Cupertino 5K Jogging Path

Jogging outdoors is a event rarely happened in Seattle. When it does, many unreasonable conditions must be met: the the weather being nearly perfect: clear day and between 65°F and 80°F; asphalt or well paved paths; a loop, instead of out and back a path; few traffic lights and no fighting cars; flat paths; and, lastly, not crowded by many fellow joggers.

Summer mornings of northern California are just perfect. I discovered this jogging path only recently. This loop that starts at the intersection of De Anza and Stevens Creek crosses the fewest traffic lights and mostly through the residential area.

The best part is the Creekside Park tucked along Miller. It’s a big swab of green paved along the perimeter. The path pretty much is going for it as the destination and coming back.

Back to the treadmill in the gym when I go back to Seattle.

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Jack Reacher: Persuader

I read fictions only from the library. I figured the good ones will eventually work their way into the system. The popular one all have long waiting lists. I would request them, and patiently waited my turn, sometimes for months. While I am “between books,” I simply checked out one of those mass market series. There are many prolific authors who cranked out many books with very consistent style and format. Some call them the travel books: the one you buy at the airport bookstore and discard at the hotel when you are done. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series is in such category.

Although the plot largely predictable, I enjoyed reading every Jack Reacher so far. I guess I identified with the protagonist: a modern lone ranger who wandered into the small town and took care of people from the big bad wolf.

This time, however, he was a revenger: getting back to a big bad guy who wronged him 10 years ago. The general weakness of this book is Lee Child developed the story line too slowly, almost as if he added the flash-back subplot as an after-thought.

Several fight scenes were excellent, the fist fight with Paulie being the best.

Highly recommended for your next trip to wherever.

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Red Rising Trilogy

In the distant future, Luna colony rebelled and ruled the Solar system. They abandoned the concept of “all men are created equal” and created a genetic caste system: the Gold would be on the top of the pyramid to rule, Red the bottom for hard labors, and many other colors in-between. Specialized training, implants, and genetic modifications were common for the colors to perform their jobs better. And 700 years passed.

One of the Red, Darrow, rebelled and started an epic struggle of the lone lowest against the Olympic gods. The books carved human spirit, love, brotherhood, power, and greed. It threaded betrayal, wars, martial arts into the story arcs. They were addictive.

They are also bloody and violent beyond the “young adult” level.

Pierce Brown clearly shares my taste of whiskey. Chuckles.

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Development Methodologies

Modern software is a very unique art form that is similar to creative writing, yet different in scale, volume, and the number of people that must work together to produce it. Imagine a fiction 100 times larger than the encyclopedia (yes, a fiction) and written by 500 authors. Not only the story needs to be compelling and the style consistent, there is also essentially zero tolerance on errors in spelling, punctuation, gramma, or word usage.

So called software methodology exist mostly to deal with “programming in the large” — that a large number of people must collaborate to do software. If we only employ small teams, then the methodology is no longer an interesting concept.

Few software company can afford the pace of George R.R. Martin.

With the goal of selling for money, instead of a single fiction that large, what if we change to 500 short-stories that are related in plots. Each independent author will announce his/her plot idea and characters before he/she start and proceed to write the story without more interaction to others. The new story will become part of the big story to make it richer and deeper. It can also become the basis for more short stories to follow.

Oh, at anytime, we can choose to re-write or even remove one or more of the short-stories. Either the original authors were not creative enough, or the sub-plots do not fit the whole anymore.

I am now part of this “methodology experiment” by being in charge of several short-stories whose plots are tighter related. My authors are bright and the plot ideas are good. Let’s see if we can publish faster with this unique way of developing software.

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iPhone’s Irking Ringtone

Like you, I got used to having my personalized ringtones. Also like you, I don’t want to pay for them. I have a large collections of songs and I don’t want to pay for a snippet of things that I already own.

On Android phones, that I have used for all these years, the process is easy. Find a way to slice the MP3 to the part I want, save it as a new MP3 file, and select it as the ringtone. The slicing took time, since I need to listen to the song multiple times to choose the exact segment.

Then, not completely voluntarily, I switched to iPhone. Not that I am a novice to iOS devices; I had many. I just never used iPhones. The switch over was uneventful. Transferring various data from Android to iPhone was cumbersome yet not technically challenging. iCloud was a necessity.

The ringtones stumped me.

After slicing the MP3 segment to less than 30 seconds, I needed to convert the song to AAC, rename the to M4R, move it out of iTunes (!!), play the file from Finder (by iTunes, which will now know there is a new ringtone), then sync my iPhone. After all that, the ringtone will magically appear from the selection. Oh, I have yet figured out a way to remove the ringtones that I accidentally created.


There is an easy way. I could have hack into the iPhone and drop the sliced MP3 into the tones folder. Oh, you did not think this is easier?

Apple. Com’on!

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A Chef’s Decision

There are many ways for restaurants to succeed, having a good chef is not really a necessity. The point is serving a well defined clientele what they want at a profit margin. In some cases, the restauranteur will be wise not to employ a Michelin-starred chef.

Chefs have precisely only one way to succeed — to enhance his or her crafts relentlessly. Here lies the conflict between a restauranteur and the chef. Different restaurant models came out of the resolution to this conflict. At one end of the extreme is the fast-food chain that asks only burger flippers. Over the other end is the plush Michelin-styled restaurants that are defined by their executive chefs. Most professional chefs settle somewhere in-between where the foods quality of the restaurant is critically important, but the cooking creativity is curtailed to meet the business needs.

How much a chef can tolerate this creativity curtailing? That is a function of his/her skill level and financial prominence. How good is he? Can he afford to walk away?

To pair the chef and restaurant the wrong way will be perilous. The restaurateur usually decides and picks the chef for a new restaurant. Those who acquired an existing one usually ended up replacing the old chef.

Or, shall we say, they usually part ways.

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Minimum Wages

I had three jobs that paid minimum wage way back then.

  • I was a bus boy in a Chinese restaurant. I re-filled water, cleared and set-up tables, folded napkins, put up chairs after closing, etc. At closing, the senior waiter counted the tip jar and divvy up among the staff (bus boys got half of waiters). I never questioned. Just got my money, went home, and collapsed into the bed. Yes, the pay was minimum wage after the tips.
  • Then I was a generic worker in a strip-mall super-market, I did whatever the manager told me to: shelving, produce processing, price marking, bagging, carton box flattening, and the worst, freezer duty. I did that for a month and got paid as expected. The second month, I got a whopping 33% raise! The cashier lady was floored. “He gave you a raise on the second month!” I just shrugged since I knew nothing better.
  • Lastly, I got a job at the computer printer room. I fetched the print-outs and put them into the pigeon holes. I also muscled new boxes of paper and changed the printer ribbon. The operator, my supervisor, spent most of her time playing cross-word puzzles and chic-chatted with other staff. She invited me to Thanksgiving dinner and I got to know her husband and son. We kept in touch, then she moved away.

Then I got a job as a part-time supervisor in a machine shop: lathes, drills, mills, grinders, hand tools, supplies, etc. The pay was twice the minimum wage but that’s not the point. I got to play with this hunky million-dollar NC machine that cut metal like air. I spent my own money buying scrap metal blocks so that I feed them to the machine. I learned later that I was the least paid in the shop, yet the only one allowed to program the big machine. It was fun.

Whether minimum wage is “livable” is not up to debate. It is not. The question is whether it is a citizen’s right to earn a livable wage as long as one is working, whatever the job. The answer is up to the assumption of whether one will be stuck in that minimum wage permanently or he will grow out of it. I agreed both situations exist, but felt the government’s money will be better spent in welfare and training, then raising the minimum wage.

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All about booze

Really. Why do some people cannot hold their liquor and others cannot get drunk? Exactly what are the effective ways to deal with hangovers? Adam Rogers attempted to find the answers of these, and many more regarding alcoholic drinks.

I breezed through the fermentation and distillation parts quickly. What I did not realize was the role koji played in fermentation. Yeast turned sugar into alcohol, but it was koji that turned grains into sugar.

Other than that, the first three chapters explained what everyone knew, but in much more details: fermentation produced alcoholic drinks, distillation concentrated them, the aging process added more flavors and aromas. For thousands of years, civilizations experimented with these steps to produce drinks in vast quanitity.

But we clearly did not like the taste of alcohol, an irritant that burns and tastes both sweet and bitter. We liked getting drunk and tolerated the taste of alcohol for it. That’s why civilizations spent so much effort improving the taste — the whole cocktail, or mixology, culture.

Now the answers:

  • Our liver metabolizes alcohol and generates a toxic by-product which has some inflammatory effects. Genetically, some people detox faster than others. Those who blush (mostly Asians) get drunk easier.
  • There is no effective way to treat hangover what-so-ever. All the urban myths — hydrating, vitamin, fatty foods, the morning “pick-me-ups”, etc. — do not work. The same toxin that got us drunk must be metabolized and removed from the system and there is no proven way to get that done quicker. Sorry.
    Oh, sugar clearly makes it worse. Avoid sweet drinks if you are getting drunk.
    Chinese used Hovenia (枳椇子) to alleviate hangover for hundreds of years. The active ingredient is Dihydromyricetin. When you are drunk, take the tablet before you go to bed and after you wake up. There is also an herbal tea for this.
  • Micro-whiskey is a controversy. Storing whiskey in small barrels and using various techniques to speed up the aging process cannot really produce the real whiskey taste. However, they produced something different than the traditional Scottish whiskey flavors and some people like them.
  • The award-winning Taiwan whiskey maker, Kavalan, aged its whiskey for much shorter time than traditional Scotland. They attributed to the warmer and humid climate. They hired Jim Swan — a legendary “barrel consultant” — who probably had few tricks up his sleeves.

Alcohol consumption is good for you if done in moderation (aren’t they all). To most people, that means two servings. Unfortunately, that’s also when you feel the best and want the joy to continue and order the 3rd serving. That’s OK. Just remember not to order the 4th one.

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Sleep Apnea

Take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale Test. It takes less than a minute and there are only 8 questions.

I always thought myself as a Power Napper. Given a flat or reclined surface, I can start snoring in less than a minute — then wake up, on my own, in about 15, refreshed and energized. This skill has been the envy, or even amazement, for people who knew or witnessed; that is a symptom, not a skill.

Doctor explained that sleep quality can account for many modern life ailments. We have all been genetically programmed to survived, as if we are still hunters and gatherers. When poorly rested, the body entered the “preserve and storage” mode that lowers your metabolism and makes you hungry. Put it simply, you gain weight.

Gaining weight leads to hypertension, high glucose level, high cholesterol level, etc. These, in turn, trigger heart problems and social difficulties. Yes, it all began with not having a good night’s sleep. Clearly, I have not had that for decades.

I developed good coping mechanisms, such as power napping, pumping up adrenaline, consuming caffeine, etc. But I am losing the war against aging (aren’t we all).

Although losing weight can alleviate the symptoms, there is no cure for sleep apnea. Doctor said the first step is to use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine: an apparatus that pumps air into your airway when you sleep. It took a bit getting used to, but I managed to fall asleep wearing a “nose pillow.” I was promised higher energy, better memory, acute cognizance, weight lost, and, of course, nirvana.

After two weeks, I found myself not needing to wake up and go to the bathroom anymore. I still doze off on the couch in the afternoon, but mostly out of boredom than tiredness. I now tended to exercise in the morning, instead of after dinner, for whatever reasons. If this CPAP therapy is working, the effects are subtle, as stated by the doctor. Sleep related ailments are difficult to diagnose and threat, since the patient cannot really tell what happened during his sleep.

One clear benefit is that I cannot snore while using the CPAP machine; the airway is kept open so the soft tissue cannot vibrate. Wife now has much better sleep quality. 🙂

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Time to Hunt

I enjoyed “Point of Impact” which was the base for the movie Shooter. So I read the next one in the series: Black Light. It was OK and I grew a bit tired of Bob Lee Swagger. As I had a trip coming, I picked up this one to kill the air time.

Why was the book talk about Donny Fenn so much? I double checked to make sure that I was reading the right book. Was Stephen Hunter creating a side plot? I dug hard to remember the details from Point of Impact and Black Light. I prowled on and was well rewarded. Wow! That made the plot span several decades. This is quite epic.

This book brought depth to Bob Lee Swagger, no longer just the best sniper who solved all problems by shooting. I now want to read the next one: The 47th Samurai, at least it has an interesting title.

Wait, there are 8 books ahead of that in my queue. Oh well, that’s OK. The book is not going anywhere.

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