State of the Union

November 7, 2008

So Barack Obama will be our 44th president, electoral college willing. That’s good, if only because Sarah Palin won’t be a heartbeat from the highest office in the land. Newsweek has a good post-election special on the candidates during the campaign. It sounds like Palin’s worse than everyone suspected. Putting those people anywhere near a powerful position would’ve utterly ruined the United States. Even with her as VP, the family would’ve made Dick Cheney look like a used car salesman, especially considering how spineless the Democrats are.

Here’s the thing though: this is going to be a tough presidency. Things in the United States is certainly going to get much worse before it gets any better. And the rest of the world will sadly follow. But twenty years of Reaganomics (yes, even under Clinton) has left the country in such a poor form that I wonder just how much better things will be in 10 years. But it’s probably a good thing, because the world has seen enormous growth over the past decade, and it’s time to slow down and refine what great minds have developed these past ten, fifteen years.

The government is scrambling to find a solution to the subprime crisis. But the fact of the matter is, housing prices have fallen, and no amount of money injected into the system will send them back up. If they had bought high, people will have to live with their loss, or in this case, live in it. And even if people aren’t losing their homes because they’ve suddenly found themselves out of a job, they’re still going to stop spending. Which means retail and marketing will be in for some bad times in the near future. Entertainment and tourism, has already fallen, but following the decline in marketing, it will be even worse. And tourist-supported local economies will suffer.

It’s a good thing people have saved up for rainy days just like this. Oh wait. At least people will still have their health. Or maybe not. Personally, I think we’ll be in for three or four years of suffering followed by another ten to fifteen years of just getting by. It’s bad enough that this is happening at all, but it has to pick the best time too. The United States government has been cringing at the thought of the baby-boomer mass-retirement, and that was when things were good. Well, it won’t feel like the end of the world for too long. But people will actually have to work harder, and perhaps finally, people will learn the value of their possessions.

I had something kung fu related to write about a few days ago. Alas, by the time I’ve gotten around to writing, I’ve forgotten the subject matter entirely. Maybe I’ll remember tomorrow morning and be awake enough to jot it down on a piece of paper. In the meantime, I guess I’ll give a brief status report. I am progressing slowly as one would progress in PKFS, as well as in SKFS albeit faster, if I were to be the judge of such things. My ailments have healed perhaps 70%, so I’m starting to do better in OKFS. But every time I look at the old masters, I realize even if I was at 100%, just how much farther I still have to go.

On an unrelated note, WordPress is practically unusable through Tor. I have to jump through hoops just to get anything posted. And it sucks.

Green Bamboo Snake

September 28, 2008

Over the years, many pieces of what some may consider kung fu gossip has reached my ears. I recently saw CDG and CPG on the busy streets of Chinatown and having nothing to do that particular afternoon, struck up a conversation with them. Because both CDG and CPG are closely involved in the recently-formed loose kung fu community whose members span probably a score or two schools in the New York metro area, I was privvy to several interesting pieces of gossip. I won’t reiterate it here, since most of it is old history–water under the bridge–for those people involved, and I’m not about to bring up old wounds for no reason in particular.

One of the stories did strike a particular chord with me. Before I continue, I must explain several things relevant to the story not immediately apparent. Traditional holds that each kung fu lineage–each pai–has one and only one designated successor. That is to say, the current master picks the next master of the style. There is no rule that says that the current master has to pick the best of his students, and it is often the case that, for a variety of reasons, the master passes over the best for someone he feels more appropriate. Perhaps the best student does not have the entirety of the system, or perhaps the best student is not well suited or unwilling to be the next in line. Regardless of whom, once this person is chosen, the other students are left to their own devices. Some will stay and help train the next generation of students. Others will leave, but without permission from the head of the system, they would be unable to open a school under the style’s name.

The question of succession thus creates a great amount of politics. Many of the students will vie for the position, and once a successor is chosen, the other leading candidates might secede from the system in disgust or challenge the chosen successor. The particular story that piqued my interest concerns the former.

It is a common joke among martial arts masters that the real master is the wife. It is something I have heard time and again. The wives, having a control of their husband’s ears (among other things) in bed, are the most influential people in the school. I don’t mean to be sexist, but at the heart of the particular story is not the students themselves, but the wives of the students whose whispers resulted in the breaking of a long friendship and the falling out between two top students, splitting the remaining practitioners of the style into two camps.

A smart master does not share the intricate happenings of the school with his wife. Masters often do not bring their wives to the school. There are notable execeptions, and there continue to be, especially when the wife is a master herself. However–and this applies for both sexes–people outside the martial arts world at best have a very cursury understanding of it, its rules and etiquette, and its normal practices. To put it simply, they should not interfere. The worst offender is the spouse, and typically the wife, from which speculation and gossip enter the ears of the master. Husbands tend not to be so interested in the dealings of their wife if the wife happens to be the master.

Women are, for the most part, irrational and emotional. It is what makes them so mysterious to men, and hence appealing and exotic. The old saying is that behind every successful man is a woman. There is a great deal of truth in this proverb. The strength of the woman behind the man is directly correlated to the success of the man. Women are men’s greatest strength and subsequently their greatest weakness. A petty woman will utterly destroy her man as quickly as a generous one would make him. Worse yet, a petty or even weak woman without a strong man to temper her will end up destroying her children.

I can hear the cries of sexism now, that women love their children and would do everything to protect them. That is, of course, the problem. Women, being irrational and emotional, have a tendency to be overprotective. Their children then either end up thinking the entire world is full of scary monsters, or not being able to do anything without the assistance and approval of mommy. It is a very unfortunate fact that overprotection in the United States has resulted in the lawsuit-happy, politically-correct, everybody-is-equal mentality among everyone. For example, in the old days, disagreements were settled with fists if they could not be settled with words. Today, they are settled in court, an obvious appeal to a higher authority, that being the government in this case.

In effect, children who are unable to act for themselves, think for themselves, learn for themselves, are destroyed human beings. They no longer hold the essence of humanity, which is the unlimited potential to be and do anything. Instead, they are drones, robots, churned out by an assembly line. Nothing new would be created, nothing amazing or inspiring would be accomplished, because these things involve risk, and success in such endevours require failure beforehand.

But I digress. At the same time, a strong woman, generous and intelligent, will nurture her children to greatness. And for everyone else, hopefully, there is a strong man in the family who will temper the whims of the woman.

Anyhow, my point is, women are not subject to the unspoken rules and etiquette of men. And thus they are able to achieve things men simply cannot. They can show weakness because they are expected to be weak, while a man would be ripped apart by his peers and even by other women for the same actions. At the same time, as much good as they can do with their powers, they can also do wrong, often by convincing the man that he is not subject to the rules and etiquette, and hence should break them.

I end with this poem:


which roughly translates into: “The green bamboo snake’s mouth and the bee’s venom combined are not venomous compared to the heart of a man’s wife.”

A few words of advice.

September 19, 2008

It seems mildly ironic that I only have the time for this on days I don’t go to kung fu.

The economy has recently taken a dive that people are comparing with the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 1930’s. In my opinion, this is merely the chickens coming home to roost. I maintain that the past half-decade or so of unprecedented economic growth was artificially created by Bush and his cronies to cover up the daily economic loss from the war in Iraq. Three billion dollars a day gets spent on the Iraq war. That three billion comes in the form of loans from other countries, Russia, China, Japan, etc. The US populace will eventually have to pay it off, but more importantly, it means that the federal government is bankrupt, that like the people who max out their credit cards only to see their monthly earnings go back to paying it off, the nation is already broke. Worse yet, because there’s been a trade deficit all these years, not only has the nation been flat out broke, but presumably has been unemployed and spending borrowed money on entertainment.

So this is the chickens come home to roost. That’s what the people get for their failure to elect a good president. That’s what they get for their negligence, their ambivalence, their boneheadness, their ridiculous notion that belief alone could somehow bring about prosperity. Intelligent people are defecting from the Republican party left and right. Anyone with any smarts is leaving Bush and McCain. If only they had done so four–no, eight years ago. The golden age might have lasted longer, and the fall might have been a little less spectacular and a little more gradual. Americans, this is your fault. It’s just too bad that the rest of the world has to suffer along with you. If McCain becomes president, I’m certain people will be scrambling to put as much distance between them and the US as possible, leaving the trash behind to rot in their own handmade beds of shit.

Along the same lines, Obama needs catchy one-liners to promote in the so-called “red” states. Slap a video of people chanting the phrase, or splice together footage of some famous politician saying it, and it will grab people’s attention. This is because the majority of the people there are idiots, and if he advertises a slogan–any slogan–enough, they will start repeating it if only subconsciously. Mix these quick 15-second catch-phrase ads with the more traditional ads about issues in the battleground states and he’ll be sure to win them. To that end, I submit the following phrases/ads for somebody, anybody:

  • Start with Bush’s “Fool me once” gaffe, and punctuate with the line, “Don’t get fooled again!”
  • Show the Republican ads or footage from the 2004 race that say, “Four more years!”
  • “John McCain is more of the same!”
  • “A vote against Obama is a vote for Bush!”
  • (along the same lines)”Don’t vote for Bush. Vote for Obama!”
  • Show Obama fixing up household problems (e.g. cut electricity and have him be the solar-panel installation guy, or flooding in the basement and have him be the plumber), and end with him saying, “You can count on me to fix it.”

Edit: Spelling and grammar. Note to self: don’t publish first drafts.

A Different Kind of Balance.

September 9, 2008

Beginner’s tip: it’s important to practice the left and right side such that the right is equally as strong as the left. Righties should practice their left side more, and lefties should practice their right side more. But being right or left dominant is more than just getting used to the motions of a particular side. The transitions on boths sides should become equally as smooth. This means one has to effectively become ambidextrous, by training the weaker side of the brain to be as strong as the strong side.

I think Obama’s minor slip up wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t have to do with religion, and the other religion wasn’t Islam. If he had slipped up saying he was a Jew, people would’ve probably just laughed at him. Regardless, such slip ups are commonplace for people when they are so focused on a particular idea that it comes out in the middle of talking, usually in such a way as to make sense, but not convey the right message. I have a tendency to do this a lot, and so he has my empathy.

Sarah Palin Mao

September 6, 2008

I think I should start tagging my posts. In fact, I should go back and retroactively tag them, but I’m too lazy. Besides, who wants to read their own rants and musings from days past? And who could stomach such sappy, melodramatic crap anyway?

WordPress is claiming I have one comment. But when I go to view it from the administrative back end, I can’t seem to locate it. Perhaps it’s visible from the main site, but that doesn’t do me any good.

The more I read about Sarah Palin, the more I get this uneasy feeling that she’s going to be the US’s Madame Mao. Their similarities are quite frightening. The switch from the entertainment business to politics, the rise to power during a dividing and crucial period in the nation’s development, the ailing leader and the political position only a step from leadership, the anti-intellectualism, the frequent reminder of other’s patriotism or the lack thereof, the abuses of power, these are all characteristics of Madame Mao. Her greatest claim to fame is the Cultural Revolution, which set China back some 30 years. If Sarah Palin gets elected as VP, I have to wonder if the US will go through its own period of “Cultural Revolution.” That would be a sad, sad day indeed. But I think most people who actively follow current events with an impartial eye would see it coming from a mile away.

And, to take a play from the Republican’s book, Palin’s home state is closer to Beijing than Washington D.C. almost as close to Beijing as it is to Washington D.C.. She definitely qualifies for the job because she received experience just from watching the last woman leader on her side of the world!

The rational part of my minds insists McCain and Palin won’t win, simply because people are ready to get rid of the Republicans. But the skeptical part of my mind is fearful of the same Bush vs. Gore upset. And the practical part of my mind is screaming to make plans for when the undesired couple does win.

If the Democrats this election cycle get a good 10-seat majority in the Senate, it won’t really matter who’s president. But seeing as how congress’s approval rating is even lower than the president’s rating, I find that doubtful.

I recently finished the Service Station. I have to admit that it’s a neat little set, and a nice throwback to the Octan theme from the 90’s. But I can’t get into it as much as I would like, largely in part because of the gratitious use of special pieces, and the need for decals on all of the major image pieces. In fact, without the decals, the only thing that would hint at it being an Octan station would be the color scheme. And it isn’t as if there are any multi-piece decals either. For such a neat little set, and my first town set with a baseplate in a very long time (measured in decades), that’s a crying shame.

I saw the pictures of the new Power Miners line. The images are low-res, but so far, I’m not really feeling excited. The glow-in-the-dark puke green really doesn’t do it for me. Bring back Mtron I say!

Still alive.

October 11, 2007

Yup, I’m still alive. I have a few long entries in draft form. Articles, I would prefer to call them, but they’re entries nonetheless. Not that anyone really reads this. Ergo, no one cares at the moment, but I still should account for my absence, if only for posterity…

I’ve been busy. Working. Sleeping. Taking up new hobbies and learning new crafts. I’m going to learn how to carve wood. That way, I can create a wooden model of the sword hilt that I’m designing. From there, I’ll send it over to China where I can get it made for cheap, and made well at that. And then, we’ll see where that goes.

Things have gotten interesting since my last entry. Poodle disappeared for most of the summer. And things seem to have changed after their little vacation. I’m not sure what it is, and I’m not sure I like it, but what the hey, it’s none of my business anymore.

Anyway, the interesting part comes from the few new students at the PKFS, as well as increased recognition for the SKFS. It seems a prominent name in the kung fu world wants to meet Sigung. Which can be a double-edged sword. I hope to be there when they meet. I hope things will turn out well, but there’s always that chance…

As for the two new students, I sometimes wonder if I actually was like them in the beginning. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t. I already had the foundations when I began learning; the concepts of chi and ging were things I had “discovered” on my own when I was much younger. It comes from having a natural inclination, a genetic desposition for athletics. And, it came from not having brute strength. These new students have showed me exactly how much work it is to train someone from scratch, and exactly how far I’ve come since I began. Senior has props from me for building up my foundation well. At the same time, it’s quite frustrating when they simply don’t get something that’s so natural to me. That, and when they don’t remember… I must’ve said this several times already, since we’ve had a steady flow of new students in PKFS over the past two years. This’ll be the last time, until they get to where I am now, and I can say, ha, it only took me half that time…

I’ve improved over the summer. Slightly. I think. I recently took a break from everything. And the first day I was back, I could feel a little of the power that I had before my injury. And then, it was gone. It’s depressing. But at the same time, it means that if I work at it, I can get it back, permanently.

These days, the hottest tech item is the iBrick. I think this will be a kink in Apple’s road to success. They’re trying to be the control freaks that they’ve always been. It didn’t work with Macs. It’s not going to work with the iPhone. The iPod is not an exception. In actuality, it is the one thing that Apple didn’t lock in. The iPod supports mp3’s. If it only supported AAC, no one would’ve bought one, regardless of how “cool” it might’ve seem to have one. In order for the iPhone to reach the levels of success the iPod has, Apple needs to open it up, development-wise. Or it just won’t compete well in the marketspace Apple is targetting, i.e. mid-range, almost-smart-phone, all-in-one.

Now, the iPod Touch is real interesting. But until they slap a real HDD onto it, and maybe allow 3rd party games, it’s not worth so much as a penny in my book.

Looks like Guiliani is going to have a little trouble getting the presidency if he wins the primaries, which I’m forecasting he will win. The neocons don’t like his pro-choice stance, and they’re the ones who carried Bush in ’00 and ’04. It’s going to be a Democrat president, likely Hillary, but not necessarily. It very well could go to Obama or even Edwards. I’ve got this fantasy that the neocons are finally going to split from the Republican party that they’ve dragged down. If that happens, Democrats aren’t going to rule for long though, as the radical left elements are going to leave a bitter aftertaste in the center’s mouths, and we might even see a split of the Cali-left from the Democrats there. That might be for the best, and we might just finally end the bipartisan system that’s plagued the US government since Washington’s second term ended. Or, the neocons might realize that they won’t have a voice anymore, and somehow come back stronger than ever… Which would spell the utter demise of the US.

Finally, I’m going to point to this really cool Lego set that just came out: a scale model of the Millenium Falcon. It costs $500, and is some 3000 pieces, but it looks awesome. As soon as I have some money, I’ll be picking up one for myself.

AACS Key, DMCA, etc.

May 16, 2007

I think it’s time I weighed in on this whole AACS key debacle. The whole idiocy behind the issue is astounding. And I don’t just mean from the AACS/pro-DMCA camp either. While they are the easier target, being more in the wrong than the idiots moderating Digg or the people posting the key around, the other “sides” also share some of the blame.

Allow me to explain why I think this whole thing is retarded. The key that suddenly shot to levels of infamy that made the DeCSS code issue look trivial–a 128-bit number–is actually one step in the lengthy process of decoding a Blu-Ray and HD-DVD movie (yes, videos on both new formats use the same DRM vendor) from its encoded form into an actual standards-compliant video file. Without the decrypting process, the data on the discs would not result in a video. Unfortunately for everyone, this key–one of several–is unique to batches of discs. Or at least, that was how it should have been. For some stupid reason, every Blu-Ray and HD-DVD disc manufactured before April 23, 2007 used the same key. So in effect, at the time of its discovery, the key cracked both formats, and was advertised as such.

Here’s the problem: by the time the key became popular, it was already being deprecated. So in effect, people were circulating around a key whose use was limited to certain older releases. Which meant anyone considering buying a new player because they can now either watch the movies they downloaded online, or backup their legitmate discs, would more than likely not have that functionality anyway. Only those people who own the players and more importantly, the discs, are affected. And that’s a very small subset of people indeed.

So AACS LA and the MPAA were idiots for sending out take-down notices. After all, the logical thing would be for them to go into damage control, but since the effects are limited already, all they needed to do was cut their losses, wait for the thing to blow over, increase their security measures for their future discs (like using different processing keys in a novel manner), and that would’ve been the end of the story. Instead, they had to send out takedown notices, and get several million net denizens up in arms about the whole thing.

What Digg did was also retarded. Upon receiving the takedown notice, Digg moderators started removing any stories that linked to the key. But they went a step further. Actually, they went several steps further. Digg started quietly deleting the users whom had posted the suddenly heretical stories. As word of this got around, people began noticing a connection between this action, and a recent advertising deal. That was when Digg started deleting the comments and users who even mentioned the deletions. As things grew more and more clear about what was happening, that’s when the users started to revolt. As mentioned many times before by others, had Digg simply removed the relevant stories and posted a notice saying why, the users would have vented their anger on the DMCA backers. As it was, by not simply penalizing users without an explanation, but then penalizing the users who attempted to provide an explanation–by attempting to rewrite history–they hit a nerve, and a very sensitive one at that. The rest, as they say, is history.

The users remain clueless as usual. Most people have no idea what this key is, why it’s used, and why people were up in arms about it. Most people took a look at their neighbors (or news aggregators in this case), saw that posting the key was the “in” thing to do, and jumped on the bandwagon. Worse, the bandwagon was being driven by a bunch of anti-DMCA fanatics whom had jumped at the chance to bash the DMCA without even trying to understand what the revolt was about. Thus, most people saw the issue as if it had been a simple take-down notice. Even Digg’s retraction made it appear that way. Then most people started using the wrong parts of the DMCA to defend their actions. The more intelligent ones pointed to the DRM circumvention clauses instead of the copyright clauses. But that’s not too important, as my point still remains valid for them: the revolt came about because of censorship, not because of the DMCA, even as people railed against the DMCA.

Suddenly, we hear nothing about Digg’s attempt at censorship, at rewriting history, and everything about the evils of the DMCA. Don’t get me wrong; the DMCA is a crappy piece of legislation, its spirit against the freedoms upon which the United States were built, and worded overly broad to boot. But the revolt came about as a result of Digg trying to erase the existence of the key’s presence on the site, as well as silence anyone who knew of this. And that’s far more frightening than copyrights and circumventing protection measures. Next time, there might not be a DMCA to spearhead the rally. Next time, it might be an insignificant issue, like someone’s dog dying, or something more important like a new, cheap breast cancer medicine only because they were being sponsored by a major pharmeceutical whose primary source of revenue was from breast cancer drugs (no, unless it was an outright cure, other sites might not pick it up). Digg’s current attempt failed because internet users tend to be more technologically savvy, and aware of the evils of the DMCA, were easily able to sympathize or even empathize with the people revolting. The DMCA carried this revolt, not the true crime.

And that’s why the people revolting–the people putting the hex number on t-shirts and making a big deal out of it–that’s why they’re all idiots too.

Oh, and just for fun, I wrote this, then attempted to find the “key” in what I wrote. The bolded letters represent the key. The translation I leave to the reader. Anyone trying to figure out what the bolded letters translate into however, would be considered employing circumvention measures, and hence would be commiting a crime under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.