How I Got My Money Back From HSBC Hong Kong


This is part two of a long-running saga. Read part one.

Every time I call the Hong Kong HSBC customer service center I cross my fingers and hope, “This is it! Today I’ll finally manage to retrieve my Hong Kong checking account’s money.” Every time I slam the phone down after hours of Escheresque automated phone menus that trap callers in infinite loops and telephonic cul-de-sacs, I put my head between my legs and take deep breaths.

What Lost in Translation Told Me About My Life


Last night I was flipping through some DVDs trying to decide which movie to watch. I put Lost in Translation starring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray into my Macbook Pro and hit play. The film opens with a lingering shot of Johansson’s shapely ass. I immediately decide to keep watching.

How to Tell Good Stories


Is it just me or are many people unable to tell good stories anymore? I’m disappointed when friends describe their unique experiences in bland, humdrum ways. Otherwise compelling narratives about skydiving or Caribbean cruises are watered down by abstractions and generalizations until they’re as exciting as staring at grout between bathroom floor tiles while taking a dump. Except the stories aren’t as satisfying as the dump.

An Emo Poem I Wrote Long Ago


Just found this emo poem I wrote in high school buried in my computer.


In fifth grade teachers make students move
Between classrooms in preparation for middle school.

In eighth grade they design courses
In the model of ninth grade in preparation for high school.

In high school they instruct majors
And electives in preparation for college.

In college they offer majors
In certain fields in preparation for graduate school.

In graduate school they teach specific skills
Required in preparation for occupations.

In occupations they hand out salaries
Every two weeks in preparation for retirement.

I am confused how all this preparation
Prepares someone for life’s primary goal:
Enjoying it.

Why the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner Is Awesome


Over 200,000 people attended the Colbert-Stewart Rally to restore Sanity and/or Fear last month, but many people still haven’t seen Stephen Colbert’s speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents Association Dinner. In what can only be referred to as a “performance” before 2,500 guests including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace, China’s Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, model and tennis player Anna Kournikova, actor George Clooney, and of course President George W. Bush himself, Colbert delivered a “controversial and searing routine targeting the president and the media.”

Colbert roasted President Bush and everyone else in the room for 16 minutes and concluded with a 7-minute sketch comedy video of himself equivocating as a White House press secretary hounded by Helen Thomas. His speech received both support and criticism. I wonder what outgoing White House Press Corps Association President Mark Smith was thinking when he invited Colbert to deliver the keynote speech. Was he expecting something other than Colbert’s usual scathing satire? According to New York magazine,

Smith later told the Times he hadn’t seen much of Colbert’s work.

I Want Tony Stark’s Basement


After watching the film Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr. and seeing superhero Tony Stark’s futuristic workshop, I knew I wanted my basement to look like that later on. Who wouldn’t want colorful, three-dimensional holograms that materialize at the snap of a finger, touch-responsive surfaces, and voice-cognizant artificial intelligence? My workshop might not house a dozen sleek European sports cars (I’ll settle for a couple), but I’ll see what I can do.

You cannot watch this video montage and think these aren’t the coolest toys.

The Age of Smart Systems


The Economist‘s special report on smart systems in their November 4, 2010 edition has inspired me to read and learn about this fascinating movement. I’ve compiled a list of all the thought-provoking articles, gagdets, and business ventures I’ve seen – a snapshot of the flurry of ideas bouncing around in my head right now.

Why Can’t I Find the Right Pant Size?


I’m sick of pulling my pants up while walking. And since it seems like no clothing manufacturer makes pants remotely close to 28×30, I’ve decided to learn to tailor my own trousers.

Right now I’m wearing a pair of jeans sized 29×30 (29-inch waist with 30-inch inseam). This pair took me half a day to find at my local shopping center, but its waist is still too large. It’s nearly impossible for me to find a decent-fitting pair of pants in most clothing stores. I’ll shuffle clothes hangers for hours looking for anything with a waist size under 30 inches. 99% of the time, 30 inches is the smallest I can find. That’s when I ask the shopkeeper to direct me to the children’s section.

How to Calculate Potato Cannon Distance


Let’s suppose you built a potato cannon and invited some friends to fire it. You became tired of shooting potatos into the Hudson River so you started shooting signs, the occasional New York City rat, and 40-ounce malt liquor glass bottles. You wondered how high the potato could go if you fired it vertically, its maximum range, its muzzle speed, etc. If you enjoy accelerating starchy tubers up to insane speeds keep reading.

Automatically Post Happy Birthday for Facebook Birthdays


It’s interesting that the most read page on my blog is the one on creative ways to say happy birthday. There are numerous google searches that direct visitors to that page every month.

I’ve been told by the comments below that if you want to automatically post a happy birthday message for your Facebook friends, birthdayFB will do this for you.

This is a somewhat related post about how I’m trying to write a computer program that check’s Facebook for my friends’ birthdays and post a happy birthday wish on their wall. I can then schedule this program to run once a day, each time posting a canned response to their wall, and I’ll never have to worry about not saying happy birthday again.