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Archive for May, 2008

As I have posted before, I’ve been having trouble with my hip and the doctor recommended I have arthroscopic surgery done.  I have yet to hear back from the surgeon (get back to me in two days… whatever…) but I think I’ve found an upside to this.

For a little while, I may get a chance to park in handicapped parking.  That means I can park close to buildings!  So maybe it won’t be so bad after all.

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I recently picked up the book Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz.  The book is about how magicians can make their magic stronger for the audience and make them very memorable.

I won’t give away any secrets, but there are lots of good tips for performers.  One is to roll up your sleeves.  This is something that I’ve been doing for years, but now I plan to do it deliberately.  Rolling up one’s sleeves takes away the chance for the spectator to think "Oh, it just went up his sleeve."  It may be a logical explanation, but doing this makes magic stronger.

The other day, I performed a trick and used some techniques from the book.  I started off with a mind-reading effect and then continued the theme with another card trick that also incorporates mind-reading.  I don’t normally play up mentalism but this time I did.  I suggested that I was going to influence and control the audience’s thoughts and memories.  I did this in order to set the stage of the trick.

The card trick is a standard one I have been performing for 13 years.  It always goes over well whenever I perform it, but this time I added the extra presentation that their choices were predetermined.  The effect is that I randomly select two cards from the deck.  I deal out cards one by one and then one spectator calls out "stop."  I repeat for the second card and the other spectator calls out "stop."  With a little bit of magic, I turn over the stopped at locations and each card that they say stop at matches mine in color and rank (ie, I select the six of spades, they say stop at the six of clubs).

The reaction of the audience?  Silence.  It was eerie.  I knew people were impressed, but I hadn’t been prepared for them to react by stunned silence.  I was quite a feat to remember.  I think I may be onto something.

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The last presidential contender to drop out of the Democratic nomination race, John Edwards, has finally come out and endorsed Barack Obama.  The idea behind this, methinks, is that his endorsement will convince working class Americans to support Obama. Obama is popular with upper-class Democrats and black voters, but he does poorly with working class white voters.  They consistently vote for Hillary so maybe if the populist Edwards endorses Obama, he can swing working class white voters.

Nearly every single high profile Democratic endorsement goes to Obama.  Three former SEC chairman, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, the governor of West Virginia (despite the people of West Virginia overwhelmingly voting for Hillary), nearly every Democratic Senator… they’re all going for Obama.

Some may interpret this as people following their principles and picking the guy who can unite the country.  I see it another way; people are endorsing Obama because they think he’s going to win and therefore they want to throw their weight behind the winner.  When Obama becomes president, he’ll repay the favor because they supported him "from the beginning."

If Hillary somehow manages to pull out a miracle and wins the nomination (which she won’t), all these people who jumped on the Obama bandwagon are going to be in a world of trouble.  The Clintons won’t take kindly to the people who didn’t repay loyalty (like New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who Bill Clinton appointed to a special post during his administration). 

Politicians are politicians, they do what they have to do in order to survive.  Endorsing Obama as their candidate is basically akin to greasing the wheel that will eventually be driving the car.

Now if only his policies weren’t so bad…

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of real estate research.  Eventually, once in a while, on a weekend, I get out in my car and go and actually drive to the properties in which I am interested.

The problem I have is that the city of Seattle and the surrounding areas have a very confusing traffic naming system for their streets.  Take, for example, 228th.  There are the following variations, each of which are different roadways:

  • 228th St
  • 228th Ave
  • 228th Ct (Court)
  • 228th Ln (Lane)
  • 228th Pl (Place)
  • 228th Way

These can also be prefaced with NE, NW, SE, SW, E, W, N or S.  And with those prefixes, they don’t always refer to the same street.

As an example of this confusion, today I was driving to 228th Pl.  I was driving up one of the other streets and saw 226th Pl, 226th Ave, 227th Pl, 227th Ave, 228th Pl, 229th Ave, 229th Pl… If you read that again, you’ll see that inexplicably 228th Pl should have been there if the street naming convention was being followed, but it wasn’t!  It was skipped!  It turns out that 228th Pl was a couple of miles away.

Driving to all of these places is confusing because when I look in the index of the street map, I have to search through piles of different ways that the streets can be named.  It’s like searching through a jigsaw puzzle trying to find the right piece.

Seriously, I could solve all of these problems by purchasing a GPS device and letting it guide me from place to place.  Now if only I weren’t so cheap I could go out and buy one.

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So, I found out this week that my particular team at work is thinking of hiring some people in Ireland.  And, not only that, they need some people to go over there and interview/train them.  Well, probably interview since there’s little chance they could interview and then start shortly thereafter.

The point is, these people would be (kind of) working for me.  They report to someone else but I’m the Program Manager of anti-spam so they directly relate to my area of expertise.  So, because they would be working for me (kind of), they need some people to either interview them or train them.

Now, we could certainly do an interview over the phone, but there’s some rumour about me and my Dev Lead going over there.  Possibly for interviewing, but maybe for training.  The point is that I might be headed over to Ireland for a little while.  Hooray!

I’ve wanted to go to Ireland for a while, I thought I might make it over there in 2005 when I last went to England.  But I never made it.  This time, I’ve got a shot.  And, if I make it over there, maybe I’ll take a couple of days to head over to England to visit some old friends.  Sounds like a plan, I’d say.

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I went back to the doctor this morning for a follow up on my hip.  I told her that after the injection, my hip felt great.  I could do anything I could before and then I started stressing it to see how far I could go.

The prognosis?  I need to go in for arthroscopic hip surgery.  I wasn’t too surprised, I kind of figured that’s what would happen.  I asked how long the recovery time was and she told me three months.  Man, that’s actually kind of going to suck.

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Bear markets and corrections are painful things while you’re going through them.  But the good thing about them is that when they end you can make a lot of money.

One stock I have been tracking for a long time is Dryships (DRYS).  It’s a shipping company that transports commodities.  The stock ran up big time in 2006 and 2007 and then corrected about 2/3 of its value.  I had discovered it back in November 2007 and wrote a note.  Thank goodness I never bought it.

But I did buy it last week and my timing could not have been better.  No wait, yes it could, I could bought it in March when I wrote a note and said it was now in a position for a swing trade.  Anyhow, I generally don’t like to boast about my successes in trading but this one was a real fluke.  I bought the stock last week and since I purchased it, it is now up 20%.  That’s one of my better purchases.  Sure, I missed the huge rally in Apple.  Sure, I missed profitability in NOV and TNH.  But hey, at least DRYS has rewarded me for my patience in tracking the stock for this long.  Sometimes on the market, you just have to be lucky.

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The other day, I had a follow up appointment with my doctor regarding my hip.  She recommended I get a test done where they would do an injection directly into my hip joint to numb it.  For you see, my SI joint is much better motion but my hip still hurts.  Basically, I have freer motion to acquire the pain.

This test was to see what the deal was from my hip.  If the injection caused the pain to go away, it would mean that the pain is coming directly from my hip.  So, I went down yesterday and got the injection done.  It wasn’t as unpleasant as my MRI exam because I had been through this before.  However, and I am not exaggerating, about 1 minute after the injection was done and the bandaid applied, I got up and tested it.

My hip felt absolutely fantastic.  There was no pain at all.  I moved it all around and did all the stuff I couldn’t do before and I felt no pain!  Later in the day I started stressing my hip, things I definitely couldn’t do before.  To my pleasant surprise, those didn’t hurt either.  I was made aware that my right hip is not my good hip, it is merely my better hip (since it hurts a bit too, but not that much).  As time passed, the pain in the joint returned.  In fact, I think I made it worse since I worked it over so much.

I have a follow up appointment this upcoming Tuesday.  The good news will be that the pain really is in my hip joint and that it can go away with treatment.  The bad news, and this is only a guess, is that I’ll probably be recommended to undergo arthroscopic hip surgery.  Oy.  But we’ll wait for the diagnosis.

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I just got back from a performance of Cirque du Soleil here in Redmond.  I was impressed with the performance.  It was in a park close to where I live (so I could walk part of the way).  The tent was enclosed and it was warm; which is good because it was cool outside tonight.  They had padded(ish) chairs set up on the inside, a rotating stage, wires for the performers and everything.  It wasn’t Vegas, but it was still pretty good.

The parts of Cirque du Soleil that I enjoy best are the jugglers.  Earlier in the set, they had one girl juggle large rings while lying on her back.  And she did it with not only her hands but with her feet.  In other words, she was juggling rings with her feet by looping them on and off in the standard juggling pattern.  When I saw that, I said to myself "NFW…"

Later on in the show they had club jugglers come and start juggling with each other, 4 jugglers in all.  I really like the patterns that they were making as well as tossing clubs to each other and walking in between the clubs.  Very cool.

Now, I never buy merchandise at these things but out of curiosity during the 30 minute intermission, I went and checked out the concession stand.  Popcorn was $6.  Hot dogs were $5 each.  I think I figured out how they can finance such and expensive tent and stage set up.

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I saw this cartoon and laughed out loud.

image

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So, I’m watching the US Democratic presidential nomination.  A few months ago I predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination.  I was wrong about that, and I flipped my position and predicted that Obama would win it and would then likely win the presidency.  I’m sticking by my prediction that he’ll be the nominee, but here’s how I see it going down:

  • Hillary will not back out of the contest.
  • The election will be won in the swing states.  Red states will vote Republican and Blue States will vote Democrat.  There’s no point in campaigning in states you are guaranteed to win.
  • This explains why Hillary will stay in the contest.  She is arguing that she has broader appeal than Obama in the swing states.  Hillary voters will vote for Hillary in the battleground states.  They will vote for McCain if Hillary loses and he runs against Obama.
  • Hillary’s argument has some merit: she is saying that she has a better chance of winning the battleground against McCain.  If she wins a couple of key battleground states, the Democrats will win the presidency.  Obama does not have the appeal of Hillary in the battleground states.  Since he won’t win them, they will go to McCain.  If they go to McCain, the Republicans win (again).

So, even though Obama may have more votes amongst Democrats, he may not have enough appeal to swing voters.  Hillary will play up this argument heading into the national convention and she may be right: she has won some of the battleground places, which is where the general election will be won and lost.

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So, if you’re on Facebook, no doubt you have seen the advertisements they have on the side of your pages.  These ads are custom-tailored to you according to your profile.  It’s what allows Google to make so much money, and it’s why Microsoft bought aQuantative for 65% above its trading price last year.  It’s a simple strategy – if you target your ads to a demographic you can make more money.

I never click on ads anywhere on Facebook.  But, they’re doing a good job at targeting me.  Here are the things they show me:

  • Financial trading seminars or trading strategies.
  • Links to learn magic.
  • Denny Crane bobble-head dolls (because I like Boston Legal).
  • Links to dating sites.

Obviously, they have gleaned all this stuff from my profile because I say I like investing, perform magic, have a list of my favorite TV shows and am single.  But sometimes, the advertisements are of questionable material.

  • Once in a while, they have links where I can “Date Asian Girl.”  Note that girl is singular.  That sounds suspiciously like spam, doesn’t it?
  • Sometimes they send me links to dating sites where men can meet other men (ie, a gay dating site).  While I may be able to forgive Facebook for randomly assigning me the wrong one, my profile does say that I am interested in women so one would think they would be able to target me better.

So Facebook is still working out the bugs.  I’m sure they’ll get there eventually.  They better… because I’m a shareholder.

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Yahoo Canada has a video excerpt from an ABC News special that claims it has new evidence that Jesus was married, had heirs, and was married to Mary Magdalene.  This is not a religious blog, I rarely, if ever, post on religious or theological topics.  But, I like reading about biblical history.  And seeing this clip, it says that there is new evidence for the idea that Jesus had heirs.  My first thought was "No, buddy, you don’t.  You have no evidence.  Get your facts straight."

The fact is that there really is no evidence that Jesus was married, let alone married to Mary Magdalene.  All "evidence" is merely speculation.  I like history and if you’re going to say stuff like this, at least try to back it up with some facts.  Here’s a brief summary of what we know:

  1. We know very little about Mary Magdalene from our earliest sources that mention her, the four gospels.
  2. Mary appears only once in Jesus’s pre-crucifixion ministry, in Luke chapter 8.  There, she is mentioned in conjunction with some other women who supported Jesus’s ministry, and that Jesus had driven seven demons out of her.
  3. It is commonly thought that she was a prostitute.  Dan Brown was wrong about a lot of things, but he was right in saying that there is no evidence she was.  Here’s how it works: there is a sinful women mentioned in chapter 7 and then Mary is introduced in Luke chapter 8.  Sinful woman does not imply prostitute, and the woman from chapter 7 is not the same as Mary in chapter 8 because she is only mentioned the first time in chapter 8.  Then, in the book of Mark, another Mary (of Bethany, who is of questionable reputation) anoints Jesus before his crucifixion.  This is not the same Mary.

    The point is you have to mash all these stories about different women together to get a portrait of Mary that she had a questionable background.  But she didn’t; they all all different women and the gospels never portray Jesus and Mary as being intimate.

That’s all we know about Mary’s life prior to the crucifixion.  Here are some more problems with the theory that Jesus was married:

  1. Dan Brown asserts that it would have been unusual for Jesus to be Jewish and unmarried; ergo, he must have been married.  This is false; there was a group of Jews in Jesus’s time with a world view similar to his own that were unmarried: they were called the Essenes (though Jesus himself was not one).  It would not have been unusual for Jesus to have been unmarried.
  2. There is a pseudonymous gospel called the Gospel of Mary that Dan Brown erroneously says that claims that "Jesus used to kiss Mary on the mouth (or lips)" and that this gospel was covered up by the church.  In fact, we have this gospel today but it doesn’t say what it says just now — it says that "Jesus used to kiss Mary on the <blank>."  There is a gap in the manuscript.  What does it say?  Mouth?  Lips?  Cheek?  Forehead?  Could be a whole bunch of things.
  3. It would not be unusual for Jesus’s message to appeal to women.  Much of his message centered around changing roles – blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  In other words, the oppressed of this world and the privileged of this world would have their roles reversed in the near future.  Because women in the ancient world were oppressed, the message would be particularly appealing.  They would no longer be oppressed in the coming kingdom of God and would stand as equals.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that women would be attracted to Jesus’s message and he would have many female followers.  This easily explains why Mary Magdalene would be a follower of him.

The simple fact of the matter is that you can pull stuff out of the Shroud of Turin (dismissed as a medieval forgery) and imply innuendo and legend all you want, but there is simply no evidence that Jesus was married and had kids.  It’s all speculation.

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