Tuesday March 25, 2003

Slashdot | Spirited Away Set for 800 Theatre Rerelease

Woohoo! Rotten Tomatoes got /.’d today! This is the first time that we have actually been mentioned by name in a slashdot posting. For those of you who don’t know, slashdot.org is the central blog for the Linux/nerdy community and to get /.’d is a pretty big deal (i.e. a crap load of traffic gets sent to you). The most ironic thing is that our servers managed to survive the /.’ing (thank god for last week’s server upgrade) — but right now Slashdot’s images server is out. WE MANAGED TO TAKE OUT SLASHDOT!

Monday March 24, 2003

Did you watch the Academy Awards? There’s been alot of discussion of the correctness of advocating political views during acceptance speeches. First, I don’t think that commonsense person would say that an award winner doesn’t have the right to say what they want to say. That’s not the point of contention. Nonetheless, why I can see why Michael Moore spouting his anti-war statements would be an irritant to many viewers I’d wish I could remind these viewers about the role of the artist (and, yes, filmmaking is an artform) is to oftentimes bring unpopular or unknown viewpoints to the audience. If the Oscars are even a little bit about celebrating the artform of filmmaking, then we have to accept all the things that go towards making the artform great INCLUDING the political viewpoints that mold films. So much of Hollywood is reduced to basic starf*cking, cult-of-celebrity tabloids that we often lose sight of the fact that there is still some meaningful art in film today. Have our priorities been so messed up that so much that this has been forgotten to the degree that we actually CRITICIZE artists when they try to make a political statement?

I’d also like to admonish the people who believe that now is a time to squelch antiwar statements and “rally around the President and troops”. I heard an NPR segment this weekend interviewing Vietnam War vets in a veterans hall. Many of these Vets view anti-war protests in the middle of a war while brave soldiers are risking their lives as distasteful and even traitorous. Again, I can understand where they’re coming from and I also empathize with the horrible treatment that Vietnam vets got from many antiwar protesters AND the government after returning from overseas. Nonetheless, I’d like to ask them if they believe that our democratic system is somehow so fragile that it can’t afford to be questioned by those who are contrary to the viewpoint of the current administration. A political system like ours is at it’s most vital and healthy when there’s a wide spectrum and diversity of viewpoints. I fear the most when there’s a homogeniality of opinion like the months directly following 9/11.

That being said, I can admit that I’m getting increasingly frustrated by the ineffective rhetoric of many of the antiwar protests in this country. I feel like that the same old ineffective chants of “No blood for oil” and “Inspections work, war doesn’t” are being repeated to no effect.

The military is practicing what they call “effects-based war” where they examine what “effects” they want to see (i.e. put Saddam and his regime in a position such that the Iraqi people realize that he’s no longer going to be a leader) and then build their tactics to create that effect (e.g. heavy psycholgical ops, “precise” bombing to eliminate certain targets in order to humiliate the military leadership).

What “effect” does the anti-war movement want? The end of the war? The continuation of inspections? To me, alot of the rhetoric seems more generally anti-Bush rhetoric carried over from the close of the 2000 elections. If the goal is for the immediate end of the war, then they need to promote a POLITICALLY VIABLE alternative that can sell to an American public. Most Americans trust the President (i.e. the office of the president, not necessarily W. himself). Most Americans are very afraid of a follow up attack. I believe that the winning difference is that the administration has presented a hopeful, clear strategy where Americans are again the flagbearers of freedom and liberty. The antiwar movement for the most part has only been able to promote a fuzzy picture of eternally continuing weapons inspections that probably will work (but not certainly) that leaves a brutal tyrant in power. I think we can all agree that the administration has done a horrible job of selling their plan to “world opinion”. Well, I have to say that the antiwar movement has done an equally horrible job of selling THEIR alternative to the American public.

Of course I understand that the rational antiwar position (as opposed to the irrational NO WAR EVER position) is difficult. It’s always difficult selling a multifaceted, sophisticated case like “preemptive wars are immoral”. It’s easier for the administration to sell their black-and-white world view than the many shades of grey. Nonetheless, there must have been some way of selling an equally compelling and hopeful world view from the antiwar side.

Ok… enough of that. Did you know that one of the soldiers (well, soldier/truck mechanic) captured by Iraqis today was Filipino-Am? I thought that was pretty interesting. I feel really bad for his mother — she found out about it when she was watching a Filipino cable channel at home in Arizona and saw her child on TV being held as a POW by Iraqis. That’s pretty freaking horrible. Rumsfeld, of course, complained that it was a violation of Geneva Convention to be showing these POWs on TV (of course it is). Well, perhaps Rumsfeld should admonish CNN and all of the other networks for broadcasting pictures of surrendering Iraqi soldiers. CNN must have realized that that was probably why they got kicked out of Baghdad, right?

Jen and I had brunch with Ivan and Jenny at Zazie. Beautiful day. Wish there was more parking in SF, but the trip made me really miss San Francisco days.

Saturday March 22, 2003

I’ll assume that nearly everyone (or should I say both of you) who reads my blog is probably wushu-related. Nonetheless, in my former life in college, I gave my promising career in wushu (*cough*) to join Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed, non-housed, service fraternity (with our fellow brothers Tom Daschle and Bill Bill Clinton). I made many really good friends (and one girlfriend ) from there — about as many friends that I have in wushu. I pretty much got sucked into it when a bunch of wushu folk decided to join (Alda, Lisa, and Mae) and, being as weak-willed as I am, I was easily plied into joining as well. Of course, being the obsessive kind of person that I am, I went a bit overboard and ended up serving as a hardcore officer for the fraternity and spending way too much time during senior year planning things out. In any case, I spent an inordinate number of hours volunteering and organizing volunteers. I had a near nervous breakdown on the day before our closing banquet (also the week before graduation). I was trying to start a new company with Patrick with no money and one of our partners deciding to go to medical school in Mexico and another partner flying to Korea on a drop of a dime to become a teacher. Also, I had discovered to my dire surprise that, in fact, I technically hadn’t graduated since I hadn’t completed my breadth requirements (thanks L&S Advisors!). Finally, APhiO was pulling in me in 20 different directions with various responsiblities that I needed to complete before handing off to a new officer. In any case, I became burnt out from volunteer work and I subsequently threw myself into my new company.

Well, now things have been quieting down… I’m no longer pulling allnighters like I was when we first started the company because, frankly, the company is more stable. There’s no more mad rush here and there like there was during the height of the Internet boom. In any case, I feel like I need to segue back to spending some time doing volunteer work rather than just spending my time sleeping, working, and doing wushu.

I’m a bit uncertain as to what I want to do, though. APhiO had the luxury of a broad diversity of volunteer opportunities planned offered and, well, force fed down your throat. I’m thnking of doing something small first like afterschool tutoring, but then again, I have a anti-social fear sometimes, especially with kids. I’m afraid I’m going to accidentally mess them up unintentionally or something. This is the result of being the youngest kid in a family.

In any case, does anyone know where a good place to start is? I’ve been looking up the local web sites and I think I’ve got a good idea of what Berkeley and Oakland programs there are, but I’m not sure which ones are well-organized, enjoyable opportunities? Advice?

Friday March 21, 2003

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that the 24/7 news coverage has me addicted like I’m on crack or something. As I’ve said before, I’m really a news junkie, but there’s a certain point where you realize that you’re going in excess. For me, that point is probably when I realized that during the day I was checking drudgereport.com every 30 minutes while simultaneously listening to NPR. At night, I’ve been staying up until 3am in the morning flipping between CBS, MSNBC, and CNN coverage of the war. Must stop… I had a similar obsessive reaction following 9/11, and again at the beginning of the Afghanistan campaign. Is there some kind of methadone for news coverage? It’s really quite gross… Like some kind of passive fascination.

What’s hot this month? How about people getting engaged, or married…? I found out about at least FOUR couples within a one week span: Joel and Angela, Ollie and his Taiwainese chickie, Flea and Hien (who I don’t know formally, but oddly recognize from pictures), Bryan and another Angela. Also.. Xanga. As Leslie says, it seems that the Asianz luvs their Xanga.

At some point, I need to begin writing my movie reviews. Pat and I had a very interesting discussion today about what the next big feature for Rotten Tomatoes should be. We finished doing our new video games section in the winter. While we have a couple of odds and ends left to do, it’s really about time for us to plan our next step. Everyone seems to be pushing us towards doing something subscription-based, but I still have very grave doubts that there’s enough viable things that we can offer to justify the effort into developing a subscription program. Patrick and I agree alot on this point that we can’t just throw just a bunch of small features out there and let it fail — there has to be something really compelling that would convince several thousands of our readers (ideally, more like five to ten thousand) to part with their money. At the same time, I’m very adamant that the “subscription features” have to tie directly in to Rotten Tomatoes’ strong brand identity. We’re the site that people go to when people want to figure out what movies to watch (and now, what video games to play); that means, movies, video games, and reviews. I don’t want to shoot off onto some tangent by offering something that’s not related to our brand. Both of us really our fascinated by this Xanga thing and the fact that it’s really well designed to ensnare people and their friends and get a sizable portion of them to subscribe. I’m not saying that I necessary want Rotten Tomatoes to do blogging, but I think both Pat and I want to find something as compelling as the blogging experience, but transferred to Rotten Tomatoes. I need some kind of divine inspiration to hit me…

Wednesday February 26, 2003

Now THAT was a damned good episode of Smallville. It had everything for a fanboy to geek out about. Most importantly, however, it shows that the show runners understand the best aspects of the comic book mythology. John Schneider is absolutely perfect casting as Jonathan Kent — you can’t possibly cast a better “strong American dad” role. I especially loved the touching resolution at the end. Man, this episode blew Buffy out of the water…

Tuesday February 25, 2003

A couple of fun links. Here is my poll of the week on Rotten Tomatoes. Please feel free to send in your answer.

Favorite martial arts fight scene

Unfortunately, as Raffi has pointed out, it’s a bit unfair of a poll because all of the martial arts newbies are selecting Crouching Tiger, probably the only major martial arts movies that they’ve watched. I personally voted for Jackie’s final battle in Drunken Master II.

Here’s another good link: Hurt (Johnny cash)

It’s a wonderful video directed by Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo). The video is a great extension of the song which itself is a wonderful cover of a wonderful song. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of cover songs, but that’s because most cover songs are bland, pale imitations of their originals. As a consequence, I’m extra impressed when someone is able to provide a different “reading” into a song and there by make it a new and fresh. My biggest annoyance: cover songs by untalented dance backup singers where they just put a rhythm track and call it a club hit.

This week hasn’t started too auspiciously. I slept horribly on Monday and felt incredibly groggy throughout the day. Wushu practice was distressing as well. I re-injured my right upper hamstring on Friday — I guess I overstretched in my eagerness to practice. As a consequence, I limped around with my right leg out of commission. I also had to bug bomb my bedroom and kitchen because of an ant infestation. I probably shoudn’t have slept in my bedroom last night because of, you know, all of the killer poisonous pesticides; unfortunately, my brain just isn’t smart enough to heed it’s own warnings and now I’m suffering from headaches, sinus congestion, and violent hallucinations (ok, maybe not the last one). I came home early today to rest a bit but I’m not feeling any better. Let’s hope that a relaxing night of blogging, Buffy, Smallville, and Star Fox Adventures will cure my psychosis.

For those of you who might know, I’m bit of an obsessive news/web-surfing junkie. I could probably be a much more productive if I wasn’t checking my 30-40 bookmarks multiple times a day.

Saturday February 22, 2003

Woohoo! I’m kinda proud of myself at this moment because I’ve managed to prepared an amazing delicious pot of chicken drumstick stew for Angie’s housewarming tonight. I went over the Safeway next to Jen’s apartment and picked up some items and went all out to make my experimental dish which turned out to be a rather fantastic creation (hope I’m not bragging too much  ! ). Anyways, Jen claims that it’s as good as the stew that her Mom makes so it must be pretty damn good.

I’m thinking that over the next week or two, I’m going to begin to do some doing some life examination in my blog regarding two things: my thoughts on the potential for war in Iraq and my frequently pained high school life. Oddly enough, the two items are very closely tied together because, while I don’t ordinarily express my political views these days, I used to be much more outspoken and opinionated about these topics in high school. I participated in a bunch of marches in D.C. against the first Gulf War and was very politically active; but I think that level of activity kind of wore me out and has made me think extra hard and be extra skeptical before taking hard political positions these days. In any case, I think it’ll be helpful for me to recount these issues on paper (well, in my blog in this case) because it’ll help me more clearly define what I believe.

I’m not saying that this is going to be an especially exciting story, but as I said before, it’s for my posterity anyways.

Friday February 21, 2003

Today was like a flashback. I spent the day firefighting server problems on Rotten Tomatoes while simultaneously juggling phone calls from business partners, sending out faxes, and fixing ad campaigns. It felt like the early days of Rotten Tomatoes when the site traffic was growing faster than our ability to improve our hardware to accomodate it. In a way, it’s kind of like a two-edged sword — sure, it’s bad to have overloaded servers, but it also means that you’re likely accomodating a great amount of traffic. Still, it feels like a boiler room on these freaky Friday’s when I’m trying to administer the servers like a mad man. I was hoping to hold off on buying new servers until April, but I might need to buy them a month early in order to keep the site running properly. Ordinarily, I’ve been trying to budget our server expenses to 2 new servers at $3000 each every six months (i.e. $1K/month). However, since we skipped our “December” server purchase, I might be able to have a field day and spend $8-9K this time around and get three sweet servers. It’s a pleasant feeling doing a clean install of newly ordered servers and getting this gigantic “Bogomips” counter on the login screen. The last time I installed the servers, it provided an estimated 40% computing power increase from just two new servers. I’m hoping to get around a 50-75% increase this time, although our site traffic has grown by around 30% since last May when we last did our server upgrades.

I had dinner with Leslie last night at a pleasant Vietnamese restaurant in Inner Richmond called Le Soleil. It was decent, but it reminds me that I really need to visit more restaurants on Clement Street since there’s such a good variety of cuisine. Does anyone have any suggestions for new restaurants? Besides Brothers and Brothers II, I mean. I really miss when Jen lived in Sunset and we could just walk over to Golden Gate Park in the afternoons, stop by for boba drinks and Vietnamese sandwiches, and relax. I could live that lifestyle for a long, long time.

On the flip side, I’m looking forward to tonight’s Wushu workout. I actually really enjoy the 3 hour Friday workouts — they’re a bit too long (I’d prefer 2-2.5 hour workouts), but it’s fun doing lines with the beginners and spending alot of time improving my sections for sets. Plus, alot of people who don’t ordinarily drop by (like Ivan, Jen Hsu, and Felicia) occaisionally make an appearance. It’s like a big ol’ Wushu reunion.