Thursday, April 30, 2009

Trouble with my new wireless router

I guess I'm not that tech savvy because I couldn't get my new SMC Barracuda N wireless router to work. My furnished temporary housing has a cable modem, but I don't want to be tethered to it so I bought a wireless router. I would need one for my new house anyhow. I followed the instructions, but my laptop is obviously not the computer used to configure the modem so I think that may be what is causing the problem. The router is able to connect to the modem, but I can't seem to connect to the router. Hmmm...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The decline of the US

For some reason, I was thinking about this topic early this morning before deciding to get up. I get up pretty early during the week so it's hard not to get up early on the weekend no matter how late I stay up. The US may still lead the world in cultural and entertainment exports, but is falling behind in technology and innovation. Capitalism is well and good, and I still feel it's the only system that "works," but the US has turned into a nation of consumers. We are more obsessed with buying stuff than learning and are content with our currently attainable standard of living. The movie Idiocracy is going to be more prophetic than farcical in the medium-term future. We will soon enter a post-literate society as schools pump out kids who can text like crazy, but can't add two numbers in their heads because they can either do that on their computers or find a nerd.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what precipitated this decline, but I think it would be when the US transitioned from trying to create a better life to trying to acquire more "stuff." "Stuff" will definitely be the end of us. It may be trite, but necessity is definitely the mother of invention. Sure, some people are poor, but most of them are poor in a relative sense. They still own cars, TVs and have $50/month cell phone plans. There no longer seems to be a great pressure towards improving the standard of living. Once that pressure is gone, you tend to relax and try to enjoy a leisurely life. I don't think we're biologically wired to be leisurely. We evolved (or were created if you believe in that) to scavenge for food and to avoid our predators. We developed big brains to distinguish good food from bad and safe animals from the dangerous. Now that we've conquered our planet, we no longer need to struggle. Once the struggle is gone, the focus is lost. I think that's a better way to put it: the US is no longer focused on anything other than making money expressly to buy crap that we don't really need. Few people seem interested in learning. There is much to do in this life and I think we waste it sitting in front of the TV (sports excluded).

You need to look no further than MTV/VH1. I don't think I've seen a music video on either channel in years. They're now populated with bullshit reality shows with C list celebrities or people who are famous simply for being famous. If you watch a show on either channel, you'll see the future of this country/world and you'll weep. Semi-literate knuckleheads vie for the attention of a bland and generic looking chick whose only endearing quality is that she might put out. 20-something washouts compete in contrived competition in order to push sugary industrial chemicals and more crap that reduces our quality of life.

Another indication of the upcoming collapse is Twitter. I know a lot of people use it and I'm sure it is useful in certain situations, but reducing our social interactions to one-line sound bites is not good for us. There used to be real discourse in this country, but that was slowly replaced by sound-bites and sensationalism. Journalism ceased to be about reporting the news and devolved into generating the news in order to make money. Why is it so damn important to make money that we have to sacrifice our principles? What are we going to do with it? As I've written before, stuff rarely makes us happy. Sure, watching the Super Bowl on my 50" HDTV is pretty damn cool, but it's not going to improve my life overall. Once sound-bites and sensationalism took over, discourse disappeared and context was lost. People are a product of their enviroment, which is why you never use baby-talk around babies, so if you're exposed to one-line zingers, you'll lose the skill of critical thinking.

I don't know if people read less these days, but it seems like it. We have become reactors instead of actors and it's sad. I don't know if technology development has slowed down, but I think so given that I was laid off earlier this year along with many others. If you walk down the halls of engineering departments in the US, you see less and less home-grown Americans. I don't know if it's because engineering and science isn't cool or because they don't think it makes you that much money. "Oh man, I can't go to school for six more years to get my PhD."

The worst part of it for me is that I'm no longer angry about this decline. I've reached the acceptance portion and that saddens me. I wish more people would get upset and the direction this country is headed. Obama might make a difference, but it may be too little too late. We need to deemphasize money, but that won't happen in a depression. Of course, that depression happened because people got greedy. Lawmakers removed regulation in the interest of "free spirit" which really means they were wined and dined. People thought they could get rich quickly by flipping houses. When has a shortcut every worked? How many people have gotten rich without putting in hard work? Ok, ignore dumbasses like Donald Trump who inherited money. Most people that we revere in industry got there by hard work. Sure, luck played a big part, but hard work is necessary.

What can we do? I would firstly suggest that we boycott MTV/VH1 and any other network that shows trash. Stop consuming for the sake of consuming. Ask yourself if what you're going to buy is really going to improve your life. If not, then you don't need it. Wait until a holiday to get it. If you still want it then, great. I guess I'm suggesting not to make life too easy. Don't give in to every whim and add in some struggle. Pick an area where your background is weak and try to improve it. Pick up a sport or activity that you have always wanted to try. Mainly, turn off the damn TV. It should be a reward for accomplishing something during the day or a way to unwind at the end of a hard day. It shouldn't be a big part of your life. If you watch less TV, you'll be exposed to less advertisements which should lead to less consumption. We can all do more with less.

Fitness update

I took my weekly body composition measurements and am up to nearly 200 lbs, hopefully just due to that big ass dinner I had last night - a Badass burrito along with an order of wings. My body fat has been holding steady around 29% because I haven't done much aerobic activity. Jumping rope for a few minutes each morning is good for getting the heart rate up, but isn't nearly enough to shift my metabolism. I ate much better this week (until last night) and I do feel leaner. I think the weather has taken a turn for the better so, once my blisters healed, I can get back to some outdoor activities.

Thoughts on Houston 86, Portland 83

Gah. Portland had a chance to win this game, but Steve Blake inexplicably took a rushed three with 16 seconds left with dudes all over him and airballed it. He later hit a three, but Portland really needed a better shot on that possession. Portland played a good second half, but dug too deep of a hole in the first half.

I liked Portland's defense on Yao. He had just seven points and they were all in the first quarter. Portland fronted him with Przybilla and Oden and shut him down on the offensive end. He still rebounded and blocked shots on the defensive end though.

Portland played pretty good defense, but shot poorly. Houston is a bad matchup for Portland because they play great team defense. Portland took too many outside shots and wasn't very aggressive.

Portland better win on Sunday. It's on NBA TV so I'm not sure how I can watch it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The mortgage guy got back to me with pretty good news. I only need to put 3.5% down and then have another $4-5k for closing costs because of a generous tax credit from the government. Sweet. I'm trying to keep my down payment around $10k so that limits me to a $285k house. It some parts of the country, that consigns you to the ghetto, but I can get a great place around here for that kind of scratch. The bad news is that my temporary housing will expire in two weeks and my new company won't pay much to extend me. I don't really blame them, but furnished temporary housing is fairly expensive so I'm going to try to find a place as quickly as possible. I still need to make sure to do the correct amount of research, but I don't think I need to spend a long time looking for the "perfect home." No place is going to be perfect and I don't mind putting a little bit of time and effort in later to spruce it up. I now know where to look around here so that's helped narrow my search and I also decided that I'd like to have at least a 0.25 acre lot.

I didn't get my fat incidental check with today's paycheck, but I'll get it with the next one in two weeks. No big deal. I'll have to pay a lot of tax on it, but I can recover some of that next year. Once I get my paycheck I need to call up Fidelity to set up my 401k. I'm going to contribute quite a bit to lower AGI. I haven't contributed jack-diddly to my 401k this year and that's going to be a big chunk of my retirement money.

The weather was pretty crappy today, but it's supposed to be 80 over the weekend. My blisters haven't quite healed so no hiking for me this weekend, but maybe I'll go look at some houses. I want to check out the neighborhoods in the areas that I found to make sure that they're alright. I don't want to live in white trash central.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I got my car back.

I returned my rental whoride and got my whip. It's dirty as all get up though, but it should rain in the next day or so.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hiking in the Lake George Preserve

Yesterday was my first hike with the Hiking Mates, a group I found on Meetup. We went up north to the Lake George Preserve and hiked up to both Thomas and Cat Mountains. I had a great time. The hike was just the right length, about 8 miles, and the weather was good. We had lunch at the top of Cat Mountain which is nice and flat and the sun even came out. I didn't bring enough food, but fortunately people in the group gave me a little bit more. I guess next time I'll bring more than just a small sandwich and some dried cranberries.

I took some pictures, but didn't bring camera to USB cable so I can't download them. I thought I had put it aside separately, but maybe I meant to and never got around to it. Weak. I can buy another cable, but I don't want to buy something I already own.

We saw a porcupine on the way from Thomas to Cat Mountain. He was just waddling around, but didn't like us so he started to climb a tree. I didn't know they could do that, but they can. I took a video with my Flip Mino. The quality is poor, but I don't care.

I took another video from the top of Cat Mountain where we had lunch.

I made sure to hike fast enough to keep my heart rate up so I was well ahead of most of the group, but I would drop back now and then to talk with people. That's sort of the point so I need to remember. The trail was not broken in and was hard to find in some places. I got a couple of blisters on my heels, but I think I now know how to prevent them. I need to wear a pair of polypropylene or nylon socks underneath my wool ones and I need to put some petroleum jelly on my toes and heels to help reduce friction which is what causes blisters in the first place. Lesson learned and I'll be better prepared next time.

I want to do more hikes with the group, but the "good" ones fill up fast. My goal is to go at least once a month, but I'm not sure that's going to happen.

Fitness update

I managed to jump rope every morning for as long as I could, but I bought some crap at the grocery store since I went when I was hungry. I know not to do that, but it's hard. I also went without a list which is even stupider as the list keeps you focused.

Anyhow, I managed to drop four pounds over last week with the body fat percentage staying the same. Not too shabby. I need to do more than just jump roping, but my stuff is in storage and I've only been here a week. It'll take me some time to find a routine.

I did go on an 8 mile hike yesterday which was cool and got my heart rate up so that should have helped.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Medium-sized decision

I've decided to buy a house out here. There aren't many houses for rent and those that are, suck ass. There are thousands of houses for sale and now is a good time to buy. Interest rates are below 5% and I can get an FHA loan which means I only need to front 3%. You can get a pretty decent house (~1500 sq feet, 3 bed/2 bath) with all the fixin's for less than $300k. That means I only need to front about $9k and my mortgage payment would be around $1500/month. Not too shabby. I'm hoping that my new company will pay for me to stay in temporary housing long enough, but if not, I can pay. I think it takes something like 30 days to close on a house so I better get crackin'.

Oh yeah, I also heard that you can get a tax credit of 10%, up to $8k, if you buy before the end of the year. That should give me a couple thousand back next year and I'll get to start deducting mortgage insurance as well. Sweet tits for sure. I know it's a big step, but I should take advantage of this soft market and it'll be good for me psychologically. I even found one place that comes with 25 acres. That would be super sweet. I'd have a park in my own backyard. Maybe I could lease it out so that someone could farm it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ramblings on a Tuesday

I forgot to mention in my previous post that I'm going through a bit of culture shock here because Albany is white like bread. Even at work, there are mostly white people. Contrast this situation to the Bay Area where no one ethnicity is a majority in engineering.

One new colleague thought I was an intern though it turns out we're the same age. I'm not sure if Indian people have trouble telling how old white people are or if I just look young. Maybe I just look young because a high school chick tried to pick me up on my flight out of Albany after my interview trip.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ramblings on an Easter Sunday

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it. I'm not religious at all, but I thought I would at least pass out some greetings.

Today is my second full day in the Albany area. I got here Friday night and am staying in some temporary housing, Riverwalk on the Hudson in Cohoes, NY. It's pretty decent and more importantly, is furnished. I thought I was getting only a 1 bed/1 bath, but it's two of each. It's overkill, but nothing says that I have to fully use the place. The layout is good except you can't quite get natural light into the dining room.

I made a video walking through the place:

It has a dishwasher and a washer and dryer so I'm all set.

It's a bit strange being in an area and not knowing anyone, but I guess it's up to me to meet some new friends. I've been a little lonely this weekend and got depressed because I might not see some of the people left behind in CA again. Super weak.

To get some exercise today, I took a walk north through Peebles State Park and into Waterford, NY. Waterford is at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers and the Erie Canal system starts near there as well. The town seems hit hard by the recession or maybe it's always a bit junky. I saw a lot of older American cars which are pretty common away from big cities because they're cheap as all getup.

I took some videos along the way from my complex, the park and a couple of bridges. It was cold and windy out, which is something that'll take a while to get used to since I've spent the last two plus years in NorCal.

I took all these videos with my Flip Mino. It's handy, but the quality is just ok. Well, maybe the quality is a bit better than ok, but my cinematography skills are not up to par.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fitness update

I don't have Excel on my netbook, but I do have Star Office. Unfortunately, it's a little different than Excel so I'm not sure how to add points to graphs. That means no new fatass graphs until I move to a new place and get my stuff. That's alright.

Anyhow, I weighed myself for the first time here in NY and I'm at about 200 lbs with about 29% body fat. I'm not sure if the body fat increase is real or a product of the new place (the measurement is sensitive to humidity and all that). It doesn't matter because I know I need to get into shape regardless of the numbers.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Natural Pepsi

I was in the store a couple of nights ago and saw a display for Natural Pepsi. It's Pepsi, but made with real sugar and other natural ingredients. I got some and tried it out. It tastes a lot like Pepsi, but better. It's a bit milder. It's still too sweet, but Pepsi has always been like that. Unfortunately, caffeine messes me up something fierce, but it was interesting to try. I bet more companies are going to go back to natural ingredients since people are starting get more health conscious.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Visiting my parents in Santa Cruz

My parents are down in the area for a short vacation and to see me before I head back east. They spent the first night in San Jose, but are spending the rest of their time near Santa Cruz. I drove down yesterday to visit. They're staying at the Chaminade Resort which has some hiking trails on its grounds so my dad and I went for a walk yesterday:

After that, we all went to Santa Cruz for lunch at El Palomar. I had a shrimp burrito (burrito de camarones) that was pretty tasty. We then drove to Capitola and walked around the beach for about half an hour. Santa Cruz is full of college kids and old white guys with long hair and long beards.

The weather was great, but I forgot to take either camera with me to the beach.

Fitness update

Wow. I thought I was doing well this week. I rode the exercise bike three times for twenty minutes each session and I walked/hiked at least a few miles three times. Somehow I gained four pounds, but I guess some of it was muscle because I reduced my body fat by nearly a whole percentage point. My parents are in town so I've been eating well for sure.

I guess I don't care too much where the weight ends up as long as I can drop the body fat down.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thoughts on Portland 107, Oklahoma City 72

Not much to say about this game. Portland came to play and put OKC away early. Aldridge had a huge night with 35 points and 18 boards. I didn't think Green would be big enough to stop him and I was right. OKC has some good players (Durant, Westbrook, Green, etc.), but have a lot of new players thanks to some late season trades. They need a training camp to work those dudes into the system so I think they'll be more competitive next season. They also have a lot of first round draft picks which they can use to pick up young guys or to get solid veterans.

Portland's defense did well and held OKC to 37% from the field. Portland outrebounded OKC 57-32 and had 21 offensive rebounds so Portland almost grabbed more rebounds at their end than OKC.

Portland definitely picked a great time in the year to put together some solid games. Hopefully it'll carry through into the playoffs.

Random thoughts on a Friday

It's sort of hard for me to enjoy the nice weather here (sunny, high 60's/low 70's) since I'm flying out to Albany in exactly one week. I don't have to pack my stuff up since the movers will do that, but I still need to get my stuff organized. I'm going to be living in temporary housing for the rest of this month so most of my stuff will be stored until I find a more permanent place to live. That means I'll be living out of two and a half suitcases for about three weeks. I'll be busy getting adjusted to my new job and the new location so I don't think I'll need too much stuff, but it'll be weird for sure.

When I moved out to CA I moved with someone. Now I'm moving out to NY by myself and it's a little saddening. I've made some great friends out here and nearly all of my family is on the West Coast. I don't think I have any family east of Chicago, but I'm not sure. Oh well. I'll make some new friends out there.

The good news is that I get to move there during the spring rather than the winter. It's been a long time since I've driven in snow.

My parents are in the area to see me for the last time for a while and I've met up with them twice so far. We went out to eat to Dish Dash in Sunnyvale for dinner Wednesday night and then drove up to see my cousins in Oakland yesterday morning. I'll drive over to Santa Cruz today since that's where they're staying. They knew that I wouldn't be able to hang out with them all the time so they decided to stay somewhere more interesting than Silicon Valley. I don't blame them and the weather is definitely cooperating.

I'm using my new EEE PC to bang out this drivel because it's going to be my only computer this month so I want to get used to it. It doesn't have a lot of oomph, but will allow me to surf the internet and check e-mail. My temporary housing is furnished so hopefully there'll be a TV there with a DVD player. If not, I can watch movies on this computer though the screen is small and the speakers are a little tinny.

I've been much more active this week because I'm trying to get back into shape. I want to be as healthy as possible to live as long as possible. Not only am I terrified of death, but I want to live a quality life for as long as possible. When I'm old, I don't want to be bedridden. Of course, who knows what medical advances will be around in 50 years so maybe I don't need to worry. Maybe there'll be a magic pill that I can take to rejuvenate. Heh. I think I've been reading too many science fiction books, but it's cool to think about that kind of stuff.

It'll be good to start making money again, but I've realized that I try to use stuff to make me happy. I think I've read that people are happy when their needs are met rather than their wants. We're always yearning for more so it's not possible to satisfy all of our wants so, if we try, then we'll just be disappointed. I also have the problem where I'm not easily satisfied; I'm always wanting more and it's frustrating. I think I need to get rid of some of my clutter or at least focus more on activities that I enjoy. I'll use my newfound wealth to get out of debt, to travel and to save for the future. Most Americans have a low rate of savings and, in some cases, it's negative. Not cool. These thoughts started perlocating because I started reading Gregg Easterbrook's The Progress Paradox. The book is pretty tedious and I've had it for more than two years, but haven't been able to get more than halfway through it. He does raise an interesting question: why are people less satisfied now with all the progress we've made than ever? One of his hypotheses is that our needs have been easily met since few of us has to really struggle for food and shelter. Since we don't need to work hard to meet our needs we take them for granted which means we start to focus on our wants. As I mentioned above, those are never going to be fully satisfied so we're always left with a bad taste in our mouths. I've got a lot of cool stuff, but somehow I feel like I want more. Maybe if people lived in smaller housing, then they wouldn't want so much that they spend themselves into bankruptcy. If you have a 3000 sq foot house, then you'll want to fill it because no one likes to live in an empty house. I'm not sure how to encourage people to live in smaller houses...hmmm...maybe a dwelling tax based on sq feet with no tax below a certain amount...maybe 1500 sq feet? That would exempt most apartments which would reduce the red tape. I'm a big fan of stiff consequences rather than banning. If you want to build a big ass McMansion, I'm not going to stop you, but you're going to have to pay for it. It's kind of like how I don't believe in fuel economy standards, but would rather the government assess a heavy tax on gas. We should try to minimize limiting people's choices.

I've been trying to get up early each morning to get on more of an East Coast schedule. I know that I'm going to be jetlagged next week, but I'll only have a weekend in which to recover so I'd like to minimize it. It's going to be hard enough going back to work after a nearly-three month absence.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thoughts on Portland 125, Utah 104

Portland and Utah were tied in the standings coming in to tonight's game, but Portland has made the Rose Garden a tough place to play. Portland jumped all over Utah early in the first quarter, gave up some of the lead in the second and then put it away in the third quarter. The fourth quarter was mostly garbage time. The game was a bit strange with Boozer and Przybilla both getting ejected without gettin' ornery and Sloan was tossed for arguing a stupid foul. This game was poorly officiated which is saying something in one of the worst officiated seasons in memory.

Portland had great ball movement which led to 32 assists on 47 makes. Roy had another "quiet" game with 25 points, 11 assists and 6 boards. Blake had 9 assists, Aldridge had 26 points, Batum had 17 points, Przy had 9 boards, Outlaw had 17 points and Oden scored 12 points, grabbed 8 boards and blocked two shots in only 11 minutes. Portland shot 62% for the game.

On the downside, Rodriguez shoots too much from the outside. His shot is flat and not very accurate. He should concentrate on driving and dishing. He's good at that and should stick to it. He needs to bulk up a little to keep guards out of the paint.

Utah is a terrible road team, but it's still a great win.