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May 21st, 2015

Book Review: “Killing Patton” by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

This is a fascinating story of the World War II era centering around George Patton, a 4-star general leading the 3rd army in driving Adolf Hitler to his demise. It’s as much about the key characters in WWII as about George Patton’s life.

From this book, I learned about several interesting tidbits about all the key players in World War II.

Franklin Roosevelt: He’s a man of great passion for the country who worked himself to death. But his personal life like most political figures in the early era is bit shady.

Dwight Eisenhower – a military man with political savvy that frequently ran into conflict with George Patton in his effort to appease the British by favoring UK’s Montgomery at times to make UK look good. Also, some mention of his affair was intriguing.

Winston Churchill – tried hard to position UK’s power post WWII by working out deals with Russia’s Stalin, who didn’t honor any of them. He was voted out of office at the end of WWII but came back to power later. Pretty resilient. The fact that Churchill was more American than British; his mother was from NY.

Joseph Stalin – what a vicious dictator he was in treating his people and his German enemy. He was conniving, calculating leader. No wonder Patton was very skeptical of the Russians and fearful of the Russians more than the Germans.

My impression of George Patton:
1. He appears to be a very good judge of characters like Stalin, Hitler, and Dwight Eisenhower.
2. Patton made lots of enemy and got himself into controversies by talking from his guts, especially the last controversy he talked something nice about the Germans and his distrust against the Russian. Almost got himself fired.
3. Some personal poor judgement on his affair with young Lucy Mercer Rutherford and sending a commando to rescue his son-in-law in keeping his promise with his daughter. The poorly executed plan cost more than 30 lives.
4. His cause of death appears to be non-accidental. Looked like someone was out to get him. That’s what happened when you had lots of enemy. My guess is the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) head, William J. Donovan.
5. Patton was a very brave man and served the country well despite the strange death shrouded his latter day in life. Was it an accident or assassination? The author presented the facts that tilted toward the latter.

This is a great book. Not only the Patton character is interesting, the surrounding characters and the war details in the book were equally intriguing. I highly recommend this book, even if you’re not a history buff. It reads like a novel and very educational.

Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 12:00 AM PDT

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May 17th, 2015

Maker Faire 2015, San Mateo

Posted by dstsai as Geeky, Travels at 6:29 AM PDT

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Megabot at Maker Faire


Visited the Maker Faire and video recorded this Megabot’s shooting a paint ball into a car. It’a an amazing feat to build a robot like what we see in movies and video game. Hope you enjoy it!

Posted by dstsai as Geeky, Travels at 12:00 AM PDT

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May 16th, 2015

How I Upgraded My Laptop Harddisk to SSD


The best ways to boost your computer performance without changing the CPU are two folds: 1. Increase your DRAM or DIMM/memory capacity, which serves as a local scratch pads for your operating system and applications. 2. Increase your harddisk speed by changing to SSD (Solid-State Drive or Flash Drive). In this video, I showed you how I upgraded a cheap laptop (~$250) to an Ultrabook by replacing the slow harddisk to an SSD. This laptop already has 4GB of memory and is plenty enough. All it needs is a fast SSD to turn into a reasonably fast computer with a long battery life (> 6 hrs).

Posted by dstsai as Geeky, Tips for computer at 12:00 AM PDT

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May 11th, 2015

Book Review: “Just Kids” by Patti Smith


What a great love story for two young kids with great passion for arts, poems, and music.

My takeaways from the memoir:
– Being an true artist starting out could be a trial experience. Patti Smith was homeless for a while and was constantly hungry and directionless, and yet her passion for art, poems, music kept her going.
– She met Robert in a book store then bumped into him as she was trying to escape the advances of a date. That’s when their relationship started.
– Her love for Robert Maplethorpe read like a love story despite Robert’s inclination toward homosexuality later in life.
– Pregnant at 19 and gave up her daughter up for adoption and then leave down. Now that’s brave in that era.
– In her dire financial situation, she saved enough money to travel to France and stayed for months. That takes determination and the passion for France.
– Though she frequently encounter people using drugs/speed, she stayed clean until she started using marijuana – a mild form.
– Her low, monotone voice in the audiobook takes some time to get used to. At the end, it was almost poetic.
– The description of the New York arts scenes, the famous people and fame-searching peole in and out of Chelsea Hotel, all make an interesting backdrop of story.
– In the beginning, I didn’t sense she was musically talented except for listening to them and hanging out with famous singer like Jimi Hendrix. I kept looking for clue that she discovered her talent later in life. But all along, her love for drawing, poems and lyrics seem to exceed her love for singing or song writing. Fortunately, she’s got a good voice and musically talented after all, or maybe she tried to minimize her singing talent.
– Because of this book, I googled/brushed up all the characters mentioned in the book and Patti Smith’s songs and poems including her Patti Smith Complete book. She’s indeed talented.
– After reading the book, I have new found respect for those who are passionate about arts and creativity in spite of difficult situation. The world owed them the refinement they endowed on this earth. Makes me want to write some poems. Maybe I will.

I particularly like the farewell paragraph: “I stood there and looked at him. So peaceful like an ancient child. He opened his eyes and smiled.” Back so soon?” And then again to sleep. So my last image was as the first. A sleeping youth cloaked in light, who opened his eyes with a smile of recognition for someone who had never been a strange.” When you can adore someone through the hard time and happy time, you have the love of your life. A relationship to envy. It’s great that Robert makes this book and stories his dying wish. What a treat for all of us!

Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 12:00 AM PDT

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May 8th, 2015

Our Dove Nest – Last Update

See the beginning of the story.

Posted by dstsai as Personal at 8:26 PM PDT

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May 7th, 2015

An ATM Snafu

Posted by dstsai as Personal at 12:00 AM PDT

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May 1st, 2015

Book Review: “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, Faith, in the New China” by Evan Osnos

This is a story about the current generation of Chinese in China developing into a country in such a break neck speed that the people and the government can’t seem to adjust fast enough to keep up with it, especially after the cultural revolution that overthrew all the traditional faiths (Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and etc.) under the single-party rule (semi-dictatorship) for almost 70 years.

The book consists of three parts: Fortune, Truth and Faith.

Fortune:
Gong Haiyan’s creating the Jiayuan.com, the biggest matchmaking site on earth.
Li Yang’s Crazy English Institute.
God of Gamblers, Siu Yun-ping, in Macau – owed gambling debts and was contracted triads to hit.
Wealth brought the tourists to the West.

Truth:
– The censorship is everywhere, including this website blocked in China.
Hu Shuli’s Caijin story.
– Text message about what to censored.
– Lin Zhengyi’s (later changed to Yifei) defection to China from Taiwan in 1979. I had not heard of the story until reading this book. His story was developed throughout the book including his travel to US to World Bank and return to Bejing.
– Dissident Liu Xiaobo’s story including his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
The author reported several stories around Ai Wei Wei, whose story I found to be fascinating.
– Han Han – a car racer and a blogger and Crazy English’s teacher.
– Ai WEiwei’s story.
– Chen Guangcheng: As a blind lawyer, he beats the odds of becoming a lawyer, then a civil right advocates, then his eventual departure from China due to persecution.

Faith:
– The spiritual void created by Communist Party’s domination. Now Confucianism is being advocated.
– Hardware City’s “passing by” highlights the lack of moral standard when Little Yueyue was left to die after being hit by a van.

My key takeaways:
– Interesting stories of the people. The author, like a good New Yorker reporters, is good at telling stories.
– I never thought about the government control can be a hindrance to being creative in arts and technology. Maybe it’ll motivate the government to easy up on censorship.
– This book might serve as a good reminder to the Westerners that China’s Miracle is really not a miracle but so much pain being endured in censorship, and population control, forceful urban control and squashing of dissidents. At some point, the pain may become unbearable and things will change. Probably within 10 years, give or take.

Posted by dstsai as Book Reviews at 12:00 AM PDT

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April 30th, 2015

An Uninvited Guest in the Garden


Nothing like confronting a terror during the tranquil moment of watering your young seedlings in the morning, reminding of the shower scene in Hitchcock’s “Psycho” movie.

Posted by dstsai as Gardening at 12:00 AM PDT

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April 26th, 2015

Cherry Blossom Festival in Cupertino

Once a year, Cherry Blossom Festival is held in Cupertino. This year the festival took place on 4/25/15 and 4/26/15 and my wife participated in the Ikebana flower arrangement exhibits. I recorded this video to highlight her work and many fine work by others in this community event.

Posted by dstsai as Travels at 9:36 AM PDT

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