Lucky dumbass

Today, TF and I went to Bubby's (Yelp) in Tribeca for brunch. When we arrived, a nasty sign was hung outside: "Sorry for the inconvenience, cash only today".

Citibank was nearby:
  • First machine: wrong password
  • Second machine: wrong password
  • Third machine: wrong password
Frustrated, I went back to the restaurant. We then learned from the hostess that there's an ATM in the family market across the street. Excellent:
  • I asked for $60... but only $20 came out! WTF!?
  • Receipt comes out: it says $0 were dispensed
  • As I put my failing card back in the wallet... oh, that's my CREDIT CARD!?
So I stuck my debit card in and got $60... plus the $20 that someone left in the ATM. The lesson, as usual: I might be a dumbass, but I'm a lucky dumbass!


Glad I paid for (500) days of summer; Glad I didn't pay for Surrogates

Did another 2-fer today at Union Square theater, and it wasn't even my idea. Since TF (then still PNGF) got away with a 2-fer a month ago, she is no longer panicky about breaking some rules here and there. After we saw (500) Days of Summer, she actually suggested that we go see The Informant... except that the theater was playing Surrogates. Anyway, on to the movies:

(500) Days of Summer (IMDB) - cute little independent romantic comedy. I think the director wanted us to guess why "this isn't a love story" as the narrator tells us at the beginning despite showing a wedding ring and the two main characters on a bench together...
  • Maybe they called off the wedding right after?
  • Maybe she changed her mind again?
  • Maybe she was just helping friend pick the ring?
But, uh, no, I wasn't thinking that at all during the movie. I was just enjoying the little things the two were enjoying together. Nothing fancy. Just living life together and getting to know each other.

And the ending? I thought it was quite nice and very believable. I especially like how it took him 2 weeks to forget the 500 days. That's how it should be. There's a lot more to life (Are you listening, CT?) than just one person... except, uh, you, TF. =) Recommended for a light comedy.

Surrogates (IMDB): I have to admit... even I warned myself that it was going to be a dumb movie judging from the incomprehensible previews. Oh the low expectations were crushed. It was dumber than dumb - stupid really. Since I want to spare you the pain: scientist who invented device where humans use perfect robots to live lives regrets and tried to kill off those robots and the 99% of humans who use them. Bruce Willis investigates and tries to stop him using his real body rather than the robot one. He succeeds in saving all the humans... but will he save the robots too... all he has to do is press ABORT on a computer than links to the world. Uh huh. Yeah yeah. Not recommended. Willis is done. We had good times in Die Hard, didn't we? Allow me to repeat: NOT recommended. At least I didn't pay for it!


Concert series

Before I came to the USA about 15 years ago, I've never been to a concert in my life. Then I experienced Metallica in the brand new Gillette Stadium back in 2002. There were a bunch of opening band, none of which I remember... except for Linkin Park, who were back then already electrifying. Since then, I've been a concert virgin...

... that is, until I met TF. She's a music fanatic who can name all 2000 songs on her iPod (now a Zune... Boo, I was told) within 5 seconds of the opening music. Song name, band name, album name. As they say, the rest is history:
  • My Chemical Romance - where we hung with a bunch of 15 year olds and their parents in the pit (we stood with the parents... I don't think they enjoyed the music as much as we did)
  • Peter Bjorn and John at Webster Hall - a friend bailed at the last moment so I backed up. Location acoustics sucked, but the band was good despite me knowing exactly one song. Du-du-du-du-du-du-du
  • Band of Horses at Carnegie Hall - by far the best acoustics (duh!) among all locations. TF put a bunch of their songs on my iPod a month before and I didn't know that was them until I heard the live music. I'm lukewarm with their style but the music hall more than made up for it. (The before-concert meal at Carnegie Deli, on the other hand, was downright disappointing)
  • Green Day at MSG - great atmosphere as the band got the MSG audience going for a solid two hours. We're probably a bit older than the average fan, but it was good music nonetheless. The guy next to me stunk tho - arrrrrrrrrg
  • Coldplay (along with Silversun Pickups and Echo and the Bunnyman) in All Points West - where mud happens. The outdoor place was soaked and it was nasty. The live performance was absolutely amazing - both music and energy level were great
Coldplay - the band came so near but we didn't want to move in due to the mud
  • Pet Shop Boys at Hammerstein Ballroom (Thanks, TF) - it was a good place. I knew most of the songs and the crowd was quite fun as well. I'm still a bit confused with the dancing dolls (don't ask)
Dancing buildings... these four, uh, dancers were always in action doing something silly

  • Snow Patrol at Beacon - finally, a concert where I knew most of the songs! The acoustics were okay - a bit uneven with the treble, me thinks. The band had good music but I thought the performance was so-so. We also sat the whole way, which is nice in some regards but also an indication of how the energy level was. I liked it though.
  • U2 at Giants Stadium - TF and I have been looking forward to this. They sold out Giants Stadium (capacity of 82,000!) for a day and immediately added a second day. Amazing. Anyway, U2 did not disappoint - they rocked the place and I am suffering from a sore throat now.
U2 during Unknown Caller
Only one problem... the eye sore in front of us:

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I commented that "when it's all said and done, Coldplay might be a better band than U2," which immediately drew ire from TF. Well, actually, I think in the current world of improving technology and digital music, it will be much easier for Coldplay to further develop their music... and eventually might exceed U2.


Managing photographs

Since I learned how to use Adobe Lightroom, I've been MUCH MORE efficient in handling my photographs. (Sorry, I didn't know how else to emphasize that)

It's not as convenient as Picasa, but LR gives you excellent control over how you move them along the assembly line:
  • Picking which photos: especially with digital photogrpahy, this becomes infinitely important. Quick star ratings, color coding, and flagging puts LR waaaaaaay ahead
  • Cropping: the fact that you can create copies of a picture and then crop it different ways to compare and contrast is great...
  • Editing and finishing touches: It isn't as powerful as Photoshop, but the key functions are there and the add-ons are headed towards that direction. LR will soon be the photoshop for photographers only
Overall, it just makes going through 1000 pictures from the Grand Canyon much easier (Albums for GC and Sedona).

However, TF doesn't like LR quite that much because it's slower (I think its her computer) and not as user-friendly (not many automatic things compared to Picasa). I finally gave up and had her using Picasa again. And then Picasa came up with 3.5 yesterday.

I'm testing it out right now and boy is it a powerful photo software. If it has some sort of rating and filtering mechanism, I think it'll be a preferred software for the most amateur photographers. Among the functions:
  • Face recognition and auto-synch with your Gmail address book
  • Auto-synch if you upload those pictures
  • Geo tagging
  • One touch editing
Good software. But with some glitches:
  • It tagged Statue of Liberty and Mona Lisa
  • It suggested that my former manager was me
  • It suggested that a fomer colleague is TF (She's not amused)
  • It suggested that some 50 pictures of various old men were my college buddy PF (ha!)


Movies - Inglorious Bastards... and, uh, The Break Up

Inglorious Bastards (IMDB) - Interesting movie by Tarantino about Nazi hunting parties. Many parts of the movie are taken straight out of the Kill Bill movies, all the way down to the music.

Several scenes I thought were worth going over again.
  • In the first 20 minutes: Jew hunter Nazi Hans Landa (more on him later) vs. "we're in the Nazi killing business, and business is booming" Aldo Raine
Both are ruthless in their missions. Both are very good at their jobs. Both are slightly crazy - as in they've thrown away human decency because that's what the job requires. Tarantino does the same thing as he did in Kill Bill. You start off being very angry at the Nazis at their cruelty... then you laugh and agree with the same cruelty Brat Pitt and crew exhibit. Who's right? Who's wrong?
  • At the end of the movie: Nazi soldier turned star actor Fredrick Zoller vs. The Bear Jew Donny Donowitz - both slaughtering their targets
The Nazi (German??) sniper is doing his job by shooting all who run at his direction. While watching his own premier, he is disgusted with the brutality of all the killings. Meanwhile, Allied soldiers have their machine guns and shoot at anything that's moving (and then some that aren't) - yeah, they're mostly Nazi high command... and their innocent significant others.
  • Surviving Jewish turned French theater owner Shosanna Dreyfus vs... well, no one in particular.
Well, on one hand, you sympathize with Shosanna and her quest for revenge... and on the other hand, you quiver in her madness at the end of the premier.
  • Hans Landa vs. German actreee Bridget von Hammersmark
Didn't they both want the same thing? An opportunity to survive the inevitable fall of the Nazis. Both found an opportunity drop in their laps (von Hammersmark from learning about the change in theater and her access to it; Landa from learning about von Hammersmark's plans) and used it. Landa, in particular, is stone cold in calculating what he could do with the information that he's picked up with a shoe.

I read somewhere Landa was one of the all-time villains played on screen. I agree. The man is pure evil yet there's something to be admired in the way he approaches his job. Amazing job by the German actor Christoph Waltz. Even TF (PNGF's new name) was impressed!

Recommended... it's a little bit off beat some times, and I definitely didn't enjoy it as much as I did Kill Bill

(Oh, and yeah, we watched The Break Up together as our first movie since engagement. Needless to say, I don't recommend the movie. The ending, however, was a nice touch.)


War of Necessity, War of Choice by Richard Haas

Is reading a signed copy of a book on the NY subway a good idea? Me thinks not. Luckily, nothing bad happened and the book now sits back on the bookcase in pristine condition.


The book is a great account of the first Iraq War and an okay account of the second one. For that reason, the first half of the book is basically a good text book on how the government works in light of an imminent war. How decisions were made, why they were made, and their consequences. Great details into the personalities involved as well. Basically, Haas argues that it was a war of necessity as the tolerance of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait would have cause havoc in US Middle East (oil) interests and, on a grander scale, in world order and how states ought to behave.

However, the second half of the book drops off significantly. Haas himself was not involved in the decision process, so his views are limited at best. In fact, the book becomes his 80 page op-ed piece. I think his opinions are genuine and fair, but they are nonetheless opinions. Haas argues that the second Iraq war was a war of choice, one that the US could have easily avoided but chose not to. (Tell me something I don't know)

Overall, I think the book was a satisfying account of decision making in a history text book way. Slightly recommended.



BBC top news story: UN condemns "war crimes" in Gaza

CNN? Garrido story... followed by Yale student, Baghdad's safety zone under fire, Obama defends auto bailout, student stabbed at Florida school, Patrick Swayze death...

And of course this sensational piece about Jessica Simpson's dog being snatched away by a coyote. Is this even reporting? I think reporter Michael Park simply put three tweeter messages together to make front page on CNN...?


Ready? Engage!

Well... I have lots of things to blog about... but Answer First is this: I'm engaged! PNGF is now PNF! (Okay, I need a new nick name for her)

Other things that I ought to blog about but haven't had time to:
  • Renewed website at; remains hijacked by some Japanese website hosting service who wouldn't reply to my emails.
  • My trip to DC
  • My trip to Grand Canyon
  • How to buy diamonds (four weeks of research!)
  • All the food I've had (two excellent value French restaurants in nyc, heavenly donuts, ice cream in Scottsdale, secret restaurant in Grand Canyon, etc)
But yes, first things first, I'm engaged!


Thoughts from US Open

Oh, so you don't really need tickets to go see the US Open! You can walk right up to the outer courts and watch them play right in front of you (and the rest of the crowd). I stood maybe 20 feet away from the gorgeous Daniela Hantuchova as she served. Alas, dinner was waiting, so no pictures were taken. Oh well. Hm... maybe tomorrow I can head to Flushing again!

We watched Roger Federer and Serena Williams destroy their opponents. While Serena simply overpowered her weaker opponent, Federer won with precision and strategy. Allow me to describe one of the plays:
  • Federer was forced to his backhand side by opponent's two handed top spin backhand. Slice return. Slice return. Slice return. Slice return.
  • Opponent's return slightly shallower than before. Federer jumps over it with a top spin return
  • Opponent caught off guard by the sudden change in speed. Bad return. Federer jumps again with a forehand winner to the opposite corner
Just beautiful defensive tennis followed by a quick change in pace, gear, power, and momentum to win a point.


Food you shouldn't miss

Just a few picture and places to share...

Calamari at Cookshop - one of the best I've had in years
Chocolate caramel cake at Eleven Madison Park - exquisite chocolate cake with a caramel crust; sorry I didn't take a better picture.
Pork skewers from Yakitori Totto - awesome yakitori all around, though I was a bit disappointed at the chicken knee
French Toast from Fivestar - don't miss the Churros either since the dough taste similar to the french toast
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