Friday, March 30, 2007

Los Angeles to Paris the Swimming Way

Man, I didn't expect that I'll update my new software blog so soon again, but I'm so excited: just found that I can get directions from Los Angeles to Paris through Google Maps! Here's how you can get there

The total distance of the whole trip is 6,567 miles and it will take 30 days and 23 hours. The most interesting part is that Google Maps advises me to swim across the Atlantic Ocean:

I knew Google Maps gives you the shortest distance between two locations but I didn't know that it tries to save money for you too! As gas prices continue to rise, it probably isn't that bad an idea to swim 3,462 miles. And it's some good exercise for a developer too :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Remind yourself to take a break with Scirocco Take a Break

Alright, my first review of software. Scirocco Take a Break is a wonderful little piece of desktop software that remind you to take a break from you busy work. If have kind of mentioned it when I talked about office ergonomics in my personal weblog but I think it is worth it to mention it here again. The following in the main interface of the software:

The interface is pretty self-explanatory. It will count down from the a time period that you set in the Preferences dialog. Once the time is up, a window will pop up to remind you to take a break:

When this happens, you can either ask it to remind you later (after some time it will pop up again), take a break (recommended!), or stop the timer. Unless you are really doing some urgent (like negotiating a 50-million deal with a Fortune 500 company), you SHOULD take a break. How long should the break be? I'd say at least 30 seconds. You should have enough time to rest you eyes, twist your neck, or stand up and walk around. You can configure many settings at the Preferences dialog:

Here you can set the time period between your breaks, the length of your break time, how long it should wait before it reminds you again after you click "Remind Later", how many times to remind you, etc. Oh, I think it's better to "Lock Workstation" if you're working on sensitive data and going to leave your desk during the break. And I think it's good to "Start Timer On Launch" since you may forget to do so if you've a busy morning.

Guys, there's no excuse saying that you're so busy that you can't take a 30-second break unless you're a firefighter trying to save people. Watch your health, it's your greatest asset :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What do you like to read?

Since I started blogging at this site in October last year, there are probably some regular readers of my weblog. As you can tell from the description of my blog: Alex's random thoughts on miscellaneous stuff in his life, my weblog doesn't really have a specific topic. I just wrote about anything that I liked to talk about.

It feels free to write about any topic, but I also would like to know what you actually like to read. Anything you like/dislike about my weblog, I'd appreciate so much if you would leave me a comment. I'll reply to all comments and you can leave a comment anonymously if you don't feel comfortable disclosing your identity. Thanks a lot and I hope I can get some voices :)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

La La La Love Song

I will never get tired of listening to this song. Someday I will play the piano version of it and post it on YouTube.. :)
Updated 1/1/2008: I've finally posted my playing on YouTube, here it is

Saturday, March 24, 2007

My weblog is AnswerTips-enabled now

Just found this cool feature at yesterday: at a AnswerTips-enabled website, one can double-click on any word and a bubble of information about that word will pop up. Very handy whenever you see some word you're not sure what it actually means. Oh well, I don't really use any SAT or GRE verbal words here on my weblog (because I don't know any), but I guess it's still cool to have this feature :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"I want to get to that island" problem

This is one of the fun logic problems that I encountered when I was still in high school. If you are from Hong Kong most likely you have heard of it already. Here you go:

There is a family on one island. For some reason, they want to get to another island which can be reached by a boat. The family is consisted of
  • Dad
  • Mom
  • Two sons
  • Two daughters
  • A servant
  • A dog
They only have one boat, which can accommodate two people (the dog is treated as a person here). Among the family members, only Dad, Mom and the servant know how to ride the boat. No one knows how to swim (including the dog). The family members must leave the boat once they reach an island, even though they may immediately go on the boat again. Now, there could be some killing actions among the family members:
  • If Dad is not present, Mom will beat the two sons to death.
  • If Mom is not present, Dad will beat the two daughters to death.
  • If the servant is not present, the dog will bite all the people to death.
The killing can happen on the boat or any of the two islands. Now, how should we move all the family members to another island such that no person (including the dog) dies?

If you know the answer already, keep quiet! If you don't, have fun :)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sun Flowers - Yundi Li

I remember when I went to Yundi's recital back in 2001, Sun Flowers was one of the pieces of his encore performance. An energetic and lovely piano piece :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bad Ad - Part II

Around two weeks ago, I talked about spam email. Obviously, spam email isn't the only kind of bad ad in this world. As a matter of fact, they don't really bother me: Gmail effectively filters out 99% of them, so they don't even have a chance to reach my inbox. There IS some ad that really bothers me though.

As I mentioned in an old post, I listen to the Mark and Brian radio program every morning on my way to UCLA. There is an ad about a LASIK doctor named Charles that drives me nuts. Whoever designed the ad should be tortured by listening to the ad 100 times a day for a year. Why do I hate the ad so much? Here's why:
  • The ad claims that Charles is the best. This is ultimate bullshit. Any ad that says that their product or service is the best is bullshit. What do you mean by the "best"? In what ways? You're the best because your patient never complains? Or you're the best because you use cutting edge LASIK technology? And, how do you know that you're the best? The ad says that Charles is the best in the west coast. Alright, tell me, how many LASIK doctors are there in west coast? Have you compared every LASIK doctor in the west coast with Charles? If not, do you just think that you're the best? I mean, even an elementary school student would know that it is nonsense. Or they're targeting preschool students??

  • The ad refers other LASIK doctors as "cheap LASIK guys". Yeah, the guy in the ad says something like
    "Do you think that I'll use the service from those cheap LASIK guys? No way, no one should touch my eyes, no one should touch your eyes except Charles"
    Alright, even if you're the best, you don't refer to your competitors as "cheap" people. You want to beat your competitors and get their business, but it doesn't mean that you would disrespect them. Insulting your competitors only hurts your reputation and drives your customers away.

  • The ad repeatedly says that there're only 27 free exams. And the problem is that the ad is broadcasted everyday. It says something like
    "There're only 27 exams for 27 listeners, so you must call NOW"
    Monday, there're 27 exams. Tuesday, there're 27 exams. Friday, there're still 27 exams. What does that tell me? Two possibilities:

    • No one is taking their free exams
    • The number 27 is total bullshit

    If the first possibility is true, they're idiots because they tell the listeners that no single person is interested in taking their exam. If the second possibility is true, they're assuming that we're idiots since they think that the listeners won't be smart enough to figure out the number 27 is bogus. Either way, they're still idiots.

  • The ad repeats their 1(877) numbers 3 times in a row. I know you want the listeners to remember your number so that they may call you to take one of your 27 exams. But, do you know that your ad is broadcasted at almost the exact same time every morning? So, the people who're not interested in doing LASIK are forced to remember a series of meaningless numbers, and, the worst thing is, some dork shouts these numbers to them at least 3 times a day (sometimes the ad is broadcasted more than once in the morning). God, if some dumbass is interested in taking your eye exam, he has the ability to remember it even if you mention it once.
This ad irritates me to that point that I would switch my car stereo system to CD mode for one minute just to avoid listening to it. All the ad designers/producers, would you please
  1. Don't be an idiot
  2. Don't assume that your potential customers are idiots
  3. Respect your competitors
  4. Respect your potential customers' privacy
Mark and Brian, if you're reading this, would you take off this ad somehow? (-___- )

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hilarious Indian Music Video

Another fabulous Indian MV. Really appreciate th creativity on their dancing moves :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Disorder in American Courts

Got this email about some hilarious conversations that happened in American courts, have a laugh :)
ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.

ATTORNEY: What is your date of birth?
WITNESS: July 18th.
ATTORNEY: What year?
WITNESS: Every year.

ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: How old is your son, the one living with you?
WITNESS: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can't remember which.
ATTORNEY: How long has he lived with you?
WITNESS: Forty-five years.

ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, 'Where am I, Cathy?'
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan.

ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-one-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: Uh, he's twenty-one.

ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Would you repeat the question?

ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?

ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?

ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?

ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.

ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.

ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?

ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!

ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?

And the best for last

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Bad Ad - Part I

Sometimes I really don't understand what's going on in the minds of the people who design and market advertisement. Quite a number of ads/ways that they use to market their ads are not only ineffective but annoying. I always think that there must be trust between a customer and a seller for business to happen. Bad ads actually destroy trust, let alone building it.

Spam email

Whenever I see a spam email somehow manages to creep through the spam filter and get into my inbox, I'll mark it as spam and remove it at top speed, usually within 2 to 3 seconds. There's no way I'll ever read their content. Yeah I do have to skim the email title to tell that it's a spam, but usually this won't make me remember its product/service name. Even if I do remember its product/service name, there's no way I'll ever do any business with them just because their unprofessional act (sending spam).

Some friend told me that spammers still spam people's email accounts because spamming is very cheap. Even if a few of the "victims" do business with them, it'll compensate the cost of spamming. If this is true, that's very sad. Just because a few dorks decide to do business with the spammers all people in this world have to be annoyed by spam everyday. Come on guys, why the heck can you trust spammers? If you don't trust them, how can you give them your money?

Because of this post, I actually took a look at what those spam emails are selling. Here's what I found:
  • Viagra
  • Viagra
  • Viagra
  • Viagra
  • Some-stock-will-go-up news
I just can't imagine any human being will dare buying drugs online from complete strangers, and I also can't imagine any human being will trust that some stock price really will go up because some complete strangers say so. Or these ads are targeted for mentally retarded in the first place?? If that's the case, the spammers are actually targeting people who're mentally retarded enough to buy drugs from strangers but not so mentally retarded that they don't know how to use electronic mail. How ridiculous does that sound?

To all spammers: in case you don't know, many email services such as Yahoo! Mail and Gmail are capable of filtering 99% of the spam. If you've time to figure out how to get around the spam filters, why don't you use your time doing some meaningful stuff, such as improving your products/services (if you actually have one) or using some other advertising means such as having a healthy and updated blog? (If you've problem finding an example, look at the blog at 37signals)

If you choose to continue spamming, may God damn you :)