Like most people, I enjoyed playing with Lego as a kid and building fanciful constructions. I was not able to afford the fancy themed sets like Pirates or Space, which I could only marvel with amazement at in Toys R Us. But I had a box of loose Lego bricks that satisfied me just fine and allowed my imagination to run free.
After nearly 20 years of not building Lego, I developed a sudden itch when I randomly came across Lego’s Ultimate Collector’s Series (UCS). These are large, elaborate Lego sets targeted towards young adults and resemble models more than toys. Unsurprisingly, they’re also expensive but are true collectibles. After selling a UCS set retail for a couple years, Lego retires it forever and the value skyrockets on the flourishing aftermarket. The most famous example is the UCS Star Wars Millennium Falcon, which was retired in 2009 and is now worth $2,000+ from a MSRP of $500.
I fell in love with the UCS Star Wars Imperial Shuttle, one of the iconic spacecraft from Star Wars. It retails for $260 and will likely be retired next year. Very expensive, but I justified it because of its strong value in the used market and appreciation in the future. So I can easily get my money back if I want to sell it, or even make money if I’m willing to wait a couple years.
Look how amazing it looks! And I finally have my very first Lego set, all these years later!
Jeremy Lin frenzy has swept not just basketball fans but the whole world. He is such a captivating story because he touches so many demographics: Asian-Americans, New Yorkers, Christians, basketball fans, Asia as a whole, anybody who enjoys rooting for a good underdog, anybody who has ever felt underappreciated or undervalued.
I have been following Jeremy Lin since the record-breaking 2009-2010 Harvard season — my brother is a student at Harvard University and as a Taiwanese-American myself, I read many Taiwanese blogs that jumped on Jeremy early — but I in my wildest expectations did not see this level of a breakout performance coming.
Writers have been scrambling to discover new unique angles to cover Jeremy Lin, so by now he has been dissected fairly thoroughly and videos from his past are all over the place.
I recently came across a couple interesting videos that nobody in the Western media has seen yet. Even before the Jeremy craze, I regularly browse through Youtube Taiwan to stay on top of news and funny videos from Taiwan. A Taiwanese celebrity was visiting New York a few weeks ago for vacation and happened to sit courtside at Jeremy Lin’s very first game at Madison Square Garden on January 31st. In that game, he was still an unknown player and only played garbage time, the last few minutes when the score is so lopsided that the game is essentially over and all the star players have already sat down.
Jeremy Lin’s first game at Madison Square Garden, before the Linsanity
This first video shows courtside footage of Jeremy’s first game at MSG, filmed by the celebrity. In 5 minutes, he scores 4 points and has 4 assists. What’s also interesting is the celebrity’s discussion with his wife. Chen Chien-chou (陳建州) is a former professional basketball player in Taiwan and shows a lot of insight talking about Jeremy’s game, how he would fit in well with Coach D’Antoni’s system, and how he just needs one good chance to prove himself.
Talking to Jeremy Lin post-game in lounge
Second video shows the celebrity visiting Jeremy Lin after the game in the New York Knicks players’ family lounge. He also chats to Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony briefly to ask what they think about Jeremy. Jeremy’s parents are also here.
One last video for the road: a couple of Taiwan news reporters demonstrate the Jeremy Lin / Landry Fields handshake. I crack up every time I watch this.
I was in Las Vegas a few days ago for a quick, easy vacation. It was the week after CES and a week before Chinese New Year. In other words, Vegas was practically a ghost town. Not having to wait 1 hour to get into any random restaurant or 2+ hours to get into a buffet was a welcome change from my usual Vegas trips.
Chinese New Year was still a few days away, but Vegas was already getting ready for the Year of the Dragon. CNY is one of the biggest money-making holidays for Vegas, thanks to Asian tourists flooding into the city. Not surprisingly, Vegas rolls out the welcome mat for them. It was cool seeing Chinese New Year decorations all over the high-end casinos and shopping malls. I spent most of my trip in the center of the Strip, so I only took photos of the CityCenter complex (Aria, Cosmopolitan, Crystals) and Bellagio.
Tablets have been the hottest trend in consumer electronics lately, but while they are convenient in certain use cases, there’s no denying that laptops are far more versatile and powerful. My days in the classroom are behind me so I have not needed a daily laptop for the past couple years. But in the next several months, I will be doing a lot of business travelling with the need to do some computing on the road. Luckily for me, this need coincides with the grand launch of Intel’s Ultrabook initiative in October 2011.
Ultrabooks are ultrathin, light-weight laptops running mobile versions of the newest generation Intel CPUs with targeted prices of sub-$1000. Apple’s MacBook Air would technically fit into this product category, although it is not officially designated as an ultrabook. Acer and ASUS released their first ultrabooks just a couple weeks ago, and Lenovo and Toshiba are next in line. I have been admiring the ASUS Zenbook ever since its announcement, and now that I finally have it in my hands, I am delighted that it does not disappoint.
Traffic laws seem to be mere suggestions in Taiwan, as drivers routinely commit blatant violations and drive recklessly with little regard for their own safety, let alone the safety of anybody else. The problem is compounded by vehicle density and the swarms of scooters that are characteristic of Taiwan roads. The police, who are lackadaisical about enforcing traffic laws, don’t help the situation either.
In-car camera recorders are very popular in Taiwan to have video evidence of violations and to protect drivers against liability in case of collisions. With the advent of Youtube and these recorders, Taiwan has developed an interesting subculture of citizen traffic cops. Randomly browse through Youtube Taiwan’s most viewed videos in the Auto category and you’ll discover an abundance of videos uploaded by drivers with in-car cameras. Frequently, they’re just sharing their latest recordings of crazy events on the road (this one is a must watch!), but users will help identify license plates of hit-and-runs and submit videos to the police. Particularly popular videos can force the police to take action and make it onto TV news broadcasts. For example, this video was broadcasted a couple days later on national TV.
For my birthday a few months back, my parents bought me this fancy video recorder system by one of the leading Taiwan developers of this tech. It’s called the Hermes MVR 102 by Witness Technology (English site). Some people use their iPhones/Android phones as makeshift dashboard cameras, but this is more sophisticated and can record 4 video inputs simultaneously. The product is a custom rearview mirror (with 2 built-in cameras) that clips onto your pre-existing rearview mirror, with support for 2 additional cameras that can be installed wherever you wish. While an in-car video recorder isn’t as vital for protection in the USA compared to Taiwan, I have been using this device for months and love it.
Sonic the Hedgehog had a rough decade with a succession of ridiculed games, but developer Sonic Team may be rediscovering its talent at last. Last year’s Sonic Colors for Wii was a spectacular (and surprising) success. The upcoming Sonic Generations appears genuinely promising and will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog with levels inspired from 20 years of Sonic history.
Sonic Generations will be out late 2011, unfortunately missing the June month of the anniversary. But to commemorate the occasion, I decided to finally open a Sonic statue I had purchased a couple years ago. Built by First 4 Figures, this is a hand-painted 12″ statue limited to 1,500 pieces. It cost over $100, but is well constructed with a reassuring heft and makes quite a nice collectible.
My old PC is 4 years old and has been falling apart piece by piece over the past year. Most notably, the video card and on-board LAN both burned out. Performance has also become sluggish due to accumulated age, even after cleaning out all the dust, fresh installs of Windows, and my best attempts at optimization. I’ve been putting up with it for months now, but I finally decided to upgrade this weekend at long last. With the recent release of Intel’s new 2nd generation Core CPUs, this is an opportune time to upgrade!
While I consider myself a technology enthusiast, I don’t follow the PC hardware world much until the time approaches for an upcoming upgrade. Luckily, PC builders are passionate and extremely helpful so it’s very easy to get caught up with the latest developments and make an informed purchase decision. Building a PC is a three step process: 1) picking out and buying components, 2) assembling the PC, and 3) software installation. It’s a lot of fun and easy as well, even if you’ve never built your own PC before. If you can put together Ikea furniture, you can build a PC. It’s like Lego for adults.
The benefits of PC building over buying complete PCs from a retail store? Cheaper computers and learning about your PC components come to mind (even superficial knowledge can be helpful if your computer breaks down in the future and you need to troubleshoot). But most of all, you get a sense of ownership and pride with your shiny new PC that you built with your own hands!
First I have a few photos of my new PC, then at the end of this post, I will provide some handy resources that were very helpful after a 4 year absence from PC building.