Who would have thought I would pick up a book like this. I’ve heard so much about this book and I was curious. so I picked up the audiobook from the local library and listened to it during my half-hour commute each way to/from work in the car. Let’s just say it would definitely distract you from all the car traffic in front of you but you’re looking for literature, this is not for you. Entertaining, definitely – if you enjoy the “adult” kind. This reminds me somewhat of the “little” book I used to read during my teenager years.
A “50-way-fucked-up”, obsessively-controlling, handsome young (27 years-old) billionaire, named Christine Grey, met a young, virgin, independent woman, named Anastasia Steele during an accidental interview (arranged by her roommate who happened to get sick that day). The interview went well. So well was the encounter that set off Christine Grey in pursuing this young woman and introduced her to all kinds of excitement and “first-times” that include a self-piloted helicopter ride, gliding plane ride, and more importantly, the orgasm, the “fucking” and darker yet – punishments like slapping, handcuffing, riding crops, whipping, and etc. Of course, the billionaire had to protect himself from legal liability by the use of non-legal-binding contract between a dominant and a submissive that got Anastasia thinking and thinking. The internal debate between her inner goddess (sex-craze, emotional self) and her subconscious (logical and self-protective) was deafening. Christine swept Anastasia off her feet with his material wealth and sensuality, and yet he’s not able to commit to anything beyond having a good and yet physically painful (to Anastasia) and high-charged sexual relationship. So hot and vivid were the sexual encounters that I believe the film version of the book will probably be NC-17 or effectively X-rated. But I digress. The key seductive attractions were Christine’s magnificent body (mentioned more than a few times), and Anastasia’s constant lip-biting, challenging, and etc.
As they fell for each other. All rules were being broken. And the need for control and inflicting pain by Christine was so strong due to his poor childhood and being adopted into a “perfect” Grey family at age of 4. Also, this Mrs. Robinson figure that introduced Christine to the dark world of M&A became a shadow in their relationship. Eventually after being belt-whipped by Christine in the “red room of pain,” she called it quit. It was too much for her to bear. That was the end of Book 1.
It has a simple plot, but what keeps the readers going were the hot sexes, Christine Grey’s mysterious background (how he became the way he was), and the innocence of Anastasia as she discovers along with the readers what drove Christine Grey. The writing is rather juvenile and the email exchanges between Anastasia and Christine are outrageously silly. Overall, it was a good listen/read. Brought back lots of memory from my younger days when hormone ran rampant. Just be careful listening to this audiobook while driving.
Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 12:36 AM PST
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We had a cold spell last few days. The temperature dips below freezing at times overnight. It’s unusual for us in the Northern California. I recorded this video to document the damages. If the weather pattern continues like this, I’d probably give up on gardening during the winter. Hate to see them like that especially after spending numerous hours caring for them in the months leading to the winter. Also, it’s been lots of work trying to protect them in the cold evening with weed-blocker fabric covers. Now, I must say it takes some patience and passion to be a good gardener.
Posted by dstsai as Gardening at 11:53 AM PST
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Here’s a quick video of how I do my own drip irrigation:
Posted by dstsai as Gardening, Tips at 11:38 AM PST
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Since I picked up gardening as a hobby, I have installed in June a drip irrigation system on my vegetable beds and tomato container plants. The drip irrigation system is essential if you don’t want to be tied down to water your plants daily, turning a good hobby into a chore. For me, it was prompted by a one and a half week of business travel that resulted in the death of nearly half of my plants. (My delegated helper, my daughter, got sick during the time and neglected to water my plants half way during my drip.)
I read this book hoping I could pick up some nuggets from the author’s experience. And I surely did. The author provided a more scientific approach to how to scale the system and which how many of emitters to use for each branch and for what types of plants or trees. had some insights on the plumbing of the drip irrigation system like the use of anti-siphon devices and filter.
When I reached the end of the book, I wondered if I read the book before I installed the system, I would still continue with the project. Maybe not, as the book seems to make it sound daunting. Unfortunately, the drip irrigation system in retrospect is not a simple DIY project, nor a complicated project that would require a contractor. It’s in between, which makes it a perennial procrastinated project. But the benefit is really worth the effort; I encourage to read the book before you take on installing your own drip irrigation system.
A quick summary:
1. Chapter 1: Why drip irrigation works. The author made a compelling argument that most of aerobic activities take place on the top few inches of soil and is where the nutrients are fed into the plants and where the drip irrigation would do the most good. Also frequent, shallow watering is best, which drip irrigation does the most good.
2. Basic Drip Irrigation Stuff: This goes into the basic structures and elements of a drip irrigation system: anti-siphon, filter , pressure regulator, and emitters (nice explanation of how emitters are made of long tortuous path or complex maze), holders, goof plugs, and etc.
3. Your First Drip Irrigation Project: This goes into how to put the system together step by step.
4. When and How Long to Irrigate: The author presented the scientific/mathematics background on how much water to irrigate, based on ET (Evapotranspiration) rate of your specific area. This took me a while to understand but seems to make sense. But if you’re just starting out, this could be overwhelming. For me, I just adjust the water volume by trials and errors until you’re not drowning the plants nor dehydrating your plants.
5. Hiding and expanding your drip system: If your irrigation system becomes too unsightly for you, you may follow the advises here to hide them.
6. Drip Irrigation for Containers: The author offers some idea to route the tubes through the bottom drainage holes of the container pots or to the top of the pot. Use of mister emitter may be necessary for certain plants.
7. Drip Irrigation for trees and shrubs: Other than routing the drip tubes around the tree on the drip line circle and beyond, the amount of water is critical.
8. Drip Irrigation for Vegetable beds: The use of U branches along the bed with 12″-spaced emitters and cutting an opening for the feeding tub to come in the center are a good suggestion. The author offers another suggestion for a raised without the wood box. Also the use of spiral-pattern distribution is another good idea.
9. Grey Water and Drip: The author discusses the pros and cons of using grey water (waste water from kitchen or urinals) to feed the irrigation system. The use of a special surge tank, filter and special plumbing needed to catch the grey water make it less than practical. I wouldn’t try it. But if you must use the grey water, this chapter serves as a good starting point. More researches are needed.
10. Drip Irrigation with Cistern and Tanks (from raindrops to drip drops): A special tank and down spouts with diverters are needed to catch the raindrops. It’s a good idea if your local weather warrants it with consistent rainfalls. In California where I live, this is not practical.
11. Controlling your drip irrigation: There is some discussion about the use of electronic timer. The author is not really crazy about electronic gadgetry besides the timer information here may be a bit outdated due to rapid advances of electronics nowadays.
12. Keep Your Drip Together: This chapter is about maintaining your drip system. The author recommends flushing of the drip irrigation system every season. This is something new to me but makes senses due to mineral accumulation.
Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews, Gardening at 4:45 PM PST
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Yesterday, I was prompted by my wife to hang the Christmas lights outside the house. It’s one of those rituals that are dreaded by most husbands of the households but the wives/kids couldn’t get enough of it, as if the redistribution of wealth from the breadwinners the rest of the families wasn’t enough. I know, I sounded like a scrooge. Happy holidays!
This was my second year hanging the same lights on my residence. I should have drawn a wiring diagram for next year as it’s hard to remember what we did last year. It’s supposed to get easier but it didn’t.
After hanging up the Xmas lights, I noticed one of the two light branches kept burning the 3A fuse. I didn’t have a problem last year. Suspecting a bad Xmas light link within the chained 7 links, I brought out my Kill-A-Watt and measured it was registering 3.5W! So I turned it off right away to avoid burning the 3A fuse again. Now I need to isolate the “bad” link. I figured I should just characterize one link at a time to determine the current requirement. Sure enough, each link uses 0.5A (or 60W (0.2W per bulb)) and 7 links makes 3.5A. There was nothing wrong with the links but the way I chained them to the outlet. After re-distributing the current load to another chain, I no longer have the burned fuse problem. Each chain would handle 2.5A. One down!
Next, I noticed one particular segment of the link no long have lights. Sigh! Diagnosing down to the light bulb out of 50 in a chain was going to be a nightmare. I googled around and familiarized myself with how the Xmas lights are wired together and how the circuit works, thanks to this website. I also checked Youtube videos and found there is this Light Keeper Pro tool that’s supposed to be a panacea for all the Xmas lights woes. I went to the local hardware store and bought one for $20. Also bought some spare light bulbs just in case.
Well, I was able to fix one of the Xmas light link with this device. By pulsing/zapping from the bulb socket, this device worked to short/bridge the bad weakest-link bulb (each bulb has a “shunt” or electrical bridge to engage when the bulb turned bad), allowing the rest of the stringed bulbs to work. Then I replaced the bulb and all was well. Another down!
On another link, Light Keeper Pro’s zapping/pulsing didn’t work. I used the hum/tracing function and found 3 bad bulbs! The zapping function wouldn’t work if there are more than 1 bad bulb – it didn’t have enough energy to zap more than 1 bulb. But the humming function worked well. One more down!
On my final link or a mesh/net, neither the zapping nor the humming worked. The humming allows me to trace to a smaller branch but it couldn’t isolate down to a particular bulb. I need more time to debug this case next couple of days. 3 downs, 1 to go!
Overall, it’s a good Xmas light hanging experience. I didn’t realize I had such a great opportunity to learn about something interesting and refresh my circuit background.
Posted by dstsai as Tips at 12:44 PM PST
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My wife originally posted on her Facebook, “Gable Gable” to welcome the Thanksgiving Day this morning. I corrected her spelling but I thought it was really funny to associate Clark Gable with a Turkey’s voice and Thanksgiving Day. So I came up with the following picture by combining a caricature of Clark Gable with the turkey’s body using Inkscape. I did not intend to disrespect Clark Gable, a fine star in his era. Instead, I found the combination rather hilarious, especially with Clark Gable’s “I don’t give a damn” look on a turkey’s body.
Posted by dstsai as Personal at 3:38 PM PST
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Nothing like a good video can tell an interesting story. I used Videoscribe to create this contact lens search story. But I first had to create some stick figures and an inspired drawing from my daughter. Hope you enjoy it.
Posted by dstsai as Journal, Personal at 12:13 AM PST
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I have been a big fan of Michael Lewis, having read many of his books including the related one “The Big Shorts” and others like The Blind Side, Home Game, and Coach. This one is especially enjoyable as the book is broken down into small parts for how each of the countries or regions inflicted the financial disasters on its own: Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and California Cities (San Jose and Vallejo). If you have ever wondered why Iceland, Greece, and Ireland managed to get themselves into the financial disaster in 2003 to 2008, you should read this book. And if you have ever wondered why Germans got suckered into the European Union to bail out those “New Third World” countries, you should read this book. As a California resident and one living near San Jose, I came to realize how California cities got into this financial mess from this book. As the “boomerang” title implied, those countries/region basically boomeranged back to being the Third World countries after risen up many decades ago. Michael Lewis’ story telling skill is humorously entertaining and penetrating without any excess. I utterly enjoyed this book and you will too.
Iceland: too much in-breeding (“One Big Family” – homogeneous) and group thinking without too much financial intelligence. No one or poorly-trained people (Philosophy-degreed financial minister) was watching. Due to their risk-taking nature as fishermen, they took out loans from abroad and started buying companies/assets and paying crazy prices for them and traded “fake capitals” among themselves. It’s amazing that Iceland practically “privatized” fishing by assigning quota to each one. The great fisherman could then trade his quota (% of total haul) for money, giving the person to borrow money against this quota (securitized). Lewis also touched on the tension between the men and women in Iceland. What an interesting Iceland culture!
Greece: All Greeks cheat on their taxes. The government (a “pinata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens a possible whack at it) has no financial control and couldn’t keep their books right. Bribing the government officials (except the financiers) are a standard practice. Tax codes are not enforced. How the Vatopaidi monastery got themselves a huge enterprise was incredible (trading an ancient useless lake for valuable commercial lake front properties, thanks to “forgiving” certain high-level officials and the rich and famous). The culture of Greece is such that “it behaves as a collection of atomized particles, each of which has accustomed to pursuing its own interest at the expense of the common good.”
Ireland: The Irish used borrowed money to buy Ireland real estates from each other. Thanks to foreign money keeps pouring in, Irish discovered optimism. And the central bank regulator wasn’t watching. The big differences between the American banks and the Irish ones are that the Irish big shots went down with the banks from the “Ponzi” schemes they themselves believed in. The incredible decision by the Ireland government to assume all 3 large banks’ liability may have plunged the Ireland back to the Third World country status. The story of the rotten-egg thrower at the CEO of the AIB was an interesting touch.
German: Germans, based on their culture, seem to be fascinated with “shit,” “dirt,” “ass,” and etc. They enjoy playing in the “dirt” without getting dirty – obsessed with cleanliness. They are seen as naive as they expect everyone to follow rules to the letter include driving in traffic. AAA-rated bonds (thanks to re-packaged sub-prime loans) are supposed to be risk free! They lost a bundle of money. And the funny thing is it’s a taboo to express “patriotism” hence you can hardly see a German flag.
California, San Jose and City of Vallejo: The title of this chapter in the book is “Too Fat to Fly.” The people of the California, despite its famous governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, still could not govern themselves. The public workers, through their unions, voted themselves fat raises and ended up bankrupting the government (e.g. Vallejo). The theory is that when living in abundance, somehow we lose our ability to self regulate because of our core lizard brain. Two possible end games: destruction (like the parable of pheasant – too fat to fly and ended up being eaten by a fox) or hit bottom and face the pain – the best scenario.
Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 10:40 PM PST
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I was attracted to the title of the book. It sounded so good. As soon as I started listening to the audiobook, I saw the irony of the title; the story was neither beautiful nor pleasant with a happy ending. The stories was about this Muslim family living in the Annawadi slum next to the Mumbai airport as scavengers of bottles, metals and other valuables from the garbage dumps. Just when the family accumulated enough money to remodel their hut, the breadwinners of the family, father and son, were hit with a murder charge against them. They were able to defend themselves without giving in to bribing the officials and ultimately won their freedom but then they’re back to their previous poverty, starting over…
The author painted a very corrupt picture of the Indian justice system as well as the elected officials and the people running the government, e.g. bribing the prisoners to see the loved ones, bribing the witnesses, bribing the police to be let off the hook, bribing the doctor to allow one to be tried as an adolescent instead of an adult, and etc. The system feeds on itself so that the rich rigged the system to sustain their wealth (like setting up fake entities to receive government subsidies), poor continues to be poor because they are too poorly educated to secure high-wage jobs, the middle class (like police, doctors) have to be corrupt to fight off poverty.
It’s sad that people were in such despair about the future living the slums that several characters in the story killed themselves by eating rat poison and even setting fire on herself. Do they really see no way out and they simply give up – tired of fighting the status quo?
The book through several characters also touched on the inequality between the Muslims and Hindus in the Indian society, men and women, poor and rich.
After reading this book, I came to appreciate how good of lives we’re living here in U.S. There is “sufficient” amount of meritocracy built into the American system that most people believe that given sufficient effort and some luck, they can improve their lives and things will get better. Unfortunately, most of the people living in the slums of India, especially the women and minorities, do not feel the same way. Of course, I’m certain this type of things happen not only in India but also in China and other developing countries.
I enjoyed the audiobook very much as the audiobook narrator brought out the characters in mimicking the Indian accent wonderfully, like hearing the quotes from the people themselves. At the end, I was surprised to realize that the book was a non-fiction. It’s meticulously researched, written and produced (audiobook) – highly recommended.
Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 10:23 PM PST
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I planted the yam or sweet potato in my raise bed over 3 months ago when the yam we bought from supermarket sprouted. It has since taken up a big part of the raised bed. So I decided to harvest it to make room for the upcoming winter crop or other edible plants that don’t take up as much space. Below is a video of my harvest.
I didn’t get much new yam out of this crop. I suspected my 6″ raised bed was simply not deep enough for this type of the plant. Should have planted it in a container. But I did manage to harvest lots of leaves, which I later found to have high nutritional value. See this video for someone who has eaten the leaves and lived to tell us about it:
Here’s a picture of the Yam Leaves dish that my wife cooked up. It’s sauteed with garlic:
- Plant yam in a container so it doesn’t compete for soil space.
- In addition to the yam root, yam leaves can be harvested and have high nutritional value.
Posted by dstsai as Gardening at 4:04 PM PST
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