Saturday, June 26, 2004

Hi8 to DVD Updated

How and where do I convert my Hi8 tape to DVD? I've never dealt with this sort of thing before and don't know where to begin looking for the kind of place that will do this for me. Video transfer? Conversion? Duplication? All the major stores do digital photos now, not digital video. Walmart, Sam's, and Walgreens all do pictures, but not video. I will figure out how to do this.


I figured out what to do thanks to Kevin Marks. Walmart, Sam's, and Walgreens accept tapes for conversion to DVD through a company called YesVideo. You can take your tape to the photo counters at one of these stores (or several other ones) and ask them about converting the tape to DVD. It costs about $24.99 per tape and 2 hours of footage. Walgreens was offering a deal with coupon for a second tape converted for free, so we went there with 2 tapes for the price of one. The photo specialist said the tapes would be sent out 14 to 21 days from now. Why these companies don't advertise these services more is beyond me but I'm glad I'll get to see what's on my tapes using my computer.

44000kbps Dial Up

Our cable internet has been knocked out by a storm, so I've had to revert to using dial up. After unplugging the cable modem several times, gaining a connection, and then losing it two minutes later I decided to give our old dial up internet a try. Surprisingly it wasn't hard to set up, the old access number still worked, and I got to make use of our second phone line reserved for spam faxes. I give credit to updated Mac operating systems and Airport software. It's a slow connection, but faster than the one I was dealing with in China, so I can easily browse sites and check email. Navigating between websites isn't much slower than with cable; the commercials say cable is 50 times faster than dial up, but it doesn't seem like I'm going 50 times slower. Half has fast is more accurate.

I won't be able to upload my China photos until the cable starts working again, but there's still some things to do before I can start uploading. Instead of hosting my photos on my Geocities or Spymac accounts I'm going to sign up for a Hello account like Anji and hopefully it'll be a smooth transfer directly to my blog. However, after I do post these photos you'll want me to go back and take better ones myself.

My excuse for limited posting is summer school, but I'm only taking one class so I guess it's not a very good one. When I'm inspired to write something I'm either a) too tired, b) have reading to do, or c) a combination of both. Now the dial up connection is yet another excuse. I have a great talent for finding excuses not to write, not very conducive to being a blogger. It's something I do a lot anyway, a bad habit I have to get rid of. I pull through it, school, slow connections and anything else in my way.

Monday, June 21, 2004

China Cracking Down on the Internet, Again

The Chinese government is issuing more internet regulations.
China's Internet police stepped up an ongoing campaign to control the web by issuing new measures to crackdown on "unhealthy" Internet content, state press said.

A circular issued by the Ministry of Information Industry has unveiled a series of measures to regulate content, crackdown on unregistered Internet bars and step up controls over online bulletin boards and chatrooms, Xinhua news agency said.

The measures will also ensure that Internet information providers refrain from spreading "information threatening national security or social stability," or containing superstitious or erotic content, it said.


China last week launched a website,, entitled the Illegal and Harmful Content Reporting Center, for people to complain if they have seen something they believe is unlawful on the Internet.
I wonder what people get if they report something, because incentives are the only way people are going to participate. What's even scary is what would happen to somebody producing "unhealthy" content in China. A black mark on their secret file, loss of party membership, or jail time? Probably just more blocked sites :-(.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Where are the Identity Theft Commercials?

The best link I've found for the CitiBank Identity Theft Commercials is now gone. I guess Alora Ambiance got into trouble for hosting another company's work without permission. Another place that's hosting a few commercials is the company that helped make them, Fallon. Anyone posting the spots without permission has probably been forced to take them down...

Testing Out WordPress

Now that Movable Type (supported version) isn't free anymore the next best alternative I've found for blogging is WordPress. It's free to download, but I couldn't install it unless I had a host. Instead of buying a host and then trying WP out, Michel Valdrighi suggested I try a demo WP blog. The blog refreshes every 2 hours, so if it's not working you can try it out later. Now I can test WP out and see if I can handle it.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Color Wheel and Selection

When I started this blog I picked one of the templates supplied by Blogger. I wanted to customize my template, but didn't know any html let alone CSS. So I found the color hexadecimal codes and changed them till it was the way I liked it. Choosing colors for a website is just as challenging as choosing paint colors for a wall. It would've been helpful if I'd used a color wheel. This is a pretty good one to use for making a websites because it tells you what are good web safe, smart, and unsafe colors. Of course it helps to know a little about color theory so you don't have to keep testing color combinations. About has some more information on color theory here. Another really useful color theory chart lets you pick colors and see how they go together, and also see how they will look on a small sample webpage. All these sites and many more really help with site design.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Beijing Buildings and Air

Before I left for China I did not look at any pictures of what Beijing would look like. I had assumed that it would look like any other big city in America and Japan, so I didn't think I'd be too surprised when I got there. I forgot that China was still a third world, developing country, with buildings reflecting that. Actually, the buildings don't reflect anything because most of made out of brick, not glass. Brick and tile are the most common materials used for buildings of all kinds. Residential, commercial, government, and just about everything else was brick or tile. My guess, brick/tile insulates better by keeping the cool air in and the warm air out during the summer, and vice versa in the winter. It's much cheaper to that way.

However, there were some buildings that were made of glass, only there was something different about them. Some of the glass windows looked like they were coming off the building. Never having seen this before, I looked at them again and realized that the windows were open. A sleek, modern office complex with unsightly open windows? Yes, air conditioning is expensive and nature lets in cool breezes.

The breezes may have been cool, but I doubt they were very fresh. Air quality seemed to be below what I was used to where I live, which is supposed to have low air quality levels. My friend asked me I had any respiratory problems before we left and boy I was happy I didn't. Beijing's air is dirty, but it wasn't my breathing that was impaired. Once or twice daily my eyes would feel like they were on fire, yet they watered like pipes. I used my shirt to try to clean the filth out of them, but eye drops would've worked better. Man! The book never said anything about this.

Last, Beijing's buildings are not 90 stories tall like in Chicago or New York. The city seemed short to me, like it was still young. But that's exactly what I saw was. These buildings are developing, just as much as the country itself. I saw a poster for what I thought was a plaza complex that was being built of glass. This kind of building is a sample of what's to come in Beijing. The brick and tile buildings may be torn down in 30 years and replaced by sky scrapers competing with the rest of the world along with the Chinese economy.

For now though, Beijing's modern architecture is not the most flattering and its ancient buildings are loads more desirable to look at. One building that I remember seeing that I thought would be the kind I'd see all over was the Gloria Plaza Hotel. These buildings do exist, but they're a minority.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Google Beats Amazon

For the last few days I've been thinking about a book that I read many years ago in 6th grade. This book stayed in my memory all these years because it combined history, horror, archaeology, and travel all into one. An American teen visits his aunt in England where a bear/monster is mauling people. The stone circle Stonehenge is somehow connected to the monster, but I can't remember exactly how. The only problem was that I couldn't remember the book's title. I went to Amazon and tried to sift through the categories in the children's book section and then typed in a search for "Stonehenge", but no luck. After trying a few more categories I decided to try something that any Google power user would have done first.

I searched for monster, stonehenge, children's book and the book, The Doom Stone, was the first result; it's Amazon listing. Why didn't I do this first? I underestimated Google's abilities, including doing what sites can not do for themselves. Another way to search for a book in Amazon is to use Google instead.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Geek Test

I'm 23.66864% geek according to this test. That's the second to last position on the geek scale and I still feel like I should get out of the house more often. Link via SushiCam.

Back Home From China

On Friday I came home from my trip to China. I was pretty exhausted after spending the whole day in the air, then having to go through U.S. Customs, catch another plane, and a three hour car ride home. Jet lag hasn't been too much of a problem because I didn't sleep at all on the plane from Beijing to Shanghai to Los Angeles. By the time I got home it was 11pm of the same day I left and I was really tired. After two days of relaxing I'm on my regular schedule again.

Visiting China was a completely new experience for me. To prepare myself I bought a used book on Beijing (Frommer's Beijing 2nd Edition, copyright 2002) to get a general idea of what to expect. I also looked online for some information on what to bring that I couldn't buy there, especially in Harbin, where I'd be spending 2 full days. The book didn't tell me everything, but it did cover the basics pretty well. I learned a lot of new things that wouldn't be in many official tourist books anyways.

Instead of writing about all my experiences all at once, I'll write a series of posts covering different topics on my visit. While in China the only computer I had access to had Windows 98, a dial up connection, and Internet Explorer 4.0, all of which did not agree well with Blogger or visiting many other blogs. The computer was used for email correspondence with my family and Yahoo news. When I was in Beijing we spent most of our time at the tourist attractions and we tired after eating dinner, so I didn't go to any internet cafes.

Another thing I would like to share on this site is the pictures that were taken. However, I didn't take the pictures and the pictures were taken of me; most of them. My friend said it was a Chinese thing to do, but I don't believe it. Why fly 6,000 miles to take pictures of myself instead of the sites? My friend argued that people have already taken pictures of the sites though. Still, I don't want to put portraits on here. The plan was to buy a disposable camera, but my friend said that 45RMB ($5) was too expensive. She used her family's camera to take pictures and I bought a roll of film for it in addition to what they brought. In total I brought back 3 rolls of film, but when I develop them I'll know if they're upload worthy.

In the end I had a good time and I'd like to return to China again. Now that I know a little about what to expect I can further enjoy the country more when I return.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Going to China

I'll be leaving in a couple of hours for China soon. I'm really tired because I didn't get any sleep the night before and only took a short nap. There's still some last minute preparations to make and all I'm concerned about is packing everything and getting out of the house. I don't know if I'll be able to update this blog, but it'll only be a week, so that's not too bad. The next major hurdles are to get to the airport, get checked in, get on the plane and sleeeeeep. It's going to be a long journey but when I get there it'll be a ton of fun. Gotta get packing now.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Wisdom

Carl has a magic belt that grants wishes. He doesn't know how to use the belt, so when he tries to fix Frylock's eyes, Carl ends up turning his head into Swiss cheese.

Meatwad:(paraphased) "Aw Carl it's not that bad...err it is. But with the computer technology today, you don't even have to leave the house."

So true Meatwad, so true...

Kitchen "Painting"

This is a picture of our dinette set after I tried to make it look like a painting with Photoshop Elements 2.0. The original photograph looked so boring that I don't know why I took it. Now I've learned that you can make a "bad" photograph look better by turning it into a painting.