What I'm Reading
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Wednesday, August 30. 2006
This evening, Myron, Chipa & Company, and I went to Japanese Village for our end of term feast. For those who are unfamiliar with this feast, this is a feast that is held at the end of each academic term. The agreement is that we spare no expense, so cost is not an issue and we splurge. In either case, I have been to Japanese Village before, but not to their sushi bar, so this is a new experience. Normally we're there for lunch, and sushi isn't available.
Anyway, I called to make reservations for the sushi bar, but I found out that they don't accept reservations, and it's first come first serve. When we got there, we understood why. The room where they serve sushi is tucked away at the back of the restaurant, and it's really small. They only had three or four tables there, and the sushi bar itself can probably seat twelve people.
Usually when I'm at a new restaurant, I'll order combination plates which provides a little sample of everything, so that I get a feel for what the restaurant can do. I went with the sushi and tempura combination dinner which was $19. It came with sunomono salad, miso soup, 6 pieces of the chef's choice sushi, assorted tempura (deep fried vegetables and shrimp in a Japanese batter), and orange sherbert. I went with this one because it samples both raw and cooked foods that the restaurant offers. Myron went with the sushi and sashimi combination dinner which was $26. It came with sunomono salad, miso soup, 6 pieces of the chef's choice sushi, assorted sashimi (raw seafood cut very thin, and served decoratively), and orange sherbert. Chipa & Company ordered individual items from the sushi menu. They had tuna tataki, a spider roll (deep fried soft shell crab), and a few other rolls.
The meal started with a delicious deep-fried onion cake (at least I think it was onion) served with a little teriyaki sauce. This nice little treat is used to cleanse your pallet. The next course was the sunomono salad. It was a little different from other Japanese restaurants. It had a strange smokey flavour; usually sunomono salad is sour, lemony, and refreshing. The next course I got was the tempura, which is kind of strange because usually they serve cooked items last. The tempura was excellent, very crispy, and fairly light in oil.
The next course that came was the sushi course. The chef's choice sushi included: salmon, snapper, tuna, egg, shrimp, and scallop. Out of all of this, the snapper is always my favourite kind of sushi. It has a nice texture to it, and it gives you some bite. Salmon on the other hand kind of melts in your mouth like butter. I'll have to admit that raw scallop is not something I typically care for, but the scallop sushi was not bad. Still, I'd rather have my scallops wrapped in bacon and cooked. The disappointment was of course the egg sushi. Egg is what you serve to noobies to Japanese cuisine. Why this was part of the chef's "choice" sushi is beyond me.
Myron had the same sushi course. However, his sashimi course never came because they forgot to make it, so he was waiting there without food for half the night. When it did finally come, it was a fairly small platter, so very disappointing there, especially if he's paying $26 for his meal.
The last thing to come was the miso soup which was wierd because usually you start your meal with the soup.
Continue reading "Japanese Village"
Tuesday, August 29. 2006
So this weekend, I was over at Steve's house for a drive-in movie theater event. His parents sold the house so this was a final get together. Lots of good memories there. Steve used to hold car rallies at his place, and we used to fire off a bunch of fireworks there.
In either case, the drive-in was arranged really well. He had an old-school popcorn machine. In addition, he had servers come by each car to take snack and drink orders. Very professionally done. He also constructed a big screen to show the movie on. He rented a projector for the theater, and played movies off his laptop to the projector. Another neat feature was that he used a FM radio transmitter for the movie's audio, so everyone could just tune into a local radio station and hear the movie from their cars. Pretty sweet setup.
The feature film was The Mask of Zorro. There was a brief intermission inbetween so that people could recharge their car batteries. The intermission was even complete with that classic movie clip of "Let's All Go To The Lobby" which was a nice touch.
There was a few people from my grad class there, mainly Brian and the man formerly known as Adam. So, we got to catch up a bit which was nice because I hadn't seen them in a while. It also dawned on me that more and more people from my grad class are moving out of Victoria which is kind of sad, but it's inevitable. Steve for example is going to Europe to study at an Austrian university as part of an academic exchange for 8 months. Best of luck with that.
Friday, August 25. 2006
You see that they have an official Battlestar Galactica Mastercard available, and you actually want one. The sweet deal is, when you sign up for the credit card, you get the Season 1 DVDs of Battlestar Galactica for free!
Unfortunately, this credit card is only available for Americans. Boo! I want one!
Oh well, I'll just have to wait until October 7, 2006 for my fix of Battlestar Galactica Season 3. Drool.
(For those who don't know, Battlestar Galactica is a new science fiction TV show based on an older series. I've got a rant explaining why this series so great here. I think I've already sucked in 6 people into the series because it's so dang good.)
Wednesday, August 23. 2006
Time for another summary of our stock market game. I missed the last two week's worth of action because I have been quite busy on the weekends. The main impression over the last two weeks is that the markets are no longer as volatile as they were between May and July. During those months, we would have -100 or +200 point days, but now, we have +40 or -40 days. This is a lot nicer for long term investors who aren't day traders. We want a gradual up trend rather than a choppy up and down motion.
The thing that I want to focus on is the tech sector because we've been seeing a lot of action there. The main one that I want to focus on is AMD. The stock has gone from $17/share to $25/share in a very short amount of time. People were thinking that Intel could completely destroy AMD in a price war, and that thesis doesn't appear to be true. Infact, AMD has announced that they're aiming to capture 40% of the PC market from Intel in a year. That's quite a jump considering that AMD has always been the underdog in the PC market, and last year they had captured 23% of the market. Anyways, I rant on and on about AMD because this is why Patrick is #1 in our game currently. (Full disclosure, I do own shares of AMD).
The other tech stock I'd like to comment about is Microsoft. They recently announced that they'll be buying back their stock with their company's cash. A stock buy back means that the company is so confident that their stock price is going to go up in the future, that they're willing to buy their own stock with money, and make a lot of money that way. Microsoft is spending $30 billion to buy back their own stock. As a result, their stock price moves up because they're buying it up in large quantities. It also forms a cushion under the stock because as soon as the stock price falls and people are selling, Microsoft will be there buying it up which pushes the stock back up. So heads up to Myron who's betting against Microsoft, it's going to be difficult fighting Microsoft.
Two more short notes. Financial companies have been doing very well lately because we're almost done raising interest rates. The big banks in Canada have been doing very well, especially Royal Bank. Two thumbs up there. Natural gas and oil companies are also dirt cheap right now, and I'd consider picking some up for the Winter since natural gas prices tend to rise during then.
Here are this week's ranks. Patrick is #1 again, and he has a commanding lead over everyone.
Myron has moved down to 5th place as he has bet against tech, and tech has recovered in the last little while. Fortunately, he did pick up some shares in Apple which has been doing fairly well. So, there's hope yet.
My portfolio still hasn't done anything. As mentioned before, it's setup such that it goes up when a hurricane hits the U.S. gulf coast. Hurricane season seems to be really late this year, so until one strikes, my stocks are going to do nothing.
cwing has been buying and selling like crazy, and it is costing him a lot of money. He's done 19 transactions so far which means that he's paid 19 X $29.95/transaction = $569.05 in commission fees alone! We all started with $4,000.00 in cash! Buying and holding isn't always a bad idea.
Standard disclaimer, the opinions in this article does not constitute financial advice. We are not responsible for any gains or losses you may incur in the stock market. Please consult a professional stock advisor about investments. The opinions made by the author in this article are merely opinions and are subject to change without notice.
Sunday, August 20. 2006
After a weekend away camping, I got on my computer and was saddened to know that a girl from my high school grad class, Jennifer Hanson, had passed away last week due to a car accident. She passed away on August 13, 2006. I found a short article in the news that briefly described what happened. This is quite sudden and shocking since all of us are so young and starting life as adults. You always hear about tragedies in the media, but rarely does it hit close like this.
I'm not sure how to react about this except to spread the information to other alumni who knew her during high school.
I managed to find Jennifer Hanson's obituary online at the Times Colonist. Furthermore, they have an online guestbook for people to sign, and I think it would nice for those who knew her to leave a short message.
Events like this always makes me step back and think how unimportant our pursuit of money, power, possessions, pleasure, and lust are. In the end, it's the relationships with friends, families, and God that really matters.
Special thanks to Natalie for bringing this to my attention. Natalie has an entry about Jenn as well on her blog.
It's a sad day.
Friday, August 18. 2006
Yesterday night, we did a massive computer system upgrade at work. The upgrade started from 8am in the morning till 2am at night. That is one heck of a long day of work. I put in a 16.5 hour shift. Bleh. I got 4.5 hours of sleep, and got up to go to work again. So, I'm fairly incoherent right now, and I'm in a ranting mood.
It was a pretty crazy upgrade because a lot of stuff wasn't tested completely, but we pushed on anyways. By 11:30pm, it wasn't looking good, and we might have had to undo our changes which would have been a lot of wasted time and effort. However, by 1:30am, I had squashed maybe 20 bugs, and the system was stable. So yay! When I got in this morning, we had about 5 bugs to kill. At least none of the bugs were critical. Given the sheer size of our upgrade, the transition went fairly smoothly.
Which leads me to my rant. One of the managers was complaining that the system would be down for an hour while he was working, and he thought this was an unacceptable disruption in services. He was demanding that we do the system upgrades on the weekend when no one was around. This was kind of annoying because we tried to schedule a weekend upgrade, but we couldn't get our entire team in on a weekend because of scheduling conflicts. On top of that, I think he would be appreciative that we stuck around for 16+ hours for a system upgrade. We don't get paid overtime for this. Heck, even the department's secretaries get paid more than I do, so it's not like there's a lot of financial incentive to bust our backs making sure this works well. (A secretary making more money than a programmer doesn't really seem quite right.) But hey, we did it anyways. The manager kept going on about how at his last organization that he worked for, they had software engineer teams do upgrades all the time on the weekends, and it didn't disrupt anyone. All I have to say is, given an infinite amount of money, resources, and labour, anything is possible. We are a small team in a large department, so we have limits.
My second rant is about a student complaining that our system was down last night. We had a prominent notice on our website for days warning about the system being down for upgrades. The student's advisor caught me this morning and asked if the system was down last night. I thought the advisor was joking because she saw the notice as well. I told her, uhhhhh yeah, it was down from 5pm-2am, as previously announced. She said that the student was complaining that he couldn't apply to jobs because the system was down. Read the notice, and apply earlier. Don't apply at midnight before the job closes!
Wednesday, August 16. 2006
This last week, you've probably heard about the British foiling a terrorist plot to blow up airplanes with liquid explosives smuggled on board through hand luggage. Currently, there's a lot of discussion about safeguarding our airports and airplanes. Some parties blame the government for not having technology that can scan for liquid explosives. As a knee-jerk reaction, governments are now looking for technological solutions and throwing money at the problem. However, I was watching a documentary about airport security in Israel, and how they deal with the threat of terrorism since they are literally on the frontlines when it comes to terrorism. The company that runs their airplanes is El Al, and it is considered the most secure airline in the world.
El Al does rely on technology for its security, but it also recognizes that technology is a tool, and not a magic cure all. They rely on human factors for security as well, which I think is correct.
For example, one of the most controversial security practices that they do is conduct interviews with each passenger for up to an hour. They'll ask questions about your destination, country of origin, goals, political beliefs, religious beliefs, etc. These questions are used to see if you fit the profile of a terrorist. During this questioning period, they'll also observe your behaviour. If you're a terrorist, you would feel very uneasy and stressed during security interview like this, and it could give you away.
A famous case of this security interview / profiling working is against Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. There's an article about Richard Reid traveling to Israel, and he was subjected to a security interview by El Al. The interviewers noted that Richard Reid seemed very uncomfortable and stressed during the interview, and his behaviour was very strange. So, on the airplane, they sat an armed air marshall next to him, and they told the air marshall to keep an eye on this guy. I think this shows how effective screening people is compared to screening baggage. They identified this guy as a potential security threat, and they kept a close eye on this guy. A well conducted security interview trumps the millions of dollars we're dumping into technology in my opinion.
Of course, in our politically correct societies here in the West, it is unlikely that we'd tolerate what amounts to racial profiling when it comes to airport security. It is bound to set off a firestorm of outrage and lawsuits from various activists. Unfortunately, it might require a successful terrorist attack before better security is implemented. A lot of analysts complain that our defenses are reactive rather than proactive, meaning we only boost our defenses against the last threat, not against future threats.
There's an excellent wikipedia article on El Al, and it covers just how much security the airline has. It's quite a fascinating read, and it shows you why they are the most secure airline in the world. They have 2-6 air marshalls on each flight. The entire crew is trained in hand-to-hand combat. They have reinforced steel to protect against bomb blasts. Heck, they even have an anti-missile defense system to protect against shoulder-fired missiles from the ground.
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"I'm hurting you to make you a better soldier in every way. To sharpen your wit. To intensify your effort. To keep you off balance, never sure what's going to happen next, so you always have to be ready for anything, ready to improvise, determined to win no matter what."
--Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
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