Entries for September, 2005

I keep seeing references to this since gas prices are soaring... don't top off your gas tank! Topping off your gas tank does NOTHING at all; the extra gas does not go into your tank for usage! The EPA has a pretty crappy website made in Microsoft Word using clipart about it, but I remember a report on this topic back in high school ... it's just not smart.

Posted by roy on August 31, 2005 at 07:40 PM in Ramblings | 3 Comments

this is getting tiresome.

Currently feeling: frustrated
Posted by roy on August 31, 2005 at 11:27 PM in Ramblings | 3 Comments

A few nights ago, I went to pick up Borst and Neeraj so we could have dinner with Konrad at Pao Lim. As I pulled out of my driveway, I heard a loud THUMP (over Tupac's lyricism) from the front of my car. A bit worried, I drove around the cul-de-sac to see if the car was still working ok. Everything seemed ok...

The air-conditioning in my car has never worked; an attempt to get the A/C fixed during my car inspection failed, but I'm largely apathetic because I like driving with my windows down anyways.

In any case, after the *THUMP*, my air-conditioning has been working perfectly. How often does a bad sound yield good things in cars?

Posted by roy on September 1, 2005 at 01:16 PM in Ramblings | 7 Comments

It's been a sobering few days. I've withheld posting on the hurricane, because honestly, I feel a huge disconnect with the realities of the situation; I can only read the blogs and watch CNN and see the horror unfolding before my eyes. Part of me just think it's another TV show ... but then I realize the reality and my mood just swings into a totally depressive state.

Once I organize all my thoughts I'll post something on everything ... although I'm totally not qualified to :)

If you want first-hand accounts of what's happening that seems to be quite contrary to everything being "under control," take a read here. Completely fascinating.

. . .

On a much lighter note, a few of my friends wanted to know what t-shirt could incur the wrath. I figure for posterity, I should post some pictures of the t-shirt.

This is also a chance for me to engage in some subtle vanity, knowing my awesome picture will be seen by maybe two people.

Remember, this was the original design:

Here is a semi-closeup of it:

And here is yours truly, looking quite constipated (although I meant to look EXCITED!


Note to self: Having a little sister is cool cause you can steal her shades and take totally RAD pictures with it.

Edit: If you can identify the title of the book that appears at the bottom of that picture of me looking dorky, you win a free t-shirt! Hint: It has to do with web development.

Posted by roy on September 1, 2005 at 10:30 PM in Ramblings | 22 Comments

I'm always one paycheck away from financial stability, and that is the curse of the young professional.

Posted by roy on September 3, 2005 at 02:03 PM in Personal | 10 Comments

I just felt really proud. While working on the next version of Tabulas, one of the recurring issues that I've kept swaying back and forth is how to handle the output of entries.

As far as I'm concerned, showing "X" entries per page is a broken method. There is no consistency in the dating, and you lose the logical grouping that one page view shows. Furthermore, it makes permalinking entries ridiculously hard; what if you want to create a link to a group of entries from a certain day? Or what if you want to span them over a few days? You can't do this with the current system, and this is a problem with not just Tabulas, but other journaling platforms.

It boils down to the simple fact that http://www.tabulas.com/~roy/next5.html is simply not user-friendly.

So what I've been doing is going the route of Wordpress and MT and using dates to logically group entries. For example, my 2005 archives would show up at: http://www.tabulas.com/~roy/2005/. Break it down even further to: http://www.tabulas.com/~roy/2005/08/ (all my August entries), or even better: http://www.tabulas.com/~roy/2005/08/23/ (show all entries from the 23rd of August). Grouping them into multiple dates: http://www.tabulas.com/~roy/2005/08/23-21/ (show all entries from the 21st of August to the 23rd of August).

One small problem is how to group entries that cross between months and years; I'm thinking of something like: http://www.tabulas.com/~roy/2005/09/01/-/2005/08/23/ (show all entries from the 23rd of August to the first of September). I'll figure it out later.

So it's all handy-dandy. The problem that I was having was generating the "next date" and "previous date" links. We cannot assume that the person posts every day, and I'm trying to miminize the DB hits. I've learned the hard way that mySQL does not like: SELECT entry_id FROM entry WHERE entry_user_id = 'me' AND entry_timestamp > (whatever date) ORDER BY entry_timestamp ASC LIMIT 1. (AFAIK, this is how I would have to select the next progressed entry_id based on incrementally increasing the timestamp of a value, but I could be wrong. Please enlighten me)

This is great, except when certain users (like myself) have 1200 entries, and I have to run this query twice (once for the next date, and one for the previous date). I did quick benchmarks on it, and immediately discarded as a solution.

I remember a few weeks ago Neeraj and I were discussing the concept of "linked lists." I never took a programming class at Carolina, so I'm a bit hazy on the basics (my boss had to explain to me the difference between an array, a dictionary, and a hash because I got them all confused since JS and PHP sorta merge them all into one general concept) ... and this seems to be one of the situations where knowing the basics can help you with your problems.

The basic solution I hacked out over the last hour (which seems to be the right, although my sleep-deprived brain could be playing tricks on me) is simply to create a linked list in PHP of entry_id matched to entry_timestamp values (entry_timestamp stored as a UNIX timestamp). I can then set the internal pointer of the array to the displayed entry, then simply run a next() and prev() to grab the prev/next entry timestamp.

The serialized linked list is stored in the DB; serialized it can be kinda big (which is bad if mySQL has to push like 30KB worth of metadata per page request), but since I've written a basic wrapper that essentially takes big blocks of text and stores them in compressed BINARY form, the size of the serialized list is only 10KB for me (and I'm a boundary case).

You CS dorks, I'm sure you're cringing at how horribly I'm solving a pretty basic problem. Apologies. Sometimes I wonder how Tabulas manages to run at all.

Let's hope I wake up tomorrow and I don't realize how stupid this solution is.

Posted by roy on September 6, 2005 at 12:25 AM in Web Development, Tabulas | 5 Comments

Losing love. Losing business. Losing your project. Trying to find purpose and direction.

Many of my friends are going through trying times. I hope they all make it through alright.

Posted by roy on September 6, 2005 at 03:19 PM in Personal | 3 Comments

Check out the new Tabulas model wearing the NEW Tabulas tshirts!

This is Moonie the Gentleman. Ladies, he is quite single!

. . .

My former roomie Yush is starting an t-shirt business, and I've convinced him to keep a running journal of the experience. He has his first post about the company. This is literally happening as we speak, so I'm excited not only for the future success (or Adam Smith forbid, failure) for his company, but also the fact that we get such a candid look at how the whole process unfolds. :)

Best of luck to Yush and Spike!

Posted by roy on September 6, 2005 at 10:22 PM in Tabulas | 5 Comments

I was watching the Agassi/Blake match for the first two sets. Agassi was getting creamed so I quit watching close to the end of the second set. Apparently I just missed an amazing match that came down a close tiebreak... WOW. WHY DID I MISS ITTTTT I'M SUCH A MORON. Damn Bridget Moynahan and Colin Farrell for distracting me with the Recruit.

. . .

I'm a bit puzzled at the news/rumor that Apple is teaming up with Motorola to put iTunes on cell phones.

Would you ever trust your cellphone to play music? It's not even the fidelity that I'm worried about ... but I wouldn't dare risk running my battery out to listen to some MP3s. And with iPods getting so tiny (esp the new ipod nano), is it really a big hassle to carry around another music player?

And isn't this undercutting Apple's hardware (iPod?) Or is this simply an attempt simply to allow competitors to use their software?

I'm just a bit puzzled.

Posted by roy on September 7, 2005 at 10:15 PM in Ramblings, Sports | 10 Comments

Something that has bothered me for the LONGEST time:

Why does Windows not have a "Install Font" button on here? If I receive a TTF file, I'd like to double click to preview, then hit one button to install. I can't even right click it. What I have to do is open up Explorer, open up C:WindowsFonts (and having to open up Windows, a system folder, is absolutely ludicrous) and drag the font in.

Posted by roy on September 11, 2005 at 09:56 PM in Ramblings | 1 Comments

Edit: eBay buys Skype for 2.6 mbillion. First post.

. . .

The alarm clock glows 2:24am, but my computer says it's 5:36 AM. 144 minutes ago I tried to sleep and failed horribly. I'm only up because I have no idea what I'm doing with my life.

Quite surprisingly, I'm feeling optimistic while listening to A Day in the Life by the Beatles. I'm not entirely sure why I feel optimistic - here is a depressing song about the desensitizing effects of the insignificant and distracting tasks that compose the Modern day - and I'm somehow feeling positive.

Well, maybe it's not really positive. Maybe it's just a wry understanding at the ludicrousness of the world - or maybe it's just the residual anger I'm feeling towards the lies, inaction, and failure of the government to provide for the Katrina victims. Most likely, my weird mental state is a culmination of listening to the aforementioned Beatles song and the stress I've been feeling as of late.

I've surrounded myself with ambitious people. Everyone wants success, but no one is quite sure how to attain it. It's almost like everyone is reaching out for anything ... just to find that singular thread of success that lead to some sort of self-satisfaction. I feel like I'm being pulled in many different directions by different people, and I just can't say no.

I've spread myself too thin once again.

It's not that I'm unhappy with my situation - it's not that at all. I'm entirely grateful with my friends, my family, my financial situation (I met my savings goal for this year a few months early!), and my accomplishments. But I've never had the mindset of living in the past - I've never looked back on accomplishments from the past and found any sort of satisfaction with them. It's almost sadistic, but the only times I can be wholly satisifed with myself is the immediate period after I finish a big task. After that short period where I feel like I've done something, I always feel insecure about my life and so I push forward with some new grand project to keep my mind occupied.

I've never done drugs before in my life, which contrasts nicely with my Libertarian-esque anti-drug legislation views. I'm not sure if the propaganda of McGruff had something to do with this, but I grew up literally scared of drugs. Of course, my compatriots in middle school and high school showed me that drugs really aren't as bad as the establishment makes them seem. In any case, there are still a few drugs that I am literally scared of taking ...

I'm sure most of you are aware of the fact that I think. A lot. I think about the most random crap at the most random times. I can't stop thinking, which has led to sleeping disorders in the past (these disorders have also been rearing their ugly heads this past weekend, which means a trip to the doctor might be in order). The biggest fear I have in my life is losing control of my mind. I fear the destructive power of the mind to create images and generate fear. I've always had a pretty active imagination ... and I fear what a slight chemical imbalance in my brain may do ... which is why I actually have a real fear of taking any type of psychotic drugs. I honestly can say that I have very few fears in life ... and this is one of them.

I fear growing up and losing my mental capacity. I've made references to it before, but I sometimes wonder if the best way to go out is to die young, before your body and your mind start degrading. Billy Joel has said that the good die young, but does that work in reverse?

Anyways, I was talking with Yush about my frustrations with Tabulas. I'm not a coder by heart; the coding for me is a means to an end. I don't enjoy coding, and I don't enjoy CSS hacks. I've been hacking away at the new site for almost 4 months or so now, and I'm just not horribly happy with the amount of progress made. When Yush asked for a metric of how much progress I've made in terms he could understand, I fired up Microsoft Word and pasted the library I was working on ... and by incredibly rough calculations, I estimated that I've written roughly 200 pages (12pt Times New Roman, single space, normal margins :P) worth of "logic" that will power Tabulas 3.0.

But you know, the logic isn't even what bothers me so much. It's my never-ending unhappiness with the UI of the Tabulas control panel and the View/Edit methdology that I'm the most unhappy with.

When I first started using Xanga, one of the biggest mistakes I thought they made from a user-interface point of view was mixing the "view" and "edit" modes. Your private control panel looked exactly like your normal Xanga ... and that is confusing for the end user. Lately, at work, we've been pushing the concept of "edit where you view" which makes sense for our product, but does it make sense for something as complex as Tabulas? Is the View/Edit methdology outdated?

And even if I could be technically and aesthetically happy with a Tabulas that is logically solid and has a solid UI ... then my concerns would shift to the business viability of Tabulas. As much as this is a hobby, I would like to see it be taken to the next level in terms of financial sustainability. Any model that is not sustainable needs to be Darwinized so that Adam Smith can help create a more efficient model.

Sometimes I wonder if my education is simply causing me unnecessary grief. Ignorance truly is bliss; things were so much better when I didn't know what I was doing was incorrect. It was better when I just didn't know any better.

I think it's completely sad that the only thing that brings me hope is the fact that once I finish Tabulas, I can get started on my next web project (which I promise will be totally kick ass). The new site is even grander in scale and scope than Tabulas (hard to believe, I know), and I think will be a great example of what can be possibly by a morally conscious business (yes, my next venture will be a real business) that is technically competent and can really build cool technological tools.

So what's the problem? I've spread myself far too thin.

I just can't say no. If a friend wants me to help them with something, I simply cannot say no. I've recently starting tutoring a SAT class for a few Korean parents - the pay is great, but I really didn't want to do this class because it's draining to tutor them, especially with my day job and Tabulas flitting away my time.

What am I to do? Pursue my own selfish interests and let these kids suffer subpar SAT scores? Forget going to Kaplan or Princeton Review - those things are just money suckers that don't help 90% of the kids who enroll in those programs.

And when a friend asks me to help them out because they are starting a new venture, I can't say no. What am I to do? I want to see my acquaintances succeed. If I can take a few hours (or a few weeks) to help them out ... isn't that worth it? Isn't helping people out with skills that I have what I'm supposed to do? The reality is that my inability to say no is probably just making things worse. I simply spread myself far too thin on commitments so I have to start backing out of some of them.

And of course, I need to fit all my commitments around my day job, which is the biggest source of stress for me. I'm not sure if I'm doing a good job, I'm not sure I'm adding any value to their company, I'm not sure if they're happy with what I'm doing, I'm not sure if I'm selling myself short, I'm just not sure of anything. Sometimes I feel like I'm being taken advantage of, and sometimes I feel grateful that I have a job that lets me expand on my own skills and pays me. The reality is somewhere in between, and I just can't figure out where, and it drives me nuts. It's so hard to interpret how people feel about you through the Internet, and as I've written before ... working from home is simply incredibly lonesome. Especially for a recent college grad who lost a huge chunk of his social safety net and is desperately seeking a new one.

You know that guy who you would place your money on for being successful? I'm apparently that guy for many people, which I don't understand. I haven't notched ONE business success yet; all I've done is made a cool websites which have coincidentally increased registrations when I whore out free features. That, to me, does not equal success at all. I have almost absolutely no interest in maximizing profits for any enterprise I run. I'm not bad with money, I just have no interest in generating a large amount of it. When people talk to me about stocks and bonds and investments and venture capital and stuff, I sometimes have a hard time paying attention. People always want to hear what the business side of Tabulas is - but there never is one. I've always said that this is a hobby of mine, and my primary goal is to create a product that I personally find fun and easy to use. That's it.

This is a bit paradoxical if you remember my previous statement of making Tabulas 3.0 more of a "business-oriented financial success." But the main ways I'm trying to achieve that in Tabulas 3.0 is by creating a consistent brand and by creating a good UI that makes things clear - the end goal isn't to make money, it's to create a good brand and a usable site. I have a inkling that if I succeed at these two tasks, then the site will be a financial success as a consequence.

But I feel a constant pressure to succeed. It comes from almost everybody in my life - parents, friends, barely known acquaintances, people I've just met who've heard about me ("Oh, you're Roy?" ... dissappointment ensues). I think this pressure had bred a strong sense of fatalism .... I was chatting with Julian a few nights ago about how amazing the human race really is.

We have the ability to reason. Not only that, but we have and understand the concept of free will. If you've heard it enough times in school, you begin to take it for granted. But we, as humans, have the creative and intellectual gifts to do ANYTHING. ANYTHING at all.

Sometimes I feel that free will is more of a burden than a blessing. Having endless possibilities ... I fear that if I choose something that is not what others expect from me, then I've failed them. I've had the free will to do anything ... and they'll think, "He chose this? How dissappointing." I think humans are utterly incapable of handling free will. Those who embrace and take full advantage of this gift are incredibly rare.

Even I make subtle attempts at passing the burden of responsibility that free will has by being a fatalist. Religious people pass that burden onto God and His will. A group of people I have the deepest contempt for are those who go through the educational system and somehow believe they are superior to everybody else. They think because they went to school, college, then medical school for eight years, that they're somehow better human beings than other people because they've accomplished more with their lives.

I've seen this mentality primarily against religious people who worship God and spend their lives in the service of the church - these educated people can't believe that those religious people pass up their free will and put everything in this invisible deity. Of course, I personally feel that people who go through the medical school route as a default measure are just as bad; obviously if you're going to these graduate schools, you're pretty intellectual. So you're going to go through a predefined route where someone tells you exactly what to do? Doctors aren't the most creative bunch of people - if anything they're not so different from mechanics, except they make an assload more money. Don't think you're better than somebody else who didn't go that route or that you've exercised more free will - you were told what to do for 6-8 more years. You stayed within the rigid structures of academia.

Obviously my ability to reason and argue effectively is diminishing (assuming I was ever persuasive to start, hah!).

I just don't know what to do, who to work with, how to finish up my grand projects, and what I should be doing with my life.


Posted by roy on September 12, 2005 at 03:36 AM in Personal | 20 Comments

Oh, the irony.

The shade from the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market sign is minimal around noon; still, six picketers squeeze their thermoses and Dasani bottles onto the dirt below, trying to keep their water cool. They're walking five-hour shifts on this corner at Stephanie Street and American Pacific Drive in Henderson—anti-Wal-Mart signs propped lazily on their shoulders, deep suntans on their faces and arms—with two 15-minute breaks to run across the street and use the washroom at a gas station.

Periodically one of them will sit down in a slightly larger slice of shade under a giant electricity pole in the intersection. Four lanes of traffic rush by, some drivers honk in support, more than once someone has yelled, "assholes!" but mostly, they're ignored.

They're not union members; they're temp workers employed through Allied Forces/Labor Express by the union—United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). They're making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it's 104 F, and they're protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store.

Perhaps we should organize some picketers to protest the low wages and harsh working conditions for the anti-Walmart picketers.

Posted by roy on September 13, 2005 at 12:20 PM in Ramblings | 7 Comments

The high price my friends must pay to hang with me.

Perhaps it's time I started a Tabulas gallery. I know Boogiesan has his tabulas tshirt picture, and so does Pouick.

Woot. This is fun.

Edit: And sacrecoueur, too!

Posted by roy on September 14, 2005 at 10:38 PM in Tabulas | 15 Comments

While listening to Britney Spears' semi-autobiographical "Lucky," Britney asks herself:

And they say, she's so lucky, she's a star, but she cry cry cries in her lonely heart thinking, if there's nothing missing in my life, then why do these tears come at night?

Well, folks. We have our answer.

Kevin Federline. I'm honestly surprised that their marriage has lasted a lot longer than Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger, who just split after four months of marriage.

It hurts my brain. I blame this post on CNN and all those media outlets that are wasting valuable time reporting that Britney Spears finally had a baby boy. Nobody cares. Stop, please. Stop.

Currently listening to: Britney Spears - Lucky
Posted by roy on September 15, 2005 at 09:45 PM in Ramblings | 3 Comments

This is a passing thought that's been kinda in the back of my mind for some time ... gotta write it down or I'm never gonna be able to think through the whole thing.

As more content gets added to the web, the main goal for the next generation of web tools is to organize and bring you relevant results. Google's search was a great first step of organized the anonymous web, but now that literally everybody and their mommas are contributing content to the web, finding relevant items is becoming difficult. Spammers are also making finding relevant items more difficult as they game search results in their favor.

Speaking from personal experience, I'm finding the actual number of relevant searches I do is diminishing. If I want to learn anything, I just look it up on wikipedia. I've bookmarked w3schools for css stuff, and I use slow-as-molasses-in-january Songmeanings for lyrics. Once I find a site that I "trust," I stick with that. I would hazard a guess that more people are acting like this.

I've never liked "social networking" sites like Friendster and Facebook because they require opting-into a site whose sole purpose is defining your social networks into tangible connections. My main gripe with these sites is they offer nothing to the user; the user has to adopt to the site simply to remain in a social network. I've always been a stronger proponent of building tools that are legitimately useful to users, then extrapolating social networking information from that. Perhaps the properties of social networks are mutally exclusive like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle; the more rigidly we can define and understand social networks, the less useful information we can understand.

Of course, the three "slap in your face" examples where social networking has succeeded is from delicious, which allows you to share bookmarks, flickr, which allows you to share pictures, and livejournal, which allows you to join communities and share writing.

The immediate value of sites like these is they build inherent trust. Delicious and LJ users build trust in one another through sharing. For stuff like links and websites ("are these merchants good?") nothing can replace the word-of-mouth from someone that you know - even if it's just through Tabulas (Yush recently wrote about this). Fundamentally, social networks are about building trust in one another. And the best "social networking" sites are those that offer the tools for tasks that people WANT to accomplish - finding relevant links and sharing information about one another.

So one of the underlying goals for Tabulas 3.0 was to build the basic sharing and aggregation tools. The "friends" page is something that almost everyone can immediately grasp (but try to explain "RSS aggregation" to the layman and be prepared to be met with blank stares). People LOVE their friends pages. I love mine. I check mine compulsively to see who's updated. But why is it, in Tabulas 2.0, you can only view your friends' entries? Why not their links? Or galleries?

There have been situations where people have asked me for cool links regarding photography (for those shutterbugs who are just getting started!). I used to have a tons of links on my old computer to sites with great photographers and great tutorials (this was before delicious) ... so lately I've been trying to find these sites and adding them into my Tabulas link list ... because the next version of Tabulas will allow you to more effectively share and show these links to one another. Want to know some good articles I think about globalization? Want to see what links I've been reading? No problem...

Recently, friends have been noting that the birthday reminders tool in Tabulas is wonderful - simply because it reminds them quickly of people whose birthday they might forget. They can send a quick birthday note and show they care, with really no work. If a tool could not only provide you a simple fact like birthday, but also push to you all the updates of someone's life (pictures/text/links) ... now that's really great.

I understand I'm just one person, and I unfortunately have this complex with Tabulas that doesn't let me allow anybody else to help me with this project (this is my baby so stay the hell away!) ... so the tools won't be the best. Hell, I'd even be surprised if people said they were even remotely on par with the leaders (flickr/delicious/lj) ... but the goal is to build something that people can use very basically for the beginning; I can always expand these features later.

Hopefully I can add in API support for Flickr/Delicious in the same way I offer crossposting features from Tabulas to Blogger, LJ, and Xanga. This way your information won't ever be simply stored on Tabulas, but also be kept in sync with other services ... so in the case that Tabulas lags behind these services, it's easy to switch. I noticed Yush has started xposting to LJ and Blogger, which I think is a fantastic idea.


Currently listening to: Kanye West - Gold Digger
Posted by roy on September 17, 2005 at 12:39 AM in Tabulas | 9 Comments
"I want all Arabs to be stripped naked and cavity-searched if they get within 100 yards of an airport. I don’t care if they’re being inconvenienced. I don’t care if it seems as though their rights are being violated. I care about my life. I care about the lives of my family and friends."

It's unfortunate this wasn't a satirical piece; that would have been a very effective argument. The writer of this op-ed, Jillian Bandes, was dismissed from the DTH staff after they found out that her quotes were twisted out of context.

. . .

Songs I'm digging right now:

  • Kanye West - Jesus walks
  • Kanye West - Sierra Leone diamonds
  • DMX - Walk these dogs
  • The Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
  • Maximo Park - Apply some pressure

I purchased Ashlee Simpson's latest single ("Boyfriend") and was a bit dissappointed. I'm hoping the rest of her album is better than her single...

Posted by roy on September 19, 2005 at 06:45 PM in Ramblings, Music | 3 Comments

Welcome back, work ethic.

Currently listening to: Corelli - Concert Grosso 3
Posted by roy on September 21, 2005 at 12:55 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

I'm going to take a hiatus from Tabulas 3.0 development. It's been incredibly frustrating, and for the short term, it hasn't really helped to keep me sane (it used to be that although I was working 16-18 hours a day, I would be happy ... but due to some job issues and the lack of progress on Tabulas, it was just compounding problems).

But that doesn't mean I'm project-less. I've decided to take a real risk and try to start a real legitimate site that's not just a "hobby" oriented site that's controlled wholly by me ... but a venture with friends. I hate to give up control, but it's just impossible for me to do anything.

The new project is exciting to me for a variety of reasons:

  • No one has yet done what we're trying to do on the scale that we want to accomplish it
  • It will make the lives of the users MUCH easier (and not like Tabulas easier, where it's not really a necessity, but a *real* improvement from the existing process).
  • Have fun with branding and new designs. I've largely been stuck doing the same designs at my job and Tabulas, so it's been really great to have a fresh palette just to create something completely new. I've gone a little overboard with the name, logo, and site (think PINK) ... but it's pretty hot
  • Believe it or not, I've learned a lot from my job. I can hopefully use some of my new skills to making this site really kick-ass (I'm loathe to use that Javascript buzzword, but the new site does feature a lot of small little actions that are really nifty)
  • If I actually accomplish this site ... it will be one helluva accomplishment
  • Possible financial upside if the site succeeds (which is always nice)

And lastly, it's quite interesting because it will be my first real venture with Yush, if he should choose to help me.

More later.

Posted by roy on September 21, 2005 at 10:33 PM in Ramblings, Web Development, Tabulas | 5 Comments

The marketers are Barnes and Noble are geniuses. Although there is a Borders not more than 3 minutes from my house, they've successfully gotten me to drive an additional 3-4 minutes to work at Barnes, although Borders has power outlets for laptops. And what's worst, is I'm paying them to do this.

It all started with that cute Barnes employee asking me if I wanted to pay only $20 to become a Barnes member; the perks are I get 10% off all future purchases! Knowing that I'd have to come back to buy some SAT books, I paid for it. Then whenever I read a book review online, I'd go to Barnes and buy it, since I got 10% off (nevermind that it'd probably have been easier to get it from Amazon if I paid for Amazon Prime). Then one day, I decided to go work at Barnes since they advertised their high speed wireless (which is not free, bastards!) and I could get 10% off my drink. Upon getting there, I realized that the internet is not free... being stubborn, I paid $3.95 for a two hour pass. The second time I came, I somehow justified paying for a year-long access ($20/month).

If I had known Borders offered roughly the same price but also let me plug in, I might have taken their offer. But because I was too busy getting 10% off ... I didn't know.

So the lesson here? Make people pay some marginal amount to become attached. Cognitive dissonance is powerful, people.

Posted by roy on September 22, 2005 at 10:12 PM in Ramblings | 6 Comments

I'll be heading out in an hour or so to CALL, a retreat held by NCKPC (which I technically can't call "my church" since the last time I actually went to church was ... three years ago? I'll probably get back late Saturday night so I can be fresh when I have to tutor SAT on Sunday.

Warning: The following is not meant to be offensive to anybody at NCKPC or churches or retreats. I do find retreats spiritually fulfilling (or I have, not so sure I still do, we'll see), but these are merely observations I've made regarding retreats I've made over the years.

I really hate skits. With a total passion. I've not been to any other retreats, so I'm not sure if this is just an NCKPC thing, but what is this obsession with skits? Literally, you're put together in a big group of people you don't really know and told to create an open-ended skit based on the vague general concept of the retreat. Everybody mills around waiting for someone to assume the leadership role (since we're Asian) ... and two or three people always end up creating the basic concept for the skit. Except, whoops, the two hour allotment for skit creation is over. Guess we'll have to tap into our free time during the middle of the day to finish our skit. Now, admittedly, some of them come out quite funny, but generally they're mediocre. The worst part is when you have the last skit, so you're too busy practicing your own to really pay attention to anybody else's ... boo. So yeah, I hate skits. I even wrote "I'm allergic to skits" when I registered for the retreat, but I doubt that's going to help.

It would be a different story if this was on a volunteer basis, but everybody ... even those who are a bit too shy or don't like to do this type of stuff, are sorta forced into the role.

Again, I'm not sure if this is just how NCKPC does it, but I'm disliked the 'extended prayer' sequences on the second night of the retreats. For those of you who have not attended these retreats, let me breakdown the general format from the two (or 3?) CALL retreats I've been to:

  • Friday: drive people to retreat center. Have dinner, have praise and sermon. Sleep late. (Sleep deprivation level: 1)
  • Saturday morning: Wake people up at 7am for morning prayer and service. Praise is a little less enthusiastic, but some people give it their all. End of sermon and praise, have lunch/skit time (Sleep deprivation level: 2)
  • Saturday afternoon: Free time to run around, play sports, have fun until dinner. (Sleep deprivation level: 3)
  • Saturday dinner: Carb-heavy dinner. Food-coma is slightly induced, but the most intense praise/sermon time comes after dinner. This thing is long. I mean, REALLY long. And usually the skits are done here too, so not only are you exhausted from performing/laughing, but you haven't slept much at all (Sleep deprivation level: 4)
  • After the sermon is when the church usually gets the praise leader to come out (or the speaker) to play a slow guitar song and to pray ... this is the time they take to ask people to accept Jesus as their savior. Now, although your sleep deprivation level is at about "anytime I close my eyes I'm going to pass out), the combination of the dark lights, slow guitar playing, AND the fact that 100 or so people around you are praying (some a bit louder than others) can be very emotionally stirring.

I'm totally not sure if this is intentional, but I do feel that these types of situations lend themselves to people doing things they usually would not do. I've acted irrationally before in these situations and have regretted it - it's almost like you're caught in a river of religion and you're too tired to fight it. I don't like life decisions to be based upon spur-of-the-moment emotions, but rather a process of logic and reason which yields a decision with a clear path.

One of the last CALLs I went to, I simply left and sat outside during this time to reflect on the message and my faith. I couldn't deal with the level of ephemeral emotion in that room.

Maybe that's why I dislike going to church so much, but I still consider myself a man of faith. I just don't like the social pressures that a church entails; I've always felt that a spiritual relationship is a one-to-one thing; you have it with God, and that's it. I don't like externalities influencing that relationship, because on some level, I feel like it's tainting it.

Posted by roy on September 23, 2005 at 02:47 PM in Personal | 6 Comments

I got back from the retreat at about 3am last night. I caught up briefly with Yush on our joint venture (which I've set to have a release date roughly one month from now) and to get us on the same page, then went to bed for ten hours.

So how was it?

Well, it's supposed to be like: jaded, tired kid goes to church seeking spiritual fulfillment, connects with everybody at retreat center, finds inner energy to fight off sleep deprivation while engaging in all sorts of group-building activities, starts doing that thing during praise time where he closes his eyes and raises his hands as though nobody is watching, finds speaker captivating and listens to every word of each sermon while taking notes, on the final night succumbs to the pressures and accepts the altar call to accept Jesus Christ as his savior, manages to wake up early the next morning despite going to sleep at 5am and still have energy for Sunday morning service, feels like something inside him has changed dramatically, the world is fresh and new, the trees are greener, inner peace (presence of God, not absence of trouble [Ed. note: See? I did sorta listen!]) is found, goes home and passes out while making a commitment to self to change his lifestyle, wakes up at 8pm that Sunday with a renewed energy to life and starts attending every church-related activity for the next three months.

The reality is a bit different. There was a time when the above WAS the case, and perhaps that's why I have unrealistic expectations. I had a great talk with two people during the altar calls (names withheld), and one of them ("John") mentioned how he felt always felt a bit disconnected with the way that everybody else felt, since many people would want away from the retreat thinking it was the best thing that happened to them, while John felt that it wasn't that great.

For me, the greater the chances you experienced the idealistic retreat situation, the greater the cynicism you have for the church as you get older.

It's all a part of growing up - I remember my teenage years were particularly dramatic. Although I was born into a lower class (albeit not a LOW low class, but definitely not comfortable; I was born into the ghettos of Hattiesburg, Mississippi), my parents saved their way into a middle class, so the struggles I had during my teenage years weren't particularly ones of extreme hardships, but more those of identity.

Coming to church can be a liberating experience for those kids going through those experiences - the church offers that identity that seems to be so fulfilling - serve the Lord and go to heaven. The church even offers the perfect role models - men who are not affected by the materialism of the world but are fighting for a greater cause. (Side note: in a small group the comment was that only in the face of great disasters or adversity do we, as humans, truly feel small and insignificant. I think we all have trouble escaping how fucking awesome and wonderful the ability to logic and reason is - the ability to create new ideas and to see the growth of them ... is simply amazing. In my opinion, humans have a hard time grasping that such an awesome gift can be tempered by such frailty - both in a physical and metaphysical "world overwhelming" way, which is why we overvalue our skills and reach as humans. It is because of this I think we are always yearning for the "greater cause," we can't understand that our logic and reasoning would be applied to such mundane tasks as making computer programs).

It's not that I was looking for a role model - my parents are perfect role models. But when you have an emotionally detached father (common for Asian households) and an overbearing mother ... you tend to see only the negatives at that age. Of course, the winds of time are quite effective at blowing away these gristy fallacies, which is probably the reason why most college students start really connecting back with their parents once they're on their own. So I looked for a role model elsewhere - and the church provided it. They provided that structure.

People want structure in their lives. People don't want to have to worry about stuff in life - they just want it told to them. Look at websites (haha, bet you didn't see that coming) - the best website would be an unnamed website that simply let you create data nodes. You could link them and display them in any way. It woudl be the website that could do everything. What's a node? A piece of data. What's a piece of data? Email, webpages, people, etc. We could create such abstraction that it do ANYTHING, but would anybody use this? No way. We want to be told what each webpage does. We want each webpage to accomplish a specific task. In the same way, people want their lives to be structured accordingly - it's much easier to see a role model and fall in love with the concept of the church.

Of course, much like infatuations with girls, the infatuation with the church can be a dangerous thing if the idealism is not rooted in reality. Which brings me back to the my main point - the unrealistic expectations of these retreats and the ability of church to transform your life. If you accept the altar call, how long does that commitment last? A week? Two weeks? This point has been driven home by P.Moon that we should not be passive in our search for Christ after these - faith requires constant cultivation and a commitment to the lifestyle. But why does the church create these situations which are clearly for emotional exploit if it's looking for a long-term lifestyle commitment to Christ?

I've created a new paragraph here, but I have no real answers. I'm disillusioned with church politics, the history of the Catholic church in abusing its power and meddling in politics, the meddling by the fundamentalist Christian right in politics, and what I see as emotional manipulation by other churches.

But can a passive church succeed? Most definitely not. We live in a world that places a premium on science, logic, and reason. If we cannot reason a concept, we discount it. This is something I struggled with during college, but sometimes you just have to accept the faith and just take that first step. Logically, it's a fallacy. Attempting to understand the church through the lens of science will ultimately fail, just like trying to understand science through the lens of religion fails (see "creationism"). This means the default behaviour of people will be to drift away the church - active preaching is required. But how do we actively preach with the Oprah-ization of our generation ("accept and be tolerant of everybody")? I am NOT a fan of door-to-door preaching, nor do I like the Pit Preacher... nor do I like people who always try to twist a conversation into a conversation about religion and faith.

I think it all goes back to role models. People are always looking for role models (this never changes), and people always try to emulate those they find the deepest respect for. I have various friends of both sexes, and I respect them all for different reasons - there is always one key characteristic that I find truly impressive about them. Because I respect them, I respec the lifestyle they live, and therefore it makes me far more receptive that I will try to actively become a person of better faith.

Of course, my concern is, as always, that the Christian lifestyle contrasts with success in this world. I've been granted the incredible gift of direction in life (for the next few years), and I've been fortunate enough to be in a position to pursue this (this is the one thing in my life I'm most proud of) direction. I feel that an active pursuit of the Christian lifestyle clashes with secular success. I think anybody that tells you otherwise is bullshitting. If you start a new enterprise ... that is a lifestyle in itself, whether it's a non-profit org, a busienss, or just a new club. This is again something I struggled with greatly during this past week - why was I put in a position to pursue these grand dreams and ideas when the church demands loyalty and a commitment to church? For many years, I've not gone to church while maintaining a lifestyle of faith (in my viewpoint, although others will disagree) simply because there is no room in my life for both. There still isn't.

Well I'm just rambling now. So I'll try to end this in a succint manner; I'm feeling pretty chatty right now, I could write pages and pages, but I'll sum everything up:

I'm feeling good. Not feeling a spiritual refreshment, but I think I've just accepted the reality that I will never get a logical or scientific answer to God. I'm still cynical towards the church and its dealings with certain situations, and I'm still confused as how I can make the Christian lifestyle and the lifestyle I want to fit together or even if they're reconcilable.

Some short statements of other thoughts I'm too tired to write out: Nobody is smarter than anybody else. Everything is a game. Why do we get more guarded with everything as life goes on? Girls' farts smell like cinnamon buns.

Posted by roy on September 25, 2005 at 01:45 PM in Personal | 4 Comments

It's 4:10AM. I've been hacking away at [censored], the new project, since roughly 8pm. To say that tonight was produtive would be the biggest understatement ever. I'm dizzy from the whirlwhind of activity, but I'm feeling this great emotional high.

The concept was fully developed on the 20th. Starting the 21st, I got things rolling with Yush ... and I began writing some of the spaghetti code that would power the site. It's only been six days, and the amount of work we've accomplished is nothing short of amazing.

When I talked to Yush before I left for CALL this weekend, I told him that we were going to launch within a month. This was an incredibly optimistic timeline for the site (given the amount of bureacratic work/non-computer manual labor required PLUS the fact I work full-time) ... but I went over the stuff we've done today with what's left, and it's all within schedule. Barring any huge setbacks (knock on wood) ... this is totally within reason.

Of course, this post really means nothing to everybody reading it (except Yush) because you had no idea the scope of the site. But hopefully soon you will know. And you will MAYBE say, "Wow, that is pretty damn cool."

Hopefully. But for now, I gotta pass out.

Posted by roy on September 27, 2005 at 01:22 AM in Ramblings | 4 Comments

I saw this in Bert's profile, but apparently you can buy English titles. Apparently you can buy some land and name it what you want so you officially become "Lord Blah of Blah blah." It costs $1600, but come ON! You can't put a price on becoming "Lord Roy Kim of Tabulæ-o'er-the-hill-of-Chapel-in-Carolina-of-the-North."

Supposedly you can change your license and legal information in the States once you become an English "Lord." Perhaps the thrill of becoming "Lady" may help me attract a girlfriend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Help me think of better names.

Posted by roy on September 27, 2005 at 06:55 PM in Foolishness | 18 Comments

Dear lazyweb,

Is there a way to get Sage RSS Reader (for Mac OS X) to show all updated items on one page instead of clicking each item individually?


Posted by roy on September 28, 2005 at 12:53 PM in Ramblings | 1 Comments

I've always resisted the urge to post song lyrics on this journal, so I opened up a new tabulas where I'll post song lyrics and mp3s: http://www.tabulas.com/~royboycop/. I'll try posting at least one song per day.

Posted by roy on September 29, 2005 at 02:08 PM in Music | Add a comment

"Please do not touch the puppies - it stresses them out"

Taken in Daechidong, Seoul, Korea - 2002

Posted by roy on September 29, 2005 at 09:25 PM in Photography | 12 Comments
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