Entries for February, 2006

2046 is an amazing movie. I can't really accurately describe it - it's so deep and complex that I'm having trouble just keeping track of all the themes and characters.

2046 follows the story of a writter who lived in Hong Kong during the late '60s who spends his life looking for true love. The movie follows the stories of the many relationships that define his search for true love. I wont' spoil the plot, but the themes in this movie are incredibly fundamental - love, happiness, relationships, and why so many are doomed to fail.

I love this movie because each relationship he has while searching for his ideal woman - he has the perfect working relationship, the perfect social relationship, and the perfect personal relationship... but they always fail because he always projects his insecurities and problems onto the girls. Furthermore, he can only envision a love in the past or future - in the present he cannot give his love to anybody. He talks about in the beginning how he is the only one to leave 2046 (a location that the movie continually refers to thematically); he is destined to live a life alone and without the love he constantly searches for. So tragic.

But I mean, realistically, if a girl like Zhang Ziyi was throwing herself at you, how could you resist? How unrealistic is that?

Currently listening to: The Clash - Lost In The Supermarket
Posted by roy on January 31, 2006 at 07:59 PM in Ramblings | 9 Comments

Woke up, got an email from Dell saying my order would be delayed a week (was supposed to ship today). Nuts.

Got a call after lunch from the dentist's; they called to cancel their appointment with me tomorrow ... and rescheduled to March 1st. Wowza.

Why is it that these dentist offices don't have some sort of web interface where you can sign up and set your available times - the site could automatically email you when somebody cancelled so you could fill their empty slots. No loss of money for the dentist, plus I could get my teeth cleaned. Everybody wins.

Currently listening to: 3 Doors Down - Be Like That
Posted by roy on February 1, 2006 at 01:40 PM in Ramblings | 4 Comments

A universal experience that most college grads go through is "The Loneliness." For four years, college students are constantly surrounded by their peers, and when you leave... you suddenly go, "where the hell did everybody go?"

I think this loneliness is partially to blame for the rash of marriages that occur within 4 years after college graduation - you think to yourself, "Man I'm never really going to meet more people" and you end up trying to make that one relationship fill the void of many relationships (I think that everybody needs some of the superficial relationships that pepper a typical college experience). Maybe that's why we have such a high divorce rate.

In any case, the general consensus among my friends is, "Man, I love being independent, having my own apartment, and making money ... but I wish I could spend more time with people my age."

So I was wondering why there hadn't been apartments (and correct me if this already exists) specifically geared towards young professionals. That is to say, that the only people who can are allowed to rent are young professionals (although that definition can be stretched, cause there's no reason why you'd exclude graduate students; perhaps it would be geared for anybody 21 - 30). Let's not worry about the specifics of that - generally what we want are vibrant, educated people within the 21-30 age demographic.

The set-up would be like most apartments - you would have one or two "roommates," but the common areas would be set-up to faciliate some sort of interaction between "floormates." I think this concept is generally lacking in most apartments - I think it's very rare that you ever have a chance to casually interact with your other apartment-mates. I envision on each floor a huge "reading" room with couches and desks set-up for any "down" reading/writing time (which is something I find a lot of people like to do). Perhaps you can also wire that common room with wireless Internet so people have an incentive to use the room (dont' got Internet at your place? Just go to the common room!). The apartments could come pre-furnished as well, because realistically, who has the time to go shopping to furnish a bedroom in an apartment for a job that they won't hold for more than a few years?

I just think there needs to be a more casual way to meet your peers without the pressures of seeming like OH MY GOD I'M NEVER GOING TO MEET SOMEONE AGAIN LET ME CLING ON TO THE FIRST PERSON WHO IS REMOTELY GOOD AND ISN'T BORING. At my apartment complex, people would have a group of peers to socialize with and hang with after a hard's day work, setup in such a way that it's not weird ("Oh hey, you're in the common area too! What are ya doing? Crosswords? I LOVE crosswords!")

And hey, people at my apartment complex would get complementary Tabulas patron accounts.

If that's not a great business idea, I don't know what is.

And if you're wondering why I can never get to sleep, it's because ideas like this always pop up right before I'm about to drift off to Neverland, and I always have to think about it for a while.

Currently listening to: Kanye West - Thru the Wire
Posted by roy on February 1, 2006 at 06:21 PM in Ramblings | 11 Comments

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Currently listening to: James Blunt - Tears And Rain
Posted by roy on February 4, 2006 at 02:37 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

This post are notes for the new control panel for Tabulas that I'm going to start building in the upcoming weeks. I'd be interested in hearing any ideas you have or any criticisms.

Entry Control Panel

One of the biggest features I want to fix for Tabulas is the new control panel. I've been slowly jotting ideas and sketching general layouts over the past two weeks; since yesterday after work, I've generally translated these ideas into some screenshots. These screenshots will hopefully give you a glimpse of what type of work I've been doing for Tabulas (behind the scenes) and give you an idea of where I'm trying to push Tabulas in terms of usability.

First, the general screenshot:

General notes about this

This advanced panel will require users to use at least a 1024x768 resolution to view. I will most likely add in a specific version for 800x600 resolution users, but I've decided to generally not care about 800x600 resolution users.

(This could be a huge mistake, but in general my projects will require at least 1024x768 resolution with a modern browser (IE 6.x or Firefox). I know proper "development" calls for graceful degradation, but honestly I have no patience for people who can't upgrade. If you want to use an awesome site, get the proper browsers.)

I will most likely drop support for the non-WYSIWYG editor, meaning all entries will be automatically "advanced." Since TinyMCE provides support for editing HTML, this shouldn't be a huge deal.

I've made a huge effort to keep the thing as neat and clean as possible; there do seem like a lot of options, but the default behaviour for all those sections will be collapsed. (Except "Entry Options"). You can see the little minus signs; clicking those will collapse the relevant section.

Live preview

Clicking the "live preview" tab will show how your entry will look with all the formatting. It will also outline exactly where your entry is being crossposted and who can see it (if you set really advanced privacy levels, you may want to know exactly who).

I'm also thinking of putting the spell-checker into the live preview, but that's to be determined later.

Entry title

After you type in a title, the page will automatically update the "Future permalink" location so you know where the entry can be located after you post it. I actually haven't decided if this is entirely useful, so it may not make the cut into the final page.

You can see that the future permalink displays user subdomains; this is a feature that *will* be added into Tabulas! Whether or not it will be for all users, I've yet to decide. I've been experimenting with Listfoo and got it to work, so it's just a matter of applying it to Tabulas.

I could go off on a whole another post about the importance of the permalinks in the new Tabulas, but for the time I'll say this: every page in your Tabulas will be accessible by a permalink; even your friends page. There will be redirects placed if you are to edit a page title (thus changing its permalink).

Entry body

I think nothing new will be done here, except the addition of an auto-save feature (see the bottom). Every 30 or 60 seconds, the page will autosave your entry (which includes any "currently ..." information, your entry options, and any images you attach to the entry). In case your computer crashes, you accidentally navigate away, or you have to quickly close your browser cause your boss walks in, Tabulas will have a fresh copy of your last entry.

Attach images

Attaching images to an entry was a feature I used to have on Tabulas, but I took it out because I found it incredibly inadequate (and I rather cut an inadequate feature than leave it in to frustrate users). One of the benefits of Xanga is its ability to post images *in* entries themselves. Most people just want to share images instead of having to upload to your gallery, then navigate there to find the images. There should be one location for it!

So you'll be able to attach images to your entry and have it post into your gallery albums at the same time ... this should make uploading them really easy! You'll also be able to add albums from this page as well, so you don't have to navigate to the gallery to create an album.


A feature I've been talking about for a year is custom friend groups - I think this will be a huge boon to people who want only a certain subset of people to see a certain post (that's happened to me in the past). Publishing tools like this should keep you in full control of who sees your content. Because the privacy rules for Tabulas can get very complex, (privacy levels can be attached to a journal-level, category-level, or post-level), your "view your live preview" tab will clarify.

For example, if I post an entry to a friends-group "Blah" but I have a category setting of "Private", then the preview will say "You want to post to custom friends group "Blah" but your category "Private category" will set a privaty level of "private" on your entry.

Also, if you select more than one friends-groups, it will combine the two groups and show you the exact Tabulas username list of people who can see your entry.


Don't you hate setting the same options again and again (ping, crosspost, categories, etc.?). I certainly do, and with the slew of options you can set, a great feature I figured I would implement would be a "save profile" feature. This will save your current options (like which categories you're posting to, the privacy level, etc.). You can quickly use one of your pre-saved profiles to apply it to a new post. Quick and easy!


I think the hardest part in developing these types of control panels is figuring out how to get started. This entry and the screenshots provide a great outline for me to follow, and I really think that if I get this control panel implemented, it is really going to make posting to Tabulas incredibly easy and *fun*, and that's exactly where I'm trying to get Tabulas.

Currently listening to: James Blunt - Too Late
Posted by roy on February 4, 2006 at 05:45 PM in Tabulas | 17 Comments

listfoo.com is now available for public registration. (for those of you who are wondering, audiomatch will be available next week; neeraj and i are in the final stages of testing the itunes and winamp plugins for launch, and i have a few things i need to tweak on my end).

listfoo.com is a site where you can create and manage lists.

yep, that's it. lists. i use mine for my many todo lists (work, personal projects) as well as keeping a list of "dvds i want to buy."

listfoo is absolutely great for just those little brain farts you're afraid of losing when you find yourself in front of a computer.

listfoo features a *lot* of javascripting and ajax; this site was my experimentation in user interface development and also in getting some experience in developing ajax applications with php. the site, obviously, doesn't really support any other browser than firefox, but that's OK with me given the purpose of the site (provide a user experience like no other!)

A screenshot of the edit interface - but you really don't get the real beauty of it until you use it

i'm actually pretty proud of this site (which is quite rare), so please register and create a few lists :)

(Oh yeah, notice the HOT human-readable URLS the site generates when you're on "your site;" like mine :)

Currently listening to: Ryan Cabrera - True
Posted by roy on February 6, 2006 at 12:25 AM in Ramblings | 20 Comments

Given that I need to start "planning for the future," I've started looking at ways to invest my money. I looked at CDs, T-bonds, mutual funds, etc. etc.

What really irks me is that there's really no difference between these "conservative" items in terms of return. I was looking at CDs, and they generally have a return rate somewhere around 4%. Meaning if I give somebody $1000 for a year, they'll give me $40. Except the rate of inflation is roughly 3%, so really I'm only getting $10 real dollars every year for every thousand dollars I loan to somebody else.

That really sucks.

Currently listening to: Madonna - hung up
Posted by roy on February 6, 2006 at 06:08 PM in Ramblings | 12 Comments

Barnes and Noble (in stores) is having a sale on their hardcover "classics" ... 3/$9.99 (and you can buy one and they'll still give you the $3.33 price). I cleared out the Durham B&N stock of their books:

  • Dostoevsky's "The Idiot
  • Selected poems by Dickinson
  • Marx's "The Communist Manifesto"
  • Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray"
  • Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland"
  • Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans"
  • Homer's "The Odyssey"
  • Voltaire's "Candide"
  • Dicken's "Oliver Twist"
  • Conrad's"Heart of Darkness"

All of this (with my B&N membership) was only $30! A steal if you ask me, plus since these are hardcovers, these should last a while...

. . .

by the way, i've decided to follow in yush's footsteps and become a poet. check out these haikus, each dedicated to a very special person on the duke team:

everflowering stream
teeming with aquatic life
jj redick sucks

the crisp autumn leaves
sharp breaths, bring back memories
shelden williams sucks

red-breasted robin,
soars and tumbles through the wind
josh mcroberts sucks

the sea-field of gold
gently sways with western winds
sean dockery sucks

cold rain falls on me
the passing bus splashes me
greg paulus, you suck

stiff, giant redwood
cannot breathe in the forest
melchionni sucks

tears brim her full eyes
ashamed, she gazes at him
coach krzyzewski sucks

Currently listening to: Lionel Richie - Say You, Say Me
Posted by roy on February 7, 2006 at 10:13 PM in Ramblings | 6 Comments

Is Valentine's Day hard for single girls? I don't think single guys are normally affected.

Currently listening to: John Mayer - Daughters
Posted by roy on February 8, 2006 at 04:56 PM in Ramblings | 9 Comments

Han's been posting pictures of the results at the my heritage which takes your picture and matches it against celebrities. Apparently he's depressed because he only matches against Kim Jong-Il.

So I decided to try it out myself. I uploaded a picture and patiently awaited for a much-needed ego boost.

(First picture... huh? Who is *that* guy? Scroll through... ah, yes. Keanu Reeves. Ok, that makes me feel better.)

(Wait, I know! I have a fantastic picture! I bet this'll match me up against an attractive celebrity... [a few minutes later]...drats. Ok. Let's try this one. What?! This site is retarded).

Finally, I decided out of frustration to upload a rather unattractive picture of myself to see who it matched against.



I have concluded that the site has a faulty algorithm. Why wasn't I getting matched to Brad Pitt? Given how fabulous (Man, I almost spelled that Fabolous) I look, shouldn't I get an appropriate match? I mean, come on, take a look at the picture I took of myself after I last got my head shaved:

Currently listening to: Mariah Carey - Always Be My Baby
Posted by roy on February 9, 2006 at 12:01 PM in Ramblings | 5 Comments

So a follow-up on my post about my apartment complex idea. For those of you that missed it, I wondered out loud why there were no apartment complexes that targetted the housing of young professionals (e.g. college grads with jobs) that could help cushion the transition from college life to the real world - in a sense it'd be a "dormitory" for young professionals, but the actual rooms wouldn't be piss-small.

So I took a read over The Fair Housing Act and realized that had I posted that entry as a real business plan, I'd probably be getting sued right now.

The issue there is I would be probably be violating the "familial" status clause since we really don't want little kids running around.

What caught my eye though, was this Section 803(b):

(1) any single-family house sold or rented by an owner: Provided, That such private individual owner does not own more than three such single-family houses at any one time: Provided further, That in the case of the sale of any such single-family house by a private individual owner not residing in such house at the time of such sale or who was not the most recent resident of such house prior to such sale, the exemption granted by this subsection shall apply only with respect to one such sale within any twenty-four month period: Provided further, That such bona fide private individual owner does not own any interest in, nor is there owned or reserved on his behalf, under any express or voluntary agreement, title to or any right to all or a portion of the proceeds from the sale or rental of, more than three such single-family houses at any one time: Provided further, That after December 31, 1969, the sale or rental of any such single-family house shall be excepted from the application of this subchapter only if such house is sold or rented (A) without the use in any manner of the sales or rental facilities or the sales or rental services of any real estate broker, agent, or salesman, or of such facilities or services of any person in the business of selling or renting dwellings, or of any employee or agent of any such broker, agent, salesman, or person and (B) without the publication, posting or mailing, after notice, of any advertisement or written notice in violation of section 804(c) of this title; but nothing in this proviso shall prohibit the use of attorneys, escrow agents, abstractors, title companies, and other such professional assistance as necessary to perfect or transfer the title, or

(2)rooms or units in dwellings containing living quarters occupied or intended to be occupied by no more than four families living independently of each other, if the owner actually maintains and occupies one of such living quarters as his residence.

I might be mis-reading this (I really have no patience for legalese), but it seems that if I own four "single-family houses", I can rent three of them while discriminating, except I still cannot violate 804(c), which says:

(c) To make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination.

So basically if I own four units and I live in one, I can rent the other three in a discriminatory manner, but I can't advertise that I'm doing that. WTF? The fact that I can rent to whomever I want would imply that the activity is legal, but the advertising of said legal activity is illegal?

The law makes no sense.

Currently listening to: Default - Faded
Posted by roy on February 9, 2006 at 02:02 PM in Ramblings | 8 Comments

Interesting discussions at the Chapel Hill Blogger's Meetup:

  • More gripes about the inability of developers to develop a *good* web-based calendaring system - Airset seems pretty good, but "beta" products like 30boxes seem far too unpolished and incomplete. Maybe if hula project gets more close to being done, someone can write a good web-based application on top of it? (AFAIK, this is already being done). The problem with these calendaring sites is that they require so many features - people will not use it unless the first version they see can import/export between all the different calendar formats. And you have to have a beautiful interface to boot. Hard, hard stuff.
  • The inability for people to deal with the general overflow of online accounts - people tend to be fragmented across many different blogsites - Livejournal, Xanga, Tabulas:), Blogger... how in the world do you keep in track with all of them? I ran into this problem months ago and had a brainstorm and came up with the Amplifly concept - a site which would serve as a pseudo-blogging site; all it would let you do is generate a RSS feed of entries (with category support), but the cool thing about it would be that it would let you crosspost to as many different sites at once, and Amplifly would keep track of all your sites in that one location. Combine Amplifly (pushing out your posts from one location) with a RSS aggregator (read all your friends' accounts across the different sites in one location) and cocomment (keep track of all the comments in one location) and you really've solved a huge problem.
  • Random thoughts about Facebook: Why is it that when girls list their marital status as "married to ___ (girl friend)" it's cute, but when guys do it to one another, it's weird?
Currently listening to: Live - Heaven
Posted by roy on February 10, 2006 at 01:57 AM in Ramblings, Web Development | 1 Comments

OMG, like I *TOTALLY* love AOL. They're SOOO awesome!!!! I found out a few weeks ago that Tabulas AIM profile links weren't working ... OmG so I thought that the codebase I hadn't updated in weeks had somehow magically broken, then after a while I realized like TOTALLY that AOL's central servers were being AWESOME and stripping equal signs from URLs posted in your profiles!

That's SO awesome!!!! I mean, who uses equal signs in URLs?

WHAT A GREAT FEATURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Currently listening to: Günther - Tutti Frutti Summer Love
Posted by roy on February 12, 2006 at 05:08 PM in Ramblings | 5 Comments

To get your personalized Valentine's from me, input your name below and hit "get my valentine!" Remember, it's just for YOU (*kissy face*).

Unfortunately so far, most everybody on my buddy list has remembered that I sent them this valentine's last year, so now I just look like a cheap bastard for resending the same e-valentine, but you know what? IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS.

You can change the 'from' and 'to' values in the URL to switch the message up to whomever you'd like.

I made this two years ago, it's so sad that I'm still milking this

Currently listening to: Metric - Combat Baby
Posted by roy on February 13, 2006 at 05:32 PM in Foolishness | 3 Comments

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes split up. Big surprise, I know. In any case, I found it amusing that BoDog (betting site), listed the odds of a breakup pre-2005 at -125 (basically being unlikely). I wonder if they ever updated their odds after the New Year began.

Someone should create a website that lets you guess the over/under on pop culture (no money involved). For example, what's the over/under on the Britney Spears/Kevin Federline marriage? Two years seems fair. I believe that enough people polling their opinions will reach the right answer - don't you ever have a friend in a relationship that EVERYBODY knows is going to fail? Imagine if millions of people weighed in on celebrity marriages - I bet the overall over/under generated from guesses would be scarily correct (I'm aware this is not a new concept). (This also goes to a conversation I had with Han a few days ago about the inability for humans to individually escape the bell curve, and thus mediocrity. I'll write about it some other time, though).

Imagine though, if your personal friends could anonymously weigh in on your personal life decisions? Oftentimes we cloud our own judgements for a variety of reasons - I bet the people around us would make better decisions.

. . .

Just had a great evening with Jo and Han; we decided to hold an impromptu SAD (Singles' Awareness Day) wine and cheese party.

If you're into wines, I highly recommend the Joan D'Anguera Finca L'Argata Montsant 2002; it's my favorite red wine so far. I don't really like the smooth hollow (flat?) flavors of some other red wines; this one is quite flavorful cause it's unfiltered. If you have a juicy soft steak, this wine is PERFECT (temptation abounds as I keep visiting omaha steaks). We cracked a bottle (I bought three bottles yesterday from Southern Season), got some brie cheese (amazingly good!) and some bread... it was heavenly.

I hope many more of these nights lie ahead for me in this life.

Currently listening to: Arctic Monkeys - Mardy Bum
Posted by roy on February 14, 2006 at 03:10 PM in Ramblings | 3 Comments

One of the *big* long-term things I'm looking forward to is getting my own place with a backyard and getting a few dogs. I've been trying to figure out what type of dog I would get - at first I was sold on the King Charles Cocker Spaniel:

Image stolen from Engadget's How to upgrade your organic dog

After reading about it, it seemed like it was a really fragile-type dog, so then I thought maybe I'd get a beagle:

CuteOverload posted some pictures of an Italian greyhound (not to be confused with normal greyhounds - this breed, at a max, weighs 15 lbs, so it's a small dog; technically a toy dog!):

But now, I think I really like Pembroke Welsh Corgis:

Part of this is influenced by me watching Cowboy Bebop; this influence has gone far enough that I'm even thinking that "Ein" might be a great name for my Welsh Corgi as well! I like things in even numbers, so maybe I'll get two and name the the other one Feyn (pronounced "FINE") after Richard Feynman, since Bebop named Ein after Einstein!

But the ultimate dream is to get a house in the north somewhere and get a few Siberian Huskies. Those dogs are simply majestic.

Currently listening to: James Blunt - High
Posted by roy on February 14, 2006 at 10:29 PM in Ramblings | 25 Comments

Will we ever domesticate squirrels?

. . .

I've recently started testing out NetFlix. I love their website interface and the recommendations - a true social networking site in action. I can see what my friends have watched, what they're going to see, what they've rated, etc. etc. Their three week trial wasn't really long enough to get more than six movies (three at a time), but I thought it was a pretty good deal, so I decided to try it for one more month.

Apparently I'm now the victim of Netflix throttling - where Netflix intentionally delays the delivery of my DVDs because I'm watching too many DVDs. For those of you not in the know, Netflix charges a flat rate per month and pays for postage of your DVDs both ways - there and back. This means every DVD you watch costs Netflix $0.78 just on postage alone; watching lots of movies means Netflix loses money.

I told Yush about this, who had been suspecting this activity for some time now. He said he was thinking of switching to Blockbuster, but guess what? Blockbuster is throttling DVDs now, too.

Just today I noticed that the DVDs I sent are taking some time to get to me as well; when i was doing the free trial and the first two weeks of my paid trial, service was fantastic. It was fast. It was easy. But this past week, DVDs are slow to come.

This is the sad reality of the price wars between Netflix and Blockbuster's online rental service. Lower price, lower quality of service :(

I'll be cancelling my Netflix account after this month. Nuts.

One has to wonder what these companies will do to combat this. I'm not sure about the economics of this, but if companies are looking to shave pennies off of each DVD sent in, why don't they force the customer to affix the postage on the return? That shaves 50% off the delivery costs for Netflix, while it forces the customer to invest at least something on each DVD - I've already gotten a few DVDs from Netflix I didn't feel like watching so I just returned them. If I was forced to affix a $0.34 postage, I may keep it for a few extra days so I might watch it, which is pretty much Netflix wants to do. The general problem with the "all you can eat buffet" is that there's no incentive for people to stop eating.

Currently listening to: John Williams - Duel of the Fates
Posted by roy on February 16, 2006 at 12:33 AM in Ramblings | 10 Comments

Last night I did my taxes for the first time ever. Google reported all my AdSense earnings, so I figured now was a good time to start reporting Tabulas earnings (they were too insignificant as a student to report). Good thing I redid the billing center; it literally took me 10 seconds ("SELECT SUM(sale_price) FROM sales WHERE sale_timestamp > '2004-12-31'") to get how much I've made from Tabulas!

Apparently because Tabulas is a sole proprietorship, I can write off a lot of expenses. All-in all, I think I'm actually getting back a sizable chunk of change from my refund (will have to double check this weekend).

I thought doing taxes would be harder, but it's pretty easy!

I figured tonight (since I wasn't sleeping) would be a good time to catch up some insignificant tasks I've been meaning to do:

  • Someone Amazon has about 10 different addresses for me - I finally found the page in the account center so it doesn't show up so many addresses - I literally would have to hunt on the confirmation screen whenever I bought something from Amazon
  • I got paid from my job, so I paid off my credit card balance for this month - I've been pretty good so far with this credit card on paying off my balance monthly!
  • I threw some more money (as you can tell, I've really not been able to spend any time dealing with financials) into my Roth IRA (I capped off my 2005 contributions) and invested the money into my mutual fund and I picked up a few stocks (just for fun).
  • Thanks to everybody who responded to my last financial post - the main reason I was talking about such conservative financial items was because I was looking for a fairly semi-liquid conservative place to put my "rainy day" money (which I guess is pretty unreasonable for me to ask). My Roth IRA is invested in aggressive mutual funds, but I'm trying not to do things that are too risky because I want to pull some of the Roth IRA money when I put the downpayment on a townhouse (whenever that happens within the next two years or so). I've decided to kill my Bank of America savings account (atrocious rates); I've opened a HSBC Online Savings Account - they're offering 4.80% until April '06 and 4.25% (I remember reading that number somewhere, but I can't find it anymore for reference). This'll be good enough just in case I need the extra money for something (the beloved Ford Taurus dies, unexpected medical costs, payment for a Russian mail-order bride); the rest of the money is going directly into the Roth IRA.

    My dad was trying to convince me to open a traditional IRA, but there's no way I'm planning right now for when I'm 59.5 years old right now.
  • I spent a few hours agonizing over whether I should buy a Canon 20D ($1200). I really am feeling the photography bug again (Spike's pictures certainly aren't helping!). For now, i'm going to hold off on it - even if I got it, I couldn't think of any serious subjects to shoot in this area.
  • I've been saving up my "fun spending money" fund for the past few weeks now, so I emptied it by going on a massive eBay and Amazon DVD spending spree.

And now it's 840am. Time to start working. It's been a generally relaxing night of getting stuff done ... it feels good to wrap up some of those small life tasks that you've been meaning to do (plus I get to cross off a lot of items on my listfoo todo lists ;)

Currently listening to: Jonny Lang - Dying To Live
Posted by roy on February 17, 2006 at 06:40 AM in Ramblings | 4 Comments

Yush informs me the combo no longer works, sorry!

Ok, I'll only post this because I love you all. I've posted about my weakness for OmahaSteaks.com ... well apparently they have an amazing deal going on right now:

4-5oz filet mignons
4-5oz top sirlions
4-4oz boneless pork chops
2-4.5 oz stuffed sole w/scallops & crabmeat
8-3oz gourmet franks
4-4 oz omaha steaks burgers
10 portions Potatoes au Gratin
PLUS Bonus free
6- steaks burgers
6-piece cutlery set
acrylic cutting board

Regular $205 for $59.99

Plus if you start browsing from this link, you get free shipping. $60 for all that MEAT is a STEAL! They also have some excellent cajun seasoning sauce that I highly recommend.

To get this wonderful deal, click the link above. Then go to "Order from Mailing" tab on the top bar, and input the code '7819BBB.' Input it again on the next screen to add it, then check-out.

For some reason, even during the website confirmation, the S/H remains there ($15). However, in my e-mail confirmation, the S/H is removed. Don't blame me though if that shipping link stops working... it worked for me last night ;)


Currently listening to: Jay-Z - 99 Problems (Linkin Park Remix)
Posted by roy on February 17, 2006 at 08:57 AM in Ramblings | 5 Comments

I hope there's a good reason why when I try to view this Google video I get the "This video is not playable in your country." message:

Update: The message now says, "We're sorry, but the provider of this video, not Google, has chosen to disable playback in your location."

One of the things that irks me about Google is its total disregard for the concept of ownership. Remember how the "Delete" button was impossible to find in GMail? Now it's come to light that it's actually impossible to delete images you upload to Blogger (I just tried this). And of course, this just doesn't apply to Google's online wares - even their appliance has problems self-destructing data... for such a company driven by "smart" Ph.Ds, they sure have a hard time with the concept of deletion.

Currently listening to: Outkast - ATLiens
Posted by roy on February 18, 2006 at 05:49 PM in Ramblings | 9 Comments

I've been doing some large-scale API/syndication work (part of the rykorp/Opinmind partnership). After pushing all public data to Opinmind, I got a number back of roughly ~400K entries being pushed to them. I found this rather interesting, since the current database counts show close to 900,000 entries are posted.

There are roughly ~110,000 entries that are posted at a higher privacy level than "friends." ~65K are posted at "friends-only", while ~45K are posted at "private."

This means roughly 1/8 of all posts are published specifically to be protected - if you calculate the number of accounts which specifically ask search engines not to crawl them and those which list themselves as not "public" to the Tabulas directory, most of Tabulas is actually behind the gated community.

I can only imagine this number will increase dramatically once the new Tabulas privacy controls get released - how many people will actually opt to publish everything publicly when they will have greater granularity over who can read it?

This seems to be slightly related to the whitelist/blacklist methodology in combatting spam (speaking of which, I spent about an hour today cleaning up comment spam on Tabulas; before today, roughly 1/12th of all comments on Tabulas were from comment spammers!).

Whitelist spamming basically means email providers will only accept email from providers they know are genuine - everybody else gets bounced. Blacklist spamming works the other day, the email provider will accept all emails, except from those they know are bad.

Right now, people are trusting the public by default and "blacklisting" their more private entries... given how prevalent employer Googling is becoming, how long before people just go to the whitelist approach - all entries are only viewable by people they trust?

As much as I've wanted to push more open standards between sites (I've been doing a lot of API development for Tabulas lately), it seems to be largely pointless since most users don't care - look at the largest community sites (LJ, Xanga, MySpace, YouTube, etc.) ... they're all gated communities.

Currently listening to: Eva Cassidy - People Get Ready
Posted by roy on February 20, 2006 at 01:06 AM in Web Development | 3 Comments

A few weekends ago, I spent a fine evening at Weathervane Restaurant at Southern Season with some friends. I highly recommend this restaurant to anybody in the area who wants to get some good cookin'; the beef tenderloin was amazing (although, sadly, I got the not-as-good tuna) and the service was spectacular.

In any case, we had some wine that Han and I had picked up from the Southern Season's wine section (the previously mentioned 2002 Montsant.

Now, I'm a lightweight when it comes to alcohol; my face gets the complete Asian blush when even a mL of alcohols gets into my body. Apparently my one glass of wine was enough to retard my senses, because the following EMBARASSING conversation ensued: (The dinner party consisted of myself, Han, Jennifer, and Eve)

JENNIFER: *sarcastically* Yeah, this wine IS great! Why don't you drive straight off of work tomorrow and get some?

Me: Yeah, I get off...

At this point, I realized that I had commited a faux paus of monstrous proportions. I had either meant to say, "When I get off of work, I'll get some wine" or "Yeah, I'll get off of work..." but for some reason, I had picked neither option and instead said a sentence fragment that was very embarassing.

What made things worse is that I was completely self-aware of what was happening; I froze after I said that phrase while my brain raced to "catch" myself. Unfortunately, the seconds I took to realize what I had said only made the situation worse as everybody just assumed that all I said was "I get off."

This is only one of the various social Freudian slips over the past few weeks. I wish I could remember more because, HEY, who doesn't like reading about a stranger making a total ass of himself through the mighty Intarweb????

Currently listening to: Cascada - Everytime We Touch (Radio Mix)
Posted by roy on February 20, 2006 at 02:56 AM in Foolishness | 3 Comments

One of the things that bother me about RSS aggregators is that there is no way to "push" a deleted entry to a RSS feed. I know some of my friends go through entry deletion binges on Xanga, but on Bloglines, I can still see all of their old entries on their cached RSS feeds, which seems to really defeat the intent of the user who deleted that specific entry. I don't use other RSS aggregators, but I assume that if the RSS aggregator has some sort of local caching mechanism, this would be the expected behaviour.

Because I really don't like this concept, Tabulas has started pushing out blank entries for deleted entries; if the RSS aggregator uses the guid to uniquely identify each entry, then it should update deleted entries with blank text. This should be enough for RSS aggregators to no longer keep old deleted entries on their local cache.

So if you start seeing blank entries in your RSS aggregator, I apologize. I wish there was some mechanism to allow me to force all RSS aggregators to clear out their cache.

Currently listening to: cascada - Miracle (GinoGina Exclusive)
Posted by roy on February 20, 2006 at 07:28 AM in Web Development, Tabulas | Add a comment

There's some talk in the Washington Post about whether blogging as a trend has peaked. I think that (Damn you, Steph) Given the state of the tools, I'd have a hard time disagreeing. For the sake of simplicity, I'll only be addressing the state of remotely hosted tools (as opposed to "install-it-yourself," which I've always felt would appear only to fringe users). Three years ago, TypePad, which was a huge boon to people who didn't want to deal with the "childishness" of LiveJournal (and its sister clones), the immaturity of Xanga, and the pain of installing MT or b2.

Since then, have we seen a real growth in the remotely hosted tools? I signed up for TypePad this past summer, and the service hadn't seemed to really grown by any leaps and bounds since its launch. This is understandable, given its success, that 6A (the company that owns TypePad) would spend more time on dealing with internal scalability issues rather than feature growth. AOL launched AOL Journals, MSN launched MSN Spaces, Yahoo launched 360 ... but these were all simply products which took a laundry list of features and implemented then with some close integration with their existing family line of products (MSN with MSN Messenger + MSN Spaces, for example).

The problem now is that the A-list bloggers (Scoble, Jarvis, Winer) are far more concerned with emerging technologies like podcasting; who really spends time writing about "textual" blogging anymore? The early adopters have moved onto greener pastures, and now there's no enthusiasm or innovation in the general blogging sites. The big players now in this field (MSN, 6A, Xanga) are more concerned with developing a business model from these sites, which generally leads to risk-aversion when it comes to features and UI work.

But here's the kicker. If you eliminate the journalism-type bloggers, there is a HUGE group of people who just want to keep their personal journals online. That's it. And very few of these people want to pay a huge monthly fee to write online; the last thing anybody needs is for an avenue of escape to start feeling like an obligation ("Oh shit, I paid $6 this month, better write!).

I haven't seen any work on this, but if Technorati is closely tracking LiveJournal and Xanga blogs, a noticeable amount of growth in past years simply could be linked to the creation of multiple accounts by the same people. I know one of the boons for Tabulas is the ability to change your username - friends I know that use LJ and Xanga were constantly deleting and creating new accounts during the past years to 'escape' previous personas.

But why would these people stop blogging now? Why would these people who have invested nearly 2-3 years in a platform just stop?

My personal experience is the total lack of feature innovation (for privacy controls) among the mass toolmakers. Many of my friends have now learned the hard way that things you post online do come back and bite you on the butt. When I've asked my friends why they've stopped blogging, an answer I hear quite often is, "It's not private enough online so I just keep it in MS Word." But they *want* to share. The whole allure of blogging in the first place is the ability to reach out and connect to a greater group of people - my friends have just realized that because they can't control which group of people to reach out to, they rather just not blog to anybody at all, which takes us right back to 1999.

The problem is not limited just to publishing. It also comes down to the consuming of feeds.

I have a theory when it comes to these groups - the more people that join an immediate social network, the less willing people are to contribute to that network. When you KNOW your post is being read by a smaller group of people, you're more willing to participate in the network. The more friends you have on a site, the less willing you are to visit every page to see if a page has been updated. This has been why the first boon to personal bloggers was the concept of a "friends" page (which I believe Brad was the first to implement on a alrge-scale); now people could read all of their friends' stuff on one page! Awesome!

But this has limited people to networks. I can't read my Xanga friends' on my LJ page (well, technically I can with RSS feeds, but not in any easy way), and the same goes for any other site. But I can sign up for a RSS aggregator like Bloglines and track everybody there! Unfortunately, this method is only adopted by early adopters like me, because people fear the learning curves of new sites.

So what's the next step? Toolmakers need to build in comparable feed consuming tools into their tools. People should be able to go to Xanga and easily track their LJ friends. People in Tabulas should be able to track both - and people shouldn't be aware that this is some new concept called "RSS" (cause that makes no sense to them). It should simply be called "Subscriptions."

But the barrier to creating this type of feature is high. For this to happen, sites like Tabulas need to build a crawler, a RSS feed parser (given the ambiguity and the different flavours of RSS, not an easy task) and then some method of storing this data in a scalable manner. Given the recent tussles in the RSS world regarding the spec, I'm not even sure I want to get into that. Supporting Atom would be an easier task, except adoption still isn't widespread.

Here's the bulleted summary of this post:

  • People have stopped trusting and using blogging tools because of the lack of privacy controls (and the inability to export data, but that's another story)
  • The stagnation among the featureset of general blogging tools is due to the maturity of the industry and the need to monetize the business, except most people don't want to pay. It also doesn't help that those in the greatest position to publicize and push for a higher standard of quality like A-list bloggers are obsessed with plugging Ajax, Web 2.0 products.
  • People have stopped reading blogs because the tools they are familiar with (Xanga, LJ, Tabulas) don't offer an integrated way of consuming feeds, and people are not happy with signing up "for another site" just to read sites. With more of their friends signing up, it simply becomes too time consuming to keep track of all their friends, so people generally give up.

And those are the problems.

Currently listening to: Jump, Little Children - Mexico
Posted by roy on February 26, 2006 at 01:45 PM in Ramblings | 6 Comments

My personality, my character, and my life can effectively be compartamentalized into one simple story.

Yesterday, I was trying to figure out what to have for dinner. It had come to my attention (while watching TV) that I hadn't been to Taco Bell yet this week (I make a weekly pilgrimage to the Durham Taco Bell fifteen minutes away for my soft/hard tacos ever since the Franklin St. Taco Bell shut down after my freshman year at Carolina). It had also come to my attention that I hadn't been to Chick-Fil-A since college. This posed a quandary that my college-educated mind was not well equipped to solve.

Here is how my mind broke it down:

  • Taco Bell: Cheaper, but not necessarily filling.
  • Chick Fil-A: A bit more expensive, but would probably guarantee a full stomach. BUT the greasiness might lead to breakouts later on, which would pose a problem since I spend almost all my waking hours holed up in my room alone

I really suck at decision making when it comes to really equally-close choices. I am not joking when I say this, but I oftentimes just flip a coin when it comes to decisions that I just can't figure out; the most significant life decision I've made on a coin flip is probably my decision to apply to Carolina early.

A few months ago, Yush, Han, Alex and I found ourselves at Banana Republic at Southpoint. For some reason, I had gotten it into my head that I really wanted to get a blazer. Unfortunately, Banana Republic had TWO brown blazers that I liked equally. The sad thing is they are both brown blazers, which means I'm not really adding to the diversity of my wardrobe - I just couldn't decide which brown blazer I liked more.

So I ended up buying both. I figured that if I bought one, there would be days when I might regret it - if I bought both, I would never regret having them both. And boy, was I right.

So going back to my Chick-Fil-A vs. Taco Bell story, guess which one I chose?

That's right, I chose both. I had my cake and I ate it, too.

Currently listening to: Fall Out Boy - Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying (Do Your Part T
Posted by roy on February 27, 2006 at 03:47 PM in Foolishness | 10 Comments

This entry paints very broad strokes on what I'm doing with Tabulas over the upcoming weeks. I have to hold myself accountable somehow.

I've started spending what free time I have on the Tabulas control panel. After completely botching Tabulas 2.1 this past summer, I'm going to take an incremental approach to implementing the new control panel.

  1. The first step (the step which I'm calling the "conversion") I'm going to take is the existing control panel files and simply update them; no new features will be added during this first round of work. All I want to accomplish is standardize the UI work and implement the new control panel look.
  2. After I do the "conversion" stage, I'm going to add smaller features that I can port over from the Tabulas 2.1 work - this includes advanced backup features (backup for your gallery as well as RSS exports for your journal).
  3. After I tackle that, I'll work on rewriting the front-end of Tabulas to the new system.
  4. Then, I'll work on adding the advanced features that I'm looking forward to (advanced privacy controls).

Today, I started on the first step and converted over the first page on the control panel to the new backend on the development server. This page is now fully functional ... hurray for the first step!

The new control panel is very similar to the current one because I do really like the general layout - the new design simply tweaks things up and tightens up the spacing. I've also been a bit more rigorous in the navigation hierarchy - there are still some things I need to iron out, but you can get a general idea of what the new control panel will look like.

The goal is to create something much simpler, but that is feature-scalable - that is, adding a new feature isn't a burden for me in terms of changing the UI.

Currently listening to: Bon Jovi - It's My Life
Posted by roy on February 28, 2006 at 02:51 AM in Tabulas | 3 Comments
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