Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

My Photo

A round peg in a world of square holes...

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Armstrong all but wins Tour de France 2005

Seven! Seven straight Tour de France victories!

Riding in his last individual time trial at his last professional race, Armstrong, the 33-year-old cancer survivor and record-setting winner of six straight Tours, demolished the field today in his last chance to win an individual stage.

Finishing in a time of 1 hour, 11 minutes, 46 seconds, Armstrong won the 34.5-mile race against the clock and all but clinched his seventh straight victory. He avoided becoming only the sixth man in Tour history — and the first since fellow American Greg LeMond in 1990 — to win the race without winning an individual stage.

Armstrong increased his overall lead over second-place Italian Ivan Basso from 2:46 to 4:40. Germany's Jan Ullrich moved into third place, 6:21 behind.

(By Diane Pucin, Times Staff Writer)

"It's not possible to beat [Armstrong]," said current second-place rider Ivan Basso, left. "I have done all I can."

(By Sal Ruibal, USA Today)

JAY LENO: Did you hear about the French accusing Lance Armstrong of using drugs?

JAY LENO: Over here, we call it "chemotherapy."

A picture of Lance Armstrong in his maillot jaune, with girlfriend, Sheryl Crow.

Lance Armstrong rides the Trek SSLx for the mountain climbing stages of the Tour de France. Trek engineers developed a new alloy, OCLV Boron, for the OCLV Carbon-based bicycle frame to make it stronger yet lighter. The SSLx is expected to be available to the public in 2006 for about US$10,000. (Credit: Scott Daubert)

The bike is for sale for US$10,000 but the rider is not included: despite what many would like to believe, we are not all born equal.

I spy with my little eye...

If you happen to see these driving around, they are not from your local cable company.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Surveillance Truck

From the National Border Patrol Council (member of American Federation of Government Employees AFL-CIO) website, Department of Homeland Security Vehicle Guidelines - May 2004, this DHS vehicle document (PDF, 1.46 MB) has been around for over a year. Included are photographs of almost every type of vehicle operated by DHS and their color markings, etc.

A chance for anyone to get their fair share of the DHS "budget pie" is the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR).

(Check out the official warning/disclaimer at the bottom of the page.)

* No, Xiaxue, these are probably not the guys who hacked your blog. Believe me, they have bigger fish to fry.

** BTW, I really enjoyed reading Lucian's take on your experience (especially the "Comments" section).

Friday, July 22, 2005

Vintage Santa Clara

The "Fight Song" lyrics and mp3s are up.

Go Broncos!

Jimmie Grier and His Orchestra circa 1937 (1.41 MB)

Cupertino Symphonic Band circa 2004 (663 KB)

Fight For Santa Clara

Words, Music and Arrangement
by Winnie Cutter, Class of 1905

All hail to S.C.U.
Honor her prestige and fame,
Oh! hold high those standards
As we go into the game.


Varsity fight for Santa Clara
Banners of red and white on high
No matter how great your foe men [team],
Let your motto be "to do or die."
Rah! Rah! Varsity men [team],
We are cheering for you,
Our gallant heroes, sturdy, staunch and true
Remember the right and might of Red and White
When Santa Clara warriors fight,
For Victory, and our dear old S.C.U.

Then U. fight! fight! for the Alma Mater we love,
oh fight! fight! and strength shall come from above,
We now acclaim your fame,
Rah! Rah! Rah!

Come join our happy throng,
Oh make the welkin resound,
Help build to tradition,
That S.C.U. men [team] ne'er give ground.

(Repeat Chorus)

While Hamilton stands guard,
Over thy rich, fertile vale,
Belov'd Alma Mater,
Teach no word akin to fail.

(Repeat Chorus)

On a personal level, the lyrics seem uncomfortably close to Onward Christian Soldiers, but maybe that's just me...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Boys! Your very own secret decoder ring

Cliffs Notes to Women's English 101

1.) Yes = No

2.) No = Yes

3.) Maybe = No

4.) We need = I want...

5.) I am sorry = You'll be sorry

6.) We need to talk = You're in trouble.

7.) Sure, go ahead = You'd better not.

8.) Do what you want = You will pay for this later.

9.) I am not upset = Of course I am upset, you moron!

10.) You're certainly attentive tonight = Is sex all you ever think about?

beauty at rest

What I spotted parked along the street in the north neighborhood of Palo Alto:

1+2 seating
Engine Type: V12
Engine Size: 6064 cc
Horsepower: 627 bhp
Torque: 649 Nm (479 lb.ft)
Max. Speed: 356 km/h (222 mph)
0-60 mph (0-97 km/h): 3.1 sec
0-100 mph (0-160 km/h): 6.3 sec
1/4 mile (400m): 11.1 sec @ 138 mph

Weight: 1138 kg (2500 lb)
Price: US$1,000,000

The McLaren F1 is suprisingly small. It "looked" no bigger than the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and is probably smaller than the Toyota MR2. It also is capable of this amazing feat: 0-60-0 mph (0-97-0 km/h) under 10 seconds. If you think that's impressive, the LM model (of which only 5 were built), spotting a more powerful 680 hp engine, does 0-100-0 mph (0-160-0 km/h) under 11.5 seconds, and in 828.4 feet.

I later found out that the vehicle belongs to an executive working at PayPal.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

when the shoe's on the other foot...

Anthony recently posted about having a temper, and the difference between his online persona (I believed the phrase a commenter used was, "ever measured") and his conduct in real life.

I am a little more consistent in this respect: I tend to be flamboyant in my writing, and likewise, given to extremes in real life; something that may sound romantic, even Byronic, but sometimes leading to consequences that are neither productive nor justifiable.

Yesterday, my temper surprised me. I went for the 12:05 PM weekday mass at the Mission Church on campus, a pleasure and a form of solace I regularly indulge in. In the middle of the Eucharist, a young man in his twenties sauntered in from one of the Church's side doors, snickering while traversing the apse. While the officiating priest, Father Crowley (who was one of my professors for Christian Theology during my undergraduate days), momentarily raised his eyebrows at him (but carried on performing the Holy Communion), many of the parishioners' expressed looks of disbelief at this rather odd--and rude--gentleman. Clearly, he was disrupting the mass at its most holy of moments.

Things took a turn when the young interloper, now slouched disrespectfully on one of the pews, started yelling, "Blasphemy! Blasphemy! Ha! Ha! Ha!" That was it then: there was no ignoring him. All eyes were on him. He totally ruined the sacredness of the Lord's Supper. At this point, something in me snapped. Before I knew it, I was getting up and walking towards him, eyeing the closest chair to bring to his head. There is no excuse for deliberately mocking the beliefs of others--especially mine.

Thankfully, one of the regular lectors, Professor Hansen (who also taught me a course in Christian Theology), reached the heckler before I did and hauled him out of the church, thus sparing the heckler from a concussion, me from a possible jail term, and the university from a lawsuit.

Outside, the heckler tried to argue that he had a right to be in the church as it was open to the public, but that argument was moot because the Mission Church--in fact, the entire University--is private property. As the heckler is neither student, alumni, staff nor faculty, he had no right to be there, only a privilege. A privilege that was immediately revoked: he was informed that he is henceforth banished from the grounds of Santa Clara University, and if he is discovered on the property at any point in future, he would be arrested and charged with trespassing.

Owww... I love private universities.

When the period of gloating was over, and upon self-reflection, certain disturbing questions surfaced:

* Am I so insecure in my faith that the taunts of one lone heckler can rattle or threaten it?

* Why am I so quick to violence in defense of my beliefs?

* Why didn't I even consider the possibility that the heckler is a misguided Christian fundamentalist, or an over-zealous non-denominational Protestant, or even a mentally disturbed young man, but instead leapt straight to assault him?

* Doesn't my intended course of action make a mockery of my beliefs at every mass--where I echo the prayer for "peace on earth"?

And here am I about to swing a chair at another human being in church, during mass, in the middle of the Holy Sacrament, no less. Looking back, perhaps I was the greater transgressor, not Mr. Heckler. He mocked; I intended to physically harm.

In some sense, after this experience, I began to at least understand (I won't go so far as to use the word, "empathize") the rage Muslims around the world felt when it was reported that copies of the Koran were desecrated at Camp X-ray, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

When the shoe's on the other foot, perhaps we aren't that different after all. However, it is a treacherous and slippery slope when violence is sanctioned in the defense of religious beliefs. Chair-swinger, suicide bomber, how far apart and different are the two?

And where were the traits of competence, conscience, and compassion that allegedly had been instilled in me during my undergraduate career? Are they only reserved for harmless, inoffensive, little old ladies who are lost and need a ride? Do they all fly out the window the moment my interests are threatened? (The traits, not the little old ladies. I maybe be Asian but I don't drive like those clowns in Fast and Furious, ok?). In Luke 6: 29, Jesus says to turn the other cheek; perhaps this is the true acid test of compassion. This is not to say that one should go through life being a doormat, or to embrace supine cowardice, but rather, when presented with the opportunity, to reject upping the ante in a conflict. The heckler used words to annoy and profane, Professor Hansen employed words to make him leave--and words to banish him. Smashing the heckler over the head with a chair would only escalate--and complicate--the situation, to put it mildly.

* No, I don't watch wrestling.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hold on / Hold on to yourself / For this is gonna hurt like hell

Decided to go climbing on my bicycle today to clear my head. When you are huffing and puffing and turning purple trying to pedal up a mountain, issues that keep you awake in the lonely hours of the night seem to fade and flitter away, and the really important things in life seem to snap into perspective, namely, breathe, breathe, breathe; appreciate being alive; being out there. Just being.

This is one of my favorite climbs: ascending Black Mountain via Stevens Canyon Road / Stevens Canyon Trail / Indian Creek Trail, and then descending via Montebello Road. Stevens Canyon Road is located by Stevens Creek Reservoir, Cupertino.

A topographical map:

No pictures of of the paved section of Stevens Canyon Road at this point. All pictures are of the ascent through the singletrack, and up the fire road to the summit. This borrowed graph (of a rider who did the circuit in reverse) shows the profile of the climb up the 1st section of Black Mountain:

Next is the really fun part: climbing up loose gravel and dirt. Again, a borrowed graph that is in reverse of what I did: i.e. Stevens Canyon-Indian Creek-Montebello:

Some pictures.

The beginning part of Stevens Canyon Trail is heavily shaded, but occassionally opening into stunning glades:

Leaving the clearing behind... and back into the long shaded track through the forest. You actually have to take off your sunglasses or else you can't see where you are going. Useless Trivia #4587: Cycling into trees, even at the relatively slow speed of going uphill, is really neither pain-free nor funny.

Leaving behind the canopy... into blesséd sunshine

Ascending under the blue skies...

Almost there...

Are we there yet?

The summit of Black Mountain, elevation 2800 ft:

A path that seems to lead down to Silicon Valley in the distance, but I never explored:

The reward? Besides the view, there is the descent.
You can easily hit 65 mph (104 km/h) on some of the long straightways downhill. Check out the graph (reversed):

Retched (threw up) 3 times from overexertion climbing up Black Mountain on the bicycle today. It was fun: all of them were dry heaves. I.e. no mess (for you queasy types).

Also "ate shit" (i.e. crashed) 3 times today: 1 high-speed, 2 low speed. High-speed crash: on a descent, my front tire washed out, and the next thing I knew, I was instinctively tucking myself into a ball and rolling down the hill mountain, praying my (also) tumbling bicycle doesn't hit me. Embarassing low-speed crashes: twice on the ascent, due to exhaustion I chose the wrong line, got bogged down in deep, loose gravel, and my legs were too tired to clip out in time. Take it from me: Useless Trivia #4588: Chainrings slice into your calf/shin very easily, ergo if you have to fall, fall on your left. Your rear derrailleur will also thank you. (For those that are not bicycle mechanics, the rear derailleur is the thingmajig / whachamacallit that moves your bicycle chain from one gear to the next on the rear wheel).

Three times the charm, eh?

Useless Trivia #4589:
In 1998, the snow line actually dropped below 2000 ft. Check out this picture (taken by another rider) of the exact spot my bike was at (Black Mountain Peak):

Monday, July 18, 2005

it's scanner time

Went to Fried Fry's Electronics this afternoon and returned home with a scanner. I also found a stash of old photographs. Want to take a guess who this is?

No, it wasn't Halloween. It was Chinese New Year. (I know, ghosts and goblins are cool, but, hey, while you guys get candy, we get money :-) )

This is my younger sister playing with our Boxers, Rex, Jenny, and umm... lots of Boxer puppies, on the front yard. Rex is such a lovable goofball: here you can see him letting the puppies overwhelm him. (The only time he gets up and trots off in a huff is when the puppies nip him in a certain... sensitive region.)

And... my younger brother is going to kill me for posting this very unflattering picture of him (in Primary 6), but hey, he is on the other side of the planet. Unless ICBMs are on sale on eBay in Singapore, he can't touch me. *grin*

Lets just say that at 12, he was wider than he was tall and leave it at that. BTW, is that a graphic of his stomach howling for food on his tee shirt? ;-P

A recent picture of us (minus my sister, who was out of the country):

Yes, we are a tall family: Dad is 6 feet tall. And my younger brother is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) taller than me. Take your reference from there.

I may be laughing, but actually, I'm crying inside.
Thanks for being honest though. :-)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Lip reading?

From page 62 of the August issue of Cosmopolitan:

Read His Lips

In addition to being kissable, a man's mouth can give you insight into his personality, sack style, romantic MO, and more.

* Wide Mouth: "This guy tends to do everything to the extreme and can be a little impulsive," says face-reading expert Bill Cordingley, author of In Your Face. He'll drop major dough on a state-of-the-art stereo system or an impromptu trip to Vegas, just for the hell of it. Luckily, this passion and spontaneity is part of his sexual makeup as well.

All I will say is that Mr. Cordingley is not wrong.
Not wrong at all...

Have you seen my stereo system?

The lights dim momentarily when I turn on my 4 monoblock amplifiers; one at a time, 30 seconds apart, so that I do not blow my apartment's circuit breaker.

*sound of crufty's howls of laughter*

henry lee

Nick Cave and PJ Harvey

Another shot of poet and poetess as they weave their voices for this disturbing, romantic but tragic traditional folk love song, Henry Lee. The duet sings the story of a young man who meets a woman who desires him, and, unable to retain his affection, subsequently murders him and disposes of the body when he rejects her.

This song comes from Murder Ballads, an album Cave created by collecting old English murder ballads, and then transcribing them to his singing style. The level and intensity of violence in it makes any gangster rap album seem like Disney tunes in comparison. Gangster rappers talk about shooting each other because of their crack, women, cars, turf, money, honor or gang allegiances. The characters in Cave's album murder and mutilate because they can.

The magic in Cave's music is that he is--in the words of a reviewer--equally capable of exceptional love and tenderness, and yet unbelievable carnage and violence in his music. A comparison of Boatman's Call and Murder Ballads would easily attest to that.

Review of Boatman's Call

Review of Murder Ballads

More material from this incredible artist and his band will be posted from time to time. Stay tuned.

Trivia: Track 3 of Boatman's Call, "People Ain't No Good," was used in the soundtrack to the movie, Shrek 2

Henry Lee, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, with PJ Harvey, from Murder Ballads,

Get down, get down, little Henry Lee
And stay all night with me
You won't find a girl in this damn world
That will compare with me
And the wind did howl and the wind did blow
La la la la la
La la la la lee
A little bird lit down on Henry Lee.

I can't get down and I won't get down
And stay all night with thee
For the girl I have in that merry green land
I love far better than thee
And the wind did howl and the wind did blow
La la la la la
La la la la lee
A little bird lit down on Henry Lee.

She leaned herself against a fence
Just for a kiss or two
And with a little pen-knife held in her hand
She plugged him through and through
And the wind did roar and the wind did moan
La la la la la
La la la la lee
A little bird lit down on Henry Lee.

Come take him by his lilly-white hands
Come take him by his feet
And throw him in this deep, deep well
That's more than one hundred feet
And the wind did howl and the wind did blow
La la la la la
La la la la lee
A little bird lit down on Henry Lee.

Lie there, lie there, little Henry Lee
Till the flesh drops from your bones
For the girl you have in that merry green land
Can wait forever for you to come home
And the wind did howl and the wind did moan
La la la la la
La la la la lee
A little bird lit down on Henry Lee.