think though... is this a rational way of looking at things?

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Truer Words

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"The equal protection clause is therefore, by its nature, inherently countermajoritarian. As a logical matter, it cannot depend on the will of the majority for its enforcement, for it is the will of the majority against which the equal protection clause is designed to protect."

This was written in the "Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Moreno, J." in today's CA Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8. From my brief read-through, he seems to be concurring with upholding the validity of the existing marriages, but dissenting with upholding the ban on future ones.

I don't want to get into this topic as a whole, because I have a lot to say, and not enough time to do it right now. But here's a link to the decision (in .pdf form). Just search for "Concurring and Dissenting" to find Justice Moreno's opinion.

The one important thing to remember here is that the court was ruling on the validity of the amendment - not on the amendment itself. So headlines saying the court ruled to uphold the ban are somewhat misleading. They ruled that the amendment was lawfully and correctly enacted by the people. Now, it's beyond me to say if this was the correct ruling in this case, so I won't even try. Just keep in mind what exactly they were ruling on.

This is, after all, the same court that overturned the "law form" of this issue a few years ago, because it was unconstitutional. And one day, we will be past this dark time in our state's history. I can only hope that it comes sooner, rather than later.

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The Mirror

2 comments

"Pssst. Hey, you. Over here. Come here for a moment. I've got some advice for you. My name? You want to know my name? Of course, I should've known you'd ask. Been watching you for a long time now... but my name? My name is [redacted].

Oh, so that grabbed your curiosity. Knew it would. So, you've got a few minutes to hear me out? Wonderful; I think this will be good.

I know all about you. I know your struggles, and your triumphs. You've had more of the latter throughout your life, haven't you. In fact, you haven't had many struggles at all... isn't that right? Look, it's good to take what life gives you, and to make the most of it. But you want in on a secret?

Life isn't just going to hand you everything. You won't always get lucky, and have these wonderful things fall into your lap. So you need to stop being passive. Get out there and do something - take risks.

Oh, I know what you're going to say, so save your breath. You're going to have to trust me on this - you need to put yourself out there. Greater risks carry greater rewards. It's not enough to sit idly by, and take the low-risk opportunities that arise - you need to do more. You need to do more, for yourself.

I know you like to give to others. I know you look for ways to help other people, even at your own expense. Selflessness is a good trait - at times. But I know your dark secret: you live through others, because you're afraid to live for yourself.

Stings a little to hear, doesn't it? Well, the truth hurts. And I can see in your face, you know that it's true. Maybe you didn't before, but you do now. So before I leave, and let you get back on your way, I have a question for you:

What are you going to do about it? Think on that one for a bit, and see where it takes you.

Me? I'll still be watching, just like I always have been..."

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Generations

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I'm home for the weekend, and having just helped my friend move, as well as starting the process of packing up for the summer, I have houses/apartments on the mind.

I was looking at an old picture on our wall, of me and my grandpa, and started thinking about the styles and decorative feels of the various houses I knew growing up.

My Grandparents
My grandparents' homes always had a distinctive "old" feeling to them. The furniture was noticeably older in style than my house, and lots of the technology was older too. There was a lot of wooden furniture, and even the TV had wooden paneling. The stove timer in one had actual rotating dials, as opposed to a digital read out. There are black & white portraits all over the place, and other "old" things.

My Parents
The house I grew up in always seemed modern to me, because it's how I grew up. But looking at it now, there are distinct things I can pick out. We have a lot of wooden furniture too, but our appliances/electronics are more modernized - the typical blacks, whites, and silvers can be seen. There's more color around, especially in pictures on the walls. My mom was also into "themed" rooms, to an extent - our bathroom had an underwater feel to it, and we actually had giant stuffed fish hanging from the ceiling at one point. Our downstairs bathroom still has a wilderness feel to it.

My Room
By my room, I mean my room(s) while living at UCLA. While I have little control over the main furniture, you can already see how my apartment in the future will differ from the house I grew up in. I have a lot of sleek black items - it's very tech based. My HDTV, on it's stand, with the Xbox and games all right there. Rather than a large wooden "entertainment center", my stuff is more compact. The brown wood has been traded out for black painted wood (you can see that in my picture frames, for example).

I hadn't really thought about it until now, but my room is definitely more "modern' than my parents' home. I'd almost call it minimalist in some ways, and while that's partially just due to my personal taste, I think that's kind of indicative of people my age.

It's really interesting to think about how each of these places captures the 'era' (so-to-speak) of the inhabitants. All three have VERY different feels, and it's kind of cool.

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