Sunday, April 11, 2010

New Blog!

There will be no new posts on this blog. I've switched to WordPress, so anyone who's interested should change thir bookmarks to

All of the old posts are there, and that's where the new ones will go,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Taiwan's Hot Springs

The NY Times ran an article a couple weeks ago about Taipei's hot springs. 

click for full article

Yanmingshan is a great place to visit. I highly recommend it to anyone travelling to Taipei. It's easily accessible by the MRT, and has public, semiprivate, and private hotspring baths for any kind of stay, short or long.

The atmosphere is festive, with plump teenagers doing sit-ups on the raised stone sitting areas while the elderly, immersed up to their earlobes, gossip over plastic canisters of cool tea. Rule No. 9 on the wall — “It is inadvisable to spend more than 15 minutes in the hot spring” — seems to be universally ignored. “The Japanese gave us this,” said one well-wrinkled matron, referring to the highly social culture of public bathing. “They also built railroads, and schools and roads.

This is one of the more interesting aspects of the Beitou area that I learned about during my visits there. During World War II, the Japanese stationed kamikaze pilots in Beitou, giving them a steady diet of food, wine, and women while they soaked in the hot springs awaiting their ultimate mission. 

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Walking Feet

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring is here.

This must be a song about springtime.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tiger Text: Not Just for Cheaters!

Tiger Text has been making waves in the media for the past few days. Tiger Text is an iPhone (and soon BlackBerry and Android) app that allows the user to send a time sensitive text message to another person who has the app. The text is deleted either immediately upon reading, or after a set amount of time.

The joke that the media outlets have been applying to the app is of course apparent in the name. "OMG Tiger Woods cheated on his wife! He's a cheater! You can be a cheater with Tiger Text." Sure, you could use it that way, provided the other party had the app too, and neither one of you wanted the affair to see the light of day. Slightly impractical, and really only applicable to long term affairs, instead of one night stands.

A much more effective and useful application of this app (for some at least) is the drug trade. Dealers could message each other for re-ups, and could message their customers for sales. Drug dealers, rest assured that no one can snitch on you, at least not via cell phone evidence, because the messages you sent are all deleted from the other person's phone. Feds subpoena the phone company? No worries. The messages never go through the cell company's system and are constantly deleted from X Sigma's (creator of Tiger Text) servers.

Maybe I've been watching too much of HBO's The Wire, where the dealers are always one step ahead of the cops. In the show, the street dealers use low tech methods like beepers, payphones and burners-- disposable cell phones that are used for a week and swapped out for a new one before they can be traced or tapped. New technology makes this possible in cheaper and more convenient ways. No more looking for public payphones or making trips to the store to buy burners. Now just send X Sigma a few dollars via Paypal and you're on your way to becoming a kingpin.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Police brutality? Forget calling the news van, just yank out your cell.

My roommate Dustin just got a Droid the other day. We were comparing his phone and my iPhone, and the apps that we like the best on the two devices. There are so many cool things that one can do with an internet-enabled smart phone that were almost science fiction a few years. ago. Barcode scanning, text-to-speech (and vice versa) and the ability to stream live video and photos from the phone directly to the web.

This last one particularly caught our interest, as it negates the process of transferring the data from your phone to a computer, and then uploading it to the net. With web apps such as Ustream and Qik, the user must simply point and shoot-- the video is automatically saved to the user's online account, available for viewing immediately by anyone.

We thought of the possibilities of this. In the past several years, footage of breaking news has been captured on cell phone cameras, as they are almost ubiquitous on modern handsets. From the tube bombings in London, to the street protests in Tehran, hundreds of people have been turned from eyewitness to video journalist simply by pulling out their cell phones and hitting the record button. Now with 3G (and soon 4G) connectivity becoming standard on cell phones, this kind of street level, on-the-spot news coverage will not only become more widespread, but will be in real time, with no delay between the event being recorded and people being able to log on and watch it on their computers or phones.

In instances like the shooting of Oscar Grant by BART police in San Francisco last year, the police confiscated the cameras and cell phones of anyone they saw at the scene. This illegal confiscation of private property by the police was not only theft, but a stifling of the first amendment. As Carlos Miller pointed out in a blog post published after the shooting, photographing a crime isn't a crime itself. The police have no right to confiscate cameras (or phones as the case may be) unless the camera has been used in the commission of the crime.

The services that Qik and Ustream provide should serve as a warning to police everywhere: your deeds and actions can now be recorded by the public anywhere at any time and uploaded in real time for the world to see. Stealing our cameras will no longer protect you, and will only make you look worse.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Takoyaki 章魚小丸子

Takoyaki is a Japanese food. It's fried octopus balls. On top of them are mayonaise, wasabi, and dried fish flakes. It is a delicious snack.