Man Salad

A salad feast that fill an 8″ bowl and satisfying as a meal. (Insert animalistic, Tim “the tool man” Taylor grunt.) Of course, man prepares man salads for men.

First get one of those Costco sorted mixed green box. There are also normal supermarket version. Does not matter.

Then consider the protein choices. I like tofu and cold cuts. Sometimes salmon or shrimps. Steak will be great. The best is to have a big steak the previous night, eat half, and use the second half, thinly sliced, for salad.

Starch is optional. Quinoa is in these days. Baked yams are excellent.

Fruits and colors are important. Slice peeled oranges and apples.

I like ripen Avocados. They gives a rich and creamy texture and flavor.

Now we consider aromatics and spices. Onions, green onions, black pepper, garlic (smashed). Bleu cheese or goat cheese are great too. Yes, I meant all of them.

For crunchy texture, roasted almond slices are my favorite.

Dressing? Equal part of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a dole of mustard. Add a bit liquid. Whisk vigorously together.

Toss well. Serve with a nice glass of Chardonnay. Red wines do not go well with this.

Noticed any mention on portions? Man salads do not measure anything.

The general problem with this salad is the amount of time required for cutting so many things into the right size. This is where plastic containers are at their best. You can do all the cuttings and put them, separated, into containers. Then you essentially have your own salad bar at home.

When she asks what did you had for dinner. You answer, “Oh, I had a bowl of salad. (Another grunt!) Man salad.”

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A moment of panic

I stood on the curb side cursing myself. “You moron!”

Thirty minutes earlier, I got into the taxi and noticed the driver is a woman, a rare event in Beijing. My phone chirped. I replied to several WeChat messages and arranged meetings accordingly. I turned my attention to the weird CCTV building from close-up, then many sky scrapers nearby. A thought came to my mind…

“Would you be able to come pick me up in the afternoon?” I asked. “Sorry, I cannot really predict where would I be.” “That’s OK. I am also thinking of renting a car for the weekend. Are you available?” “Sorry, sir, I don’t work over the weekend.”

This is when I notice the cell phone mounted at the left corner of the windshield. In the US, that will be Uber. “Which service do you participate for the mobile?” “I do Di-Di. But over 90% of the guests are from normal street traffic.” “Do you consider joining Baidu’s taxi service?”, I like to survey people randomly. “No. One phone, one app. Can’t afford two.”

The fare was 29RMB, I gave her 30 and told her to keep the change. As I walked up to the building, I noticed my cell phone was not in my pocket.

Imagine yourself just lost your phone right now! How many seconds would you wait to curse?

Rushed into the office, I dialed my cell. No answer. This is typical. The moment someone picks up a lost phone, he/she turns it off. I started to consider going to the corner “3C” store to buy a new one. Which make/model? How much should I pay? Hmm…

Five minutes later, I tried again. It rang! The driver answered. She could only come back in about 40 minutes. We rendezvoused where she dropped me off. I paid her RMB100 and thanked her. As she drove away, she said, “I did this only because you were nice to me.”

I watched the taxi disappearing into the river of cars. My phone said I have 3 missed calls and 28 messages.

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The Martian: A Novel

Such a nerdy book. Such a page turner. Such a must-read.

Like Robinson Crusoe or Cast Away, the protagonist got stranded, only in Mars. Now, how the hell can one survive there, as the only living creature on the entire planet?

You started to like Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer, almost immediately. Then you started to admire him and rooting for him. You don’t want him to die, you want to save him, you want everyone to save him. There were some SNL level humor that were a bit poignant. Everyone was trying to save him. Very cool, but how?

If they can make Wild into a movie, this one will definitely too. If Gravity can be a block buster, this will too. If you are a nerd, or know someone who is, read this book. I basically pulled an all-nighter to finish it. That’s a very rare event. The movie will be out late this year (Matt Damon) and I will definitely watch it.

The book assumed modern day space travel technology: before “faster than light” warp speed has been mastered. There are some fancy gadgets, but all of them imaginable with today’s technological reach. The only factor is people’s creativity and will; not science, technology, or money. That’s the inspirational element of the book.

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Stepper’s Foot

That’s when your foot goes numb while using a stepper, stair master, elliptical machine, or even stationary bicycle. I paid no attention to that about a month ago, thinking I pinched a nerve sitting too long on the stationary bike. But when it persisted even on the elliptical machine, I got a bit concerned. Of course, I Googled.

There are several possible causes. The repetitive motion could pinch a nerve near the ball of the foot. There could be some kinds of blood flow restriction to the leg from the exercise. And it can be a form of the tarsal tunnel syndrome. What to do? What to do? …

Since these exercises are not new to me, I suspected my shoes: a relatively new item to the routine. I notice this pair is wider, which I thought better for breathability. Good thing I always have a spare pair, so I experimented. The new pair fit snuggly. I can exercise almost without tying the shoe laces. And the numbness stopped.

I surmised that I over-tied the shoelaces to accommodate for the width. That restricted the blood flow when the exercise became vigor.

Lessons learned? Don’t ignore the discomfort and root cause it early. Having a spare pair was a good idea. Stick to the same brand/style of shoes, stop experimenting or bargain hunting.

And I did learn about Stepper’s Foot, really never heard of it before.

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Leavenworth, WA

In the 60s, the rail road company moved about 20 miles to Wenatchee. Losing its largest, and probably the only, employer, this city was to become another rail road ghost town. The mayor went to Solvang, CA, and the new Leavenworth was born.

What exactly is Bavarian, I mean, as a theme for a city?

The mountain setting, similarity in climate, architectural style, murals on the walls, town center, street signs, authentically brewed beers, bratwursts, pretzels, and all the German styled foods. And, of course, Bavarian attired serving staff. It worked! Leavenworth is now a thriving tourist destination. In the winter time, it is supposed to be a ski resort serving several slopes nearby. But this year, strangely, it is a destination for Seattleites seeking sunshine on the other side of the Cascade. People were literally sun bathing in Leavenworth, ice cream cone in hand.

On your way to Leavenworth, or Steven Pass, from Seattle, you must pass the city of Monroe. Not much to see, keep on driving. But just out of the town on highway 2, look out for two school buses parked on the other side of the rail road. That’s the Old School BBQ. It will be wise to arrange your trip so that you can have a meal there. (We skipped the reptile museum and the espresso stand, on the same parking lot.) What I yelped:

The host greets you from the window. Her Texan accent wins you over. Then you see the smoker emitting aroma that envelops you. Your saliva started to flow. Hmm, this is a good start!

But which to order? 4-meat combo it is. The brisket is as advertised to be tender, juicy, and flavorful. The ribs were heavily smoky that I can smell in 4 hours after I have eaten there. The pull pork was good. The sausage kind of average. There were three kinds of sauces and all good, but I like the original spicy best.

This place managed to thrive as a permanent food truck, from two school buses, on a parking lot with the “Reptile Museum” that is out of no where. Talk about low over-head. If you are on your way to Stevens Pass or near Monroe, this is a must-eat.

Of course, just for those BBQ enthusiasts

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Ears on the Walls

Back when cell phones were novel, it is a common treachery for eavesdroppers to park near a highway and listen to all those people talking while driving. Soon, the new generation of cell phones scramble all transmissions. Fast forward a few years, we learned that hackers would turn on the microphone and/or camera on the laptop. It is bad enough that the vendors fail to deploy strong mechanisms to protect us. We will be livid if they volunteer our private information to third parties without our consent.

And that appeared to be what Samsung did with their SmartTV. What were they thinking? Really!

Apparently, Samsung’s SmartTV is always recording whatever audible and transmitting them out. The TV must be attentive to whatever sound in the room, lest a command was uttered. It also must learn your voices to tune its voice recognition feature. The unintended consequence is, obviously, the blatant violation of your privacy. Worse, they do this without telling you first.

As a network security person, I am always amazed that how little engineers considered security when they design their products. Yes, security makes everything harder. But that’s only a matter of design discipline: one extra constrain for engineers to deal with — not being convenient has no bearing on this.

Consider security as part of the design, there is no dropping this. When do so, find a real expert. Amateur computer security is usually worse than not having any.

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Vaccination Decision

I have a very strong position on this question. But this blog is not about the medical merits of vaccination. It is about risk assessment and decision making.

We human beings are not capable of evaluating very small probabilities. For example, if I offer you the choice of a lottery ticket that has a 0.0001% chance of winning $100 million or $50 dollar cash. Which would you choose? If, instead, I try to sell you that ticket, how much would you pay for it?

The majority of the people will not make the mathematically correct decision. (Go ahead, ask someone.)

Let’s assume that getting the vaccination carries a risk that’s harmful to the children (or self). But not getting the vaccination carries the risk of getting infected. Since one must make a decision on this matter, the rational call is to choose the less one. The argument of “it could be harmful to my children” is not rational, unless it is “more harmful than my children getting infected.” Since both risks are extremely small. Some of the brains got lost and chose wrongly.

In making decisions that involve extremely small probability (less than 0.1%). First arrive the correct decision mathematically. Next use emotions, examples, or other human perceivable forms to persuade the constituents; never numbers. Unless, of course, that your audience is all scientists, engineers, or robots.

The ticket is worth $100. So, take the lottery ticket unless the cash is more than $100, or pay for it if the price is less.

Get the facts straight for all matters first. When in doubt, use Occam’s Razor, select the side that made the fewest assumptions.

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SuperBowl Decision

Yes, I was shocked. Why would Pete Carroll make that play call and lost SuperBowl 49 for SeaHawks? Wouldn’t it be obvious to use the “Beast” to punch through Patriot’s wall and score the game winning touch-down? What was he thinking?

This is called the 20-20 hind-sight wisdom. It is a known fallacy in decision making.

The quality of the decision is not necessarily related to the outcome, particularly when random factors play a role. Pete Carroll has basically two options: use Marshawn Lynch to ram through, or use a different play that Patriots do not expect. Facing New England’s defensive team, Marshawn Lynch may very well be stopped with several inches short. The alternative approach may actually have better odds. This decision could be a sound one. What happened next could be just bad luck.

If there is a lottery with 10% chance of winning and the pay-out is better than 10 times the ticket price, then the rational decision is to buy the ticket. If the ticket does not win, it is simply bad luck.

Don’t learn the wrong lesson.

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Point of Impact

“Is that any good?” I asked my fellow traveler holding Sniper’s Honor. I always favor books reviewed by an actual reader, instead of professional critic. “It’s a good travel book,” he said and I understood perfect. “It is a series and a movie was made from one of them.” Hmm…

It was Shooter, a movie by Mark Wahlberg that I enjoyed. Generally, a good movie leads to better reading experience. But vice is not versa. So I got the first of the Bob Lee Swagger series: Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter. The book was published in 1993 and movie made 2007.

As I read, scenes from the movie flashed back in my mind and that was quite fascinating. I noticed the adaptations and actually appreciated them. Like always, the book gave depth, contexts, and richness. The movies the faces, feelings, and emotions.

As the first of a series, this book ended cleanly. I wonder if the rest of the series is equally good.

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Uber Controversy

Had a lively debate over Uber’s legitimacy the other day.

There are two primary points against Uber:

  1. Uber evades taxes. The government collects fees and taxes, excessively in some cities, from the taxi industry. These costs are generally transferred to the consumers in the form of higher fares, with the assumption that taxi customers are mostly out-of-towners and it is OK to tax them more. Uber, or similar ride-sharing businesses, under-cut this revenue sources.

  2. Uber is dangerous. The customer is most vulnerable in a car driven by a stranger. The government regulates and tracks taxi drivers. People should feel safer.

There are disagreements from the other side of the table.

  1. So what!? Taxation is a form of wealth redistribution. The same customers who use taxis will spend the same money on the same society. Uber, if thriving, will generate wealth in the society. If not, it does not matter.

  2. Really?! Can someone produce evidences that taxi is really safer than Uber? All we have is theories and sensational news stories. People get robbed by taxi drivers everyday too. With Uber, the customer knew the name of the driver and his/her rating before he/she gets into the car. That feels safer to me.

Government does not protect any industry or a group of people, it exists for the most good for the most people. Any change, progress or not, disrupts some existing businesses. Several years ago, Shanghai taxi drivers protests that subways are hurting their business and people thought that’s OK. Why would Uber be different?

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