Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

I'm sorry; I lied!

Yes, I completely lied: I went and bought an iPhone 11 Pro after having written adamantly that I wouldn’t be doing so. Indeed, the reviews and praise for the photographic capabilities of the new iPhone have proven to be extremely tempting; the pictures people are posting from the new device are just beautiful and superior - I simply got to have it. So last Friday, on a chance look (yeah, right) at the inventory of my local Apple store, an iPhone 11 Pro in ‘Midnight Green’ guise with 256GB storage came up in stock, so I swiftly placed an order.

It’s going to be really sweet to have this camera goodness for the annual trip to China in two months’ time. Which reminds me: I have to finish the Japan Escape photo stories feature - hopefully by this weekend.

Of course, I have many justifications for moving on from a still immensely capable iPhone X to the iPhone 11. It’s very similar how Porsche 991.1 GT3 owners upgrade to the 991.2 GT3, even though the newer-generation car is only marginally better - we all innately want the latest and greatest (hooray, materialism!). That said, my “old” iPhone is now bequeathed to my mother, who was running a six-years-old (!) iPhone 5C; the upgrade and speed boost for her must be utterly revolutionary. Yeah, I’m merely fulfilling my filial duties by upgrading to the iPhone 11, I swear!

There’s also the classic excuse I mean justification for new iPhones every year: it’s a device I use most often, one I’m intimately attached to (hello, restroom), so it’s worth whatever the costs because the utility factor is significant. Besides, it’s not $1200 dollars for the phone; it’s only $45 dollars a month! Hashtag millennial.

But what about talks of needing to save money after the lavish expense of the Japan trip? Well, that’s important too, obviously. This expenditure for the new iPhone will hamper things somewhat, but the overall impact isn’t that great. I’ll just have to cut back on spending in some other areas to make up the shortfall. It’s imperative to save for the future, but so is living for the present; finding a balance between the two is ever elusive and highly idiosyncratic.

Hollow justifications or otherwise, I’m super happy with iPhone 11 Pro: photos are expectedly fantastic. Night mode is a feature I’ve been requesting for many years, and it is exceptional. I can’t wait for ‘Deep Fusion’ technology to come online: Apple is using computational power to overcome the laws of physics of the tiny camera sensors, and the sample results I’ve seen are quite spectacular. Functionally, the iPhone 11 Pro is largely the same as the iPhone X, though the killer feature (other than the cameras) is the hugely improved battery life. Not since my iPhone 7 Plus have I had an iPhone with this good battery reserves.

Cheers to reversing course on our sound and logical decisions!

Christmas has indeed come early.

Stop projecting into the future

Staying in “the present” can sometimes be very difficult.

The mind is a wonderful yet often uncontrollable thing, and when it wants to it’ll wander off on its own, down paths that you aren’t necessarily ready yet to confront. The more you try to control it, the more it slips away, as if it’s mocking you for your foolish attempts. Being able to focus on the moment and the direct task in front of you is a learned practice, because the mind puts up continual distractions, either from your pass, or the future.

I had such an episode yesterday morning: I was going about my usual morning routine when I received an email from my coworker that she will be out sick for the day. Obviously, the first mistake was checking work email during off-work hours; nevertheless, the message from my coworker took me completely away from what I was doing at that moment, and right into a rather negative chain of thought.

It’s quite selfish, too: my mind immediately went to creating scenarios where the my coworker’s absence meant an increased burden on me. Perhaps work will get super busy, and the lack of personnel meant I’ll be running around like a madman, not getting a moment to breathe. What if today was the particular kind of day that everything at work goes to hell, and I’d be the one stuck plugging the hole on the damaged dam? I’d better get mentally prepared for such scenarios.

Mind you, this was at 9 AM in the morning, and I didn’t start work until 2:30 PM. What a monumental waste it is to worry about something that isn’t yet to occur, to negatively project outwards into the future what might happen. What if things turn out to be okay? None of it is in my control until I get to work, so it’s rather futile and stupid to ponder on the possibilities and be stressed over them. There’s really no utility to it, but the mind is going to do what it is wont to do.

It takes practice to be able to snap out of such thought processes, to detach and evaluate from a macro level. Does this matter right now? If the answer is no, then I know to stop worrying and return to what I was doing. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong; I’ve a bad tendency to create worst case future scenarios for myself, and it’s a constant struggle to calm myself down, to not be so attached to outcomes that most of the time won’t even materialize.

As always, it’s a work in progress.

I guess anything can be a canvas; even other people’s property!

The soft power of China part 4

You know, I don’t expect LeBron James to actually stand up against China; he’s got too much vested interest with the country, what with his immense relationship with Nike, and his inroads into Hollywood production. So I wasn’t surprised yesterday to hear LeBron take a neutral position - like many players have - on the matter that started with a tweet by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey in support of the Hong Kong protest movement.

However, I was very surprised and somewhat shocked that LeBron went further than staking a neutral stance: he threw Daryl Morey under the bus! James said Morey was “misinformed”, that freedom of speech has “ramifications”, and Morey was being selfish for not considering the consequences his actions carry downstream. This is wild stuff coming from a player who stood with Colin Kaepernick in his protests during the national anthem at NFL games.

I guess in relation to China, no one or entity on earth has enough “fuck you” money. LeBron, one of the richest NBA player in history, certainly doesn’t seem to.

Of course, the populace on twitter descended upon LeBron’s blatant hypocrisy, with Boston Celtics player Enes Canter - himself suffering the consequences of speaking out against the Turkish authoritarian regime - putting it best by tacitly pointing out James’ quoting of MLK, yet not living up to those standards. It appears to me an entirely self-inflicted wound: a quick “no comment” from LeBron would have sufficed. For sure there will still be naysayers, but the subsequent furor would be much less and likely subside once basketball season starts. In actually criticizing the substance of Morey’s tweet, James seems to have crossed a line, and the public is not having it.

I believe athletes - or anybody - don’t owe anyone a responsibility to take a position or have an opinion on absolutely everything. If an NBA player doesn’t want to speak on the China situation, that’s completely okay. It’s also okay if a player wants to support China; he just have to deal with the ramifications here in America.

This whole episode is far from over.

iPhone 11 Pro’s night mode is freaking awesome. The power of computation to overcome laws of physics is incredible.

Rest in peace, Choi Jin Ri

Today is a very upsetting day.

I woke up to the immensely sad news that South Korean singer and actress Sulli has passed away in her apartment; an apparent suicide. She was only 25 years old.

Depression is a monster.

Sulli used to be a part of the Kpop group f(x), a group I hugely adore and whose musical influence can be seen and felt in contemporary Kpop. f(x)’s second studio album Pink Tape remains one of my favorites ever. Since Sulli’s departure from the group I haven’t followed up on her happenings that closely, though I know that she’s since become a full-time actress, and even had her own pop-up store.

A beautiful life, cut short by the demons of the world.

I hesitate to play the blame game, but Sulli’s suicide has got to be on the hands of Korean Netizens. These cowards have relentlessly attacked and criticized her since her debut in the entertainment business, and it’s so sad and frustrating it’s turned out like this. No person should have to live with such constant ridicule, and even the strongest can and will wilt under such pressure. These keyboard warriors get to live on; would they feel an ounce of remorse? I wonder.

So I’m quite upset because I feel this could’ve been prevented. Jonghyun’s suicide nearly two years ago was due to his inner turmoil, while Sulli’s death was caused by external forces, of people’s inability to be kind to another person, just because she’s a celebrity. It’s needlessly tragic, and I can only tear up at imagining the sort of pain Sulli was in that led her to such a decision.

진리씨~ 수고 많이 하셨습니다. 잘 가세요.

Parked on the street because it can’t make it up the driveway without scraping.

The soft power of China part 3

The NBA’s ongoing scuffle with China in its refusal to outright condemn the remarks made by Rockets GM Daryl Morey has brought back to the surface of other incidences where companies and brands have capitulated to the whims of the communist regime. Noah Smith posted on twitter a list of such companies and their particular acquiescence.

I understand that these brands want to protect the Chinese golden goose: there’s shareholders to answer to, after all, but what I’m not understanding is how seemingly easy these companies are folding to the pressure from China, as if they themselves don’t hold any cards of power. Have they all forgotten about their own intrinsic value? Surely a product’s popularity in China isn’t solely because the government allows it to flourish; the product itself have to be good and desirable in the first place.

If China outright bans the NBA from broadcasting in its country, Chinese basketball fans will find a way to watch it regardless - because it’s a beautiful game. It’s the same reason we see Chinese nationals on twitter, even though the app is banned in China. Companies like Apple should remember a time before they were officially in the Chinese market, when Chinese scalpers traveled over the world to procure iPhones to sell back home. Rich people in China will find a way to buy Louis Vuitton bags even if China bans them from sale.

It’s simple: make something valuable, people will want it. Brands need to remember that they too have power, and removing their products from China via a ban by the government can be equally threatening towards Chinese consumers. Despite what some people have said, the 1.4 billion people of China are not a cohesive monolith; many will want an iPhone no matter what the government’s stance towards Apple is. Don’t forget that speech there is suppressed, and we in the west only hear from those the party want us to hear.

Perhaps the NBA should go: “Fine, we’ll cease our presence in China; sure hope Chinese basketball fans enjoy the CBA!”

Three into one.

PG&E is shutting it down

Starting today, PG&E is shutting off power to different areas of California, affecting some 800,000 households. According to the company, this is a necessary preventive measure to avoid a repeat of the devastating wildfires that have afflicted the state these past few years.

Imagine that, an electric company is unable to provide electricity.

Vast swaths of the Bay Area are effected by the scheduled blackout: the Caldecott Tunnel, one of the busiest thoroughfares in the region, will be shutdown due the lack of electricity to run the ventilation system; UC Berkeley and other colleges have cancelled classes for at least a day (must be nice); residents in affected areas are battening down the proverbial hatch: filling up the car and buying emergency supplies. It’s as if we’re preparing for a disaster event, but one that’s self-inflicted.

People are finding it entirely dubious (me included) that PG&E must resort to such tactics, endangering essential services and affecting the everyday lives of people in over half of California. It truly asks the question: why aren’t they instead spending resources towards overhauling the supposed old and frail electric infrastructure? Again, it really rings it home to say it again: an electric company is currently unable/unwilling to deliver power to its customers; I feel like we’re all made to suffer for PG&E’s own incompetence.

At least the company has setup “resource centers” to help people in a pinch when the power goes out, though according to the pictures, the accommodations look like it belongs at the Fyre Festival.

I have to be clear that I am definitely not advocating or showing nonchalance towards future wildfires: I think it’s important to be proactive in preventing the next big one. However, what PG&E is enacting the next few days just doesn’t seem like an appropriate solution, for the short and long term. No doubt bankruptcy proceedings is hampering the company from investing the huge amount of capital required to overhaul the grid, but either them or the state government will have to take on that challenge sooner or later.

Having to resort to rolling blackout, that we don’t even know for sure is preventing anything, is downright embarrassing.

Baby steps, baby steps.

The soft power of China part 2

In a surprising (for me) turn of events, NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a further statement late yesterday reaffirming Daryl Morey’s right to free expression, and that the league will not suppress or regulate the speech of its teams and employees. Later on in an interview, Silver recognizes that expression has consequences, but the values of the NBA are non-negotiable.

For a league that’s been pilloried by both sides of the political spectrum for kowtowing to China and seemingly choosing the profitable bottom line over American ideals, the statement by Silver puts a strong rebuttal to those criticisms. Prominent figures within the NBA and its media partners in America have been dancing around the issue to avoid further stoking the ire of the Chinese, so it is good to see the commissioner himself be so unequivocal.

Of course, as Silver himself stated, there are consequences. Apparently China remains unappeased with the situation, and Silver’s remarks is seen from their perspective as defiance. CCTV, the broadcast partner for the preseason games played in China - and de-facto state TV for the communist party, have announced they will no longer be showing the games; more Chinese companies have severed commercial ties with the league. It appears China will not accept any less from the NBA than a sincere apology and the strongest rebuke and condemnation of Daryl Morey: make him persona non grata.

This whole incident, stemming from a simple tweet of solidarity with the Hong Kong people by Morey, is far from over. It’ll be intriguing to see how Silver and the NBA thread the fine needle: uphold the bedrock values of an American company, while repair the damage with China, a country with an obvious different set of values.

The amount of non-Type R Civics I’ve seen with the Type R wing fitted is far too high.