Sunday, March 23, 2008

Automatic - Utada Hikaru

This version is pretty different from the regular one. Someday I'll learn the piano version.. Yeah someday... :P

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My strengths and weaknesses from Facebook friends

Just received an email from Compare People, a Facebook application, which told me what my friends think about my strengths and weaknesses:
Here is what your friends think about...

... your strengths:

most absentee
best travel companion

... your weaknesses:

hardest worker
First of all, I don't see how "most absentee" is a strength. Doesn't it mean someone who like to be absent? I think that I very rarely ditch people if I say that I'll go to a dinner or meeting.

Best travel companion? No way, I always think that I'm a boring person. I may go online and play chess even if I'm at a beautiful tourist place like, Paris? (I'm not even quite sure if Paris is considered beautiful for the people who have traveled to many palces) How can I be a good travel companion?

I'm certainly a lot dumber than those very smart people I've seen such as those 3.9 if not 4.0 schoolmates at UCLA. However, I don't consider "smartness" is my weakness. To be considered a weakness, it has to be below average right? (or perhaps my friends think that I've a below-average IQ :P)

And about hardest worker. Oh man, how can that be my weakness? I don't like people who don't work hard. I admit that I'm quite harsh in this aspect but I always think that people should use their talents and time to do something good to other people, be it something as big as fighting global warming like Gore, or be it something as small as taking the kids next door to have a fun trip in a theme park. Lazy people are just not doing much good to anyone, including themselves.

Probably I should think about why I'm sending this wrong image to my friends...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Help people to help themselves

Last month I wrote an article about the difference between needing help and deserving help. Besides deciding whether a person deserves any help, how we should help him/her is also something I'd like to talk about.

I guess to most people, the definition of "help" is

Doing something to solve the problem of the person in need of help

Sounds reasonable, isn't it?

Yes, it's reasonable, but it's incomplete. If I'm to define what "help" is, I'd define it as

Doing something to solve the problem of the person in need of help AND educate/empower him/her so that s/he can solve the problem him/herself next time

This is true in most cases. I say most cases because for some problems you just have to help the person solving it repeatedly: helping a blind person to cross the road, lifting a person in wheelchair up the stairs when there's no accessible route, you get the idea.

Without educating the person so that s/he can help him/herself next time, you'll have to help them over and over again. Isn't that not so effective (repeated effort) and reliable (for some reason you can't help him/her next time, e.g. you're sick)?

I always admire doctors who participate in organization like Doctors Without Borders to help people in developing countries. Not only do they have to give up their high paying job, they also have to risk their own health since the places they go to may have disease transmitting around.

However, I always wonder, are they also helping those people to help themselves? Are they establishing some kind of schools or programs so that local doctors can be trained? Are they educating the people so that they know how to prevent the disease in the first place?

If they're doing these, it's good. Otherwise, if one day there isn't any doctor who's willing to volunteer to help people in those poor countries, the mortal rates will rise again. It's just not solving the problem at the root.

Think about it, if you empower the people you help to help themselves in the future, they can in turn help other people with similar problems and thus spreading the effort exponentially. Life is just too short for effort to be spent on the same problem the second time.

So, next time you help someone out, why don't you ask yourself: am I helping him/her to help him/herself next time? :P

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

孤獨探戈 (Lonely Tango) - Phoebus Chan

Have been watching lots of Phoebus' videos lately, really love the strength he exerts on the keys! Hope that I can see his performance live sometimes :)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A little catch for filing tax online in California

Not until recently did I realize that not all my friends know how to file tax online (if you're happy with paper, don't bother to read this). Because of this, I would like to share with you a little catch on this.

To file your federal tax, you should try to use Free File provided by IRS. As long as your adjusted gross income is less than or equal to $54,000 in 2007, you can file your federal tax for free. After clicking "Start Now!" on that Free File page, you will need to choose from a list of tax preparation companies. I've been using TaxCut from H&R Block and it worked pretty well. (TaxCut also requires you to be 50 years age or younger and TurboTax requires you to be on active military service. If these requirements don't work for you, you may want to choose some other tax preparation company from that list)

Now, the catch is that you should NOT also use those tax preparation companies to file your California state tax (they'll charge you to file state tax). Instead, use CalFile. Of course, you have to satisfy their requirements to use it but most likely you do.

If you know some other smart ways to file tax, please leave a comment :)

Monday, March 3, 2008

歲月如歌 (The Past Years are like a Song) - Eason Chan

I really like one line of the lyrics
但你手 如明日便要遠離 願你可以 留下共我曾愉快的憶記
Translated that into English, it means
If you are leaving me tomorrow, I hope that you will remember the happy moments I once shared with you
I once heard someone said that human beings are very good at torturing themselves: whenever they're idle and have nothing to do, they'll usually recall the sad memories. Why don't we think of the happy things instead? :P