a realistic dose of cynicism


Red envelopes and carrot cake.

Unless you’re a visitor from Alpha Centauri, Mars, Russia, or any other extraterrestrial territories, you’ll have seen me in person. You’ll also have noticed that I am… what’s the word? Oh, right. I am very Asian.

Although most Asians make good friends and companions, they also have an unexplicable, almost-ubiquitous genetic predisposition for developing largely superficial relationships with their extended family members. That is, they don’t chat about their hobbies, school/work, friends, etc. They do, however, talk extensively about the weather, gas prices, and how much they love carrot cake. But I digress.

I recently celebrated my 21st birthday. If I wasn’t Asian (actually, if I were a white person), my extended family would throw birthday parties for me up until I was too cool for them. They’d also bring me hastily-wrapped carrot cake that would both surprise and delight me in their thoughtfulness. (My parents, siblings, and friends can still do that, by the way)

Unfortunately for me, my extended family is Asian, and since we talk only about superficial matters (if at all), they have no idea what to get me for my birthday. If I were a white person, I’d get a gift card to a certain electronics boutique (which shall remain nameless), or even worse, a carrot cake. But this isn’t the case. They hand me Chinese-looking red envelopes filled with carrot cake…err, cash.

Fortunately for me… and my extended family… and my future extended family, this is a common practice in Chinese culture; giving cash in lieu of carrot cake. The most stress we get over the holiday season is at the ATM when a hobo tries to swipe your money as it’s coming out of the machine.

Not that I mind, anyway. In fact, this practice is so common, it’s a zero-sum game. If I give you money, I’m destined to get it all back from you later anyway.

So those red envelopes you’ll getting soon… yeah. Might as well take it and buy some carrot cake, freeze it, and then to give them that carrot cake later, to show that you know them well enough that you know they love carrot cake.

Well, except if they hate carrot cake.


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Mmm… elixirs.

As some of you know, I recently got a Taylor 110. Unfortunately, not only were the strings dirty and muddled, I broke one… so I changed the strings to these D’Addario EXP lights because my local store didn’t have Elixir nanoweb lights. The Taylor definitely has a tone that’s much fuller than my old Yamaha. Midrange is much nicer.

My ears tell me that the strings are definitely holding it back, though. Personally, I can’t wait for these strings to wear out, so I can replace them with Elixirs. There’s just no substitute. Mmm… elixirs… full HP and MP… i mean, great strings! heh heh heh…

Why not just go home and change them to Elixirs today? …changing strings is a 2-hour-long process for me. I’ve broken my share of strings while tuning, usually due to me tightening the string too much too fast. So I tighten them slowly, half-step at a time, taking 15-minute breaks to allow the strings to stretch out. Some of you may call me a pansy. That’s okay. Pansies are pretty.

I also don’t like having to go buy another $10 set of strings just because I was impatient. No one seems to sell single strings, either! It’s not like people break all six strings at once. I’d pay to see that.

You know how when you tighten a string (okay, maybe musicians would know…) to the point where it’s almost at its breaking point? Right before it breaks, it emits this high-pitched squeal… almost like, “noooo!! stop! don’t break me! i’m brand new and if you break me, you’ll need to buy a whole ‘nother set of strings! that’s expensive! you’re asian! stopppp!!” Yeah. I hate that sound.

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Yesterday, I began listening to NPR for the first time in lieu of the music on my iPod. Ever.

Not only does this mark the first time I’ve ever preferred listening to the radio, but this marks the first time in several years that I’m tired of all my music. Someone suggest me a new band, please. Preferably anything in the gamut from rock to alternative.

Usually I never listen to the radio. There’s just too much… bad music on the radio these days. I’m talking about all pop, all hip-hop and rap (it doesn’t count as music if you just talk or especially sing the same note ALL THE TIME), and all Nickelback, Three Doors Down, and pretty much every bad mainstream rock band. Ever since I’ve had my iPod, I’d listen to it through the cassette tape player in my car. (Yes, those still exist.) And I would be perfectly happy. Unfortunately, I’ve grown tired of all the Radiohead, tired of all the Feist, all the Format, all the Goo Goo Dolls, all the Death Cab. A few friends of mine at work listen to NPR on the trek up to and back from Sun, so I thought I’d give it a try.

The benefits of listening to NPR? Besides the riddles (name the two nine-letter words in the English language that have exactly one of each of the five vowels a/e/i/o/u at the odd letter positions–letters 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. Bonus points and maybe a thumbs up for anyone who gets this.)

Oh, right. The benefits of listening to NPR. I’m much more aware of the economic crisis facing our country. I’m much more aware of the tax plans and efforts to control government spending for both major presidential candidates. I also know that the Victor mousetrap company turned down an idea for a better mousetrap.

It’s essentially a pail that mice can crawl up the side of, at which point they would take poisoned bait out of a dish suspended in the center of the pail. A trapdoor would then open, and the mouse would fall into the pail… which is filled with environmentally-friendly antifreeze. Brilliant!

What’s the catch, you say? Well, instead of buying a traiditional spring-loaded mousetrap for 50 cents and having to dispose of one dead mouse, you have to buy a $20 mousetrap and dispose of six or seven dead mice rolling around in a green ooze of environmentally-friendly antifreeze.

I have to admit, while the death pail solution may not be as efficient or elegant as a spring-loaded mousetrap, it is more environmentally friendly. And that’s what modern Americans are all about; minimizing their carbon footprint, conserving energy, buying locally-grown and organic produce, composting, driving a Prius, and overall being more environmentally-friendly.

Oh crap.

I’m turning into a white person.

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The blogvolution will not be televised. (maybe, if you ask nicely)

As little time as I have to do it, I still love blogging. I love that people I know are interested in what I have to say… or even what I think. To be perfectly honest, most of the time it’s either hilarious or nonsensical. That’s right. I said it. I’m bipartisan.

It seems to me that blogs are sprouting up all over the place. It almost seems like a chain reaction, whereby one person starts up a really successful blog. People reading this successful blog, wanting also to flaunt their journalistic persona and/or find an outlet for the chaos in their minds, follow exuberantly in their footsteps. I will attempt to… explain this phenomenon. No, not merely explain it… but maybe even diagram it (might as well use this B.S. ECE).

First, a disclaimer: I make no assumptions about who people are friends with. (or is it whom?) Actually, everything that follows is assumed, since I don’t really talk to people anyway.

I noticed that Jenny started a blog today. I can only imagine that this stemmed from her friendship with Denice. Who is the special friend of Jared. Whose roommate is Marc, and is also friends with Calvin (yes, I know they’re the same link). Who are friends of yours truly (aka ME). Who was first inspired by Jess, and ultimately, by Melody.

By Melody? You don’t think I’m serious? Well, I have proof from the horse’s mouth (well, more like pixels on a screen transferred through a series of tubes that originate at squares of plastic that Melody’s fingers actuate):

Me: congratulations!

Melody: on…

Me: …igniting the kindling on the fire of blogvolution

Melody: hahah
Melody: that’s a crazy concept
Melody: I was not the originator

Me: i couldn’t find a better analogy

Melody: well, I started my blog on my birthday last year
Melody: and then
Melody: I don’t know

Me: so was it jess?

Melody: we started ours at the same time
Melody: she started hers like the day after mine

Me: ooh
Me: you ARE the originator
Me: the agent of change
Me: the fearless visionary

I apologize if I’ve left anyone out. If I have, it’s probably because you don’t know me very well. Either that, or a link to your blog isn’t shamelessly plastered all over your google chat status. Which mine is, by the way.

Oh, and that organizational flowchart I promised. According to this, we could even form a semi-crippled, pseudo-semi-sufficient company!

The blogosphere as we know it.

The blogosphere as we know it.

So, to everyone I’ve named (and for everyone I haven’t) who has started a blog recently, you know who to thank… your resident poster child for type-A-ness.

Don’t look me, I don’t know who it is.

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He’s creepy. No wait, he’s sketchy.

As you (hopefully) know, I’m a guy. There are guys who are friendly and outgoing, and there are guys who are shy and conversationally awkward. I may be completely wrong, but I like to think that after college, I transitioned from the latter to the former. Even now, it’s a fact that I’m not the most outgoing guy around. But it used to be much worse. I would just sit around, look nervous, and avoid talking to people at all costs. Especially girls. (My excuse at the time was that girls didn’t play video games and I therefore didn’t need to talk to them.)

As you also know, girls have a different subset of vocabulary that they use in the vernacular. For example (and this may be the most potent example), you’d be hard-pressed to find a guy who uses the term “shoe shopping”. I don’t even know a guy who uses that phrase. I had my mom type out “shoe shopping” that first time. Oh, and that last time, too.

In particular, there exist two adjectives that girls predominately use to describe guys. No, not “handsome” or or “rugged” or even “a wealthy gentleman with an income of at least £10,000 a year, and the owner of Pemberley, a large estate in Derbyshire, England.” What is this, the 1600’s? Anyway, the terms in question are creepy and sketchy. No straight guy uses those terms. And if he does, it’s probably because he just spends all day talking to girls. About… clothes. and shoes. and worst of all, shopping for shoes.

Anywho, what, you may ask, do these anomalous terms mean? Consulting the ultimate source of all wisdom on the internet, Urbandictionary, we come up with the following (results #1 and #3, #2 is rather PG-13):

creepy (adj.) Somewhat scary because of strangeness. By far the most common adjective predicated to quiet people who don’t smile.

The definitions listed here are understandable. In fact, from my personal understanding (imparted to me by the amazing Jess and Melody), a guy who is creepy… is rather strange, quiet, and doesn’t smile much. Maybe creeps a little too (movement-wise).

And for sketchy?

sketchy (adj.)
1) someone or something that just isnt right.
2) the feeling you get the morning after using a lot of drugs, most commonly associated with extacy.
3) something unsafe
4) someone or something that gives off a bad feeling

Also quite acceptable. For example, that guy smoking a cigarette and playing ball-in-a-cup in that dark alley that you walked past as you headed home with groceries from Whole Foods (more like Whole Paycheck, if you ask me) was probably pretty sketchy. That’s just not right. Someone who smokes shouldn’t be the ball-in-a-cup type. Although, I do see the merit.

Toss the ball, catch it in the cup, dump it out of the cup, toss it, and catch it in the cup again. The ball is on a string attached to the cup, so there’s no worry if you don’t catch the ball in the cup.

But who is both creepy and sketchy? I can’t think of anyone. Can you? Well… actually, there is one person who fits this description. Can you guess who it is?

Obviously, it’s the girl from The Ring.

The girl in the preceding image may in fact, be creepy. First of all, she looks strange. No one who’s got even a smidgen of fashion-forwardness would wear their hair like that. She also doesn’t seem like the type to smile… probably from writhing in agony for the last 800 years. And from what the picture’s telling me, creeping is her preferred form of movement. Still not convinced?

Yeah. Someone who CRAWLS (ahem, CREEPS) OUT OF A TV SO THAT SHE CAN SLOWLY HUNT YOU DOWN AND KILL YOU doesn’t seem the least bit sketchy. Or the least bit unsafe. Not even a hint of giving off a bad feeling at all.

So, gentlemen (and ladies), why is it that the terms creepy and sketchy are mostly attributed to guys? by girls? As a counter-example, I submit to you that RING GIRL is not only both creepy and sketchy, she’s the poster child for both. And by poster child, I of course mean poster demon.

So don’t go watching random video tapes that are lying around, because ring girl might just crawl out of your TV (or macbook screen, for all you anti-TV hippies) and be both creepy and sketchy. Creepy stuff.

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Taylor series.

on request of Melody, I have taken the necessary pictures and posted this post. But you will demand nothing, child.

I recently sold my old acoustic guitar, a Yamaha F-310. I’ve had it for almost two years now, and it’s served me very well. I bought it on eBay in January 2007 for $140 including shipping. It’s the guitar that I learned how to play on. Unfortunately, it was a lower-end acoustic. The entire body, save for the fingerboard, was made of some laminated wood that only looked semi-nice because of several layers of gloss. The guitar’s tone was heavily lacking in the midrange, probably due to a laminate top. It also wasn’t very easy to play; the action was relatively high, and I couldn’t do much about it, because the truss rod wasn’t easily adjustable (it’s hidden in the body, inside the soundhole).

I ended up throwing some Elixir custom nanoweb lights on it, and I was content with how it sounded, even if it was a bit hard to play. Fortunately for my wallet, I didn’t think I needed a better guitar at the time; I could live with it.

About a month ago, I decided it was time for an upgrade.

I’ve always been a fan of Taylor guitars. Not only because Enoch has one, Steve (Liu) has one, Vernon plays one, etc… but because they just make a quality guitar. None of this shallow-body or weird innovative shape/soundhole/material stuff, just a quality, solid wood guitar with a classic silhouette. (Although, I will say, that architecturally speaking, I do like the Ovation shallow body acoustics. I just feel they’re lacking tone-wise.)

Josh has a Taylor 110. It’s essentially the lowest-end full-size Taylor acoustic. They do make the Baby, and Big Baby, which are 3/4th and 15/16th scale dreadnought guitars, but I’m more of a full-size guitar kinda guy. 🙂 Also, being Asian (see my previous post), I was looking for something on the cheap. Something from say, Craigslist, or eBay.

I’ve looked around on Craigslist before for Taylor guitars. Last summer, I found someone selling their Taylor 310ce (which is their low-end cutaway acoustic-electric, retails for $2000) for only $700 on Craigslist. I thought… this might be a great deal. I offered to meet them at Guitar Center near BU… and I was wholly unimpressed. A little shocked. The guitar looked like it had been beaten up. It had all sorts of dents in the soundboard; lots of dings and scratches. It sounded alright, and needed a new set of strings, but eventually I walked away. I’m looking for quality. Something that’ll last me a few years, but more importantly, something that doesn’t look like it was beaten up with a small baseball bat.

I’ve bid for a few things here and there on eBay, and I’ve done some selling, too. I ended up sniping an auction for a Taylor 110 from a guy with only 20 feedbacks (although 100% positive). Naturally, this worried me, especially after paying him several hundreds of dollars via PayPal without messaging him via eBay, email, etc.

Fortunately, he did turn out to be a legit seller, and I got the guitar 2 Wednesdays ago. It came in a large box. a VERY large box. (the Earth is in the picture, for scale.)

It came in great condition. I don’t see a single cosmetic blemish on the whole instrument. I’m very happy with what I got. 🙂

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I promised Melody I’d update last Friday. Unfortunately for her, as well as my entire audience, whom I should thank for their continued loyalty and readership, I was so wiped out Friday night that I didn’t post anything. Even though I have a long, well thought-out post in my WordPress drafts and even a follow-up post, the fate of those two posts hinges on my initiative to take a single picture.

A picture. of a box. sitting in my basement. Never before has so much (and by so much, i mean, so little) been put on the line.

Today, I thought I’d write about memory. My original planned post was about clothing trends, but I started writing it and quickly became bored. Shoe shopping. Never go shoe shopping with a girl. For a guy, DSW is a moratorium on fresh air and active thought. And I’m going to stop here.

I’ve had to memorize lots of things during my high school and college years. For example, the atomic weights of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen. Or Avogadro’s number, the speed of light, the relative permeability of free space, the forward voltage drop across a silicon diode, and the first 55 digits of pi. Which are, 1.0079, 12.011, 14.007, 15.999, 6.022E-23 mol−1, 2.997E8 m/s, 4πE-7 N/A2, ~0.7V, and 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209. These are mostly from memory. (or are they? I can’t remember.)

I’ve always had a knack for memorizing seemingly random, arbitrary strings of numbers that I’ll never end up using again. Like that game, Memory, where you had to flip up 2 tiles and you’d pick them up and remove them from the set if they matched. My friends and I would play, and although we didn’t bet, I wish we did. You wouldn’t want to know how many of my friends’ toys I borrowed temporarily but had to return them in a week. It would’ve been a lot. Not a small number.

It’s always been helpful. Like all throughout AP Chemistry. Molecular mass of dihydrogen monoxide? bam! 18.015.

Likewise, it’s sometimes detrimental. For instance, it’s not very healthy to memorize all your credit card information (like I have). You end up buying lots of things you don’t need. Like this 4-pack of Ph.D Mechanical Pencils, that I picked up online for $10. I don’t even like these pencils. Way too thick and way too heavy for comfortable writing. I got ’em anyway, because they’re normally $6 a piece. They haven’t even shipped yet. They’re on backorder. I’m out $10 for no reason, because I can remember my CC info… but if they ship in time for Christmas, guess my roommate’s getting a present…

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the best of the best

October 2008
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