Kung Fu Entry

13 12 2009

by: christow

This one gets love because the bass guitar is just too filthy. And they aren’t Japanese they just loved The Karate Kid.

Download => Fujiya and Miyagi – Collarbone


Reality Check

8 12 2009

by: christow

“The truth is generally seen and rarely heard”

Can you tell which videos are real and which are fake? Or are they all real?

In the 90’s and early 2000’s, CGI clearly drew the line between animations and reality. We could see with our own eyes the aliens, explosions, “twins” and space scenes and we would know the real from the movie magic. We knew when we walked into those theaters that we were paying for the entertainment of the films and we engaged in the trickery.

But now…some of that trickery has encompassed the viral realm. For those that have heard the term but are unfamiliar, viral videos are those that gain notoriety through the internet via social media or video sharing sites. Just think of videos like this and that.

For the most part, viral videos have the look and feel of being homemade and done by someone like you or me. These viral videos were able to catch some of those moments we all need to satisfy our need for entertainment or to visualize something we had heard through the grapevine. For a while Youtube delivered that void of our imagination.

And now we have this…

Marketing has now broken into the viral realm and in many facets blurred the line of reality. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy watching these videos produced or real. To me these videos serve as entertainment purposed only. My concern though is when we reach points where we do need to authenticate a video, will we be able to?

I honestly can’t tell with some of videos now because the quality of video is supposed to be low. So unless something stands out as incredibly fake or unreal I simply have to cast off most videos as entertainment and entertainment only. The best way for me to actually believe if a video is real or not is actually the source in which I find the video. There are certain blogs that I “trust” more than others and certain websites I get more assurance from. Even then I am leaving myself vulnerable to the persuasion of others, something I don’t feel all too comfortable with. What I fear are the videos that will come out that could possibly tarnish reputations and create false hysteria, so keep your eyes pealed and don’t be fooled by all the Youtube magic.

Download ~ Binary Star – Reality Check

Approaching ASEAN

3 12 2009

by Jared McClelland

Before I get into the real meat of what this post is actually about, I want to comment briefly on media coverage in general of Obama’s trip to Asia. James Fallows has already done more justice to this topic than I could and if you don’t follow him regularly I would encourage you to at least go back over the ten or so entire he’s written on this subject. The only thing I would add is this: the deplorable media coverage is a symptom of a disturbing media trend to cover every thing from the perspective of domestic electoral politics. When a sitting President travels abroad, it shouldn’t matter what his party affiliation is; what should matter is what he accomplishes while there. In talking about the bow to Japan’s emperor last time I focused on the right-wing blog coverage that – rightly or wrongly – criticized the bow on its merits, but in a quick review of the mainstream media coverage, most of it seemed to be along the lines of “Obama bows to Japanese emperor – what does it mean for mid-term elections?” That, I submit to you, is an incredibly dumb way to cover foreign affairs. The really right question is, “What does it mean for our relationship with Japan?” or even “Does it somehow compromise our nation’s position?” which I would reiterate is frankly stupid, but at least it addresses the situation on its merits instead of its campaign implications.

In that spirit, I am slightly reluctant to address the following and risk adding to the overblown and nearsighted criticism of what I see as a relatively successful trip through Asia. So let’s not call it a criticism. Let’s call it something to think about for next time.

After taking the time and trouble to get to Asia, I would have liked to have seen Obama pay a trip to Indonesia while he was here. Indonesia is a pretty unique place, and has the promise to be very interesting and important in the continued rise of Asia. It is the world’s fourth most populous country behind China, India, and the U.S., which alone affords it huge economic potential and political importance. It’s economy has exploded in the past decade and still holds promise. It is also a Muslim nation, the world’s largest, and a democracy. More than that, it had a largely peaceful democratic transition which has proven stable and lasting. It’s my view that developing closer ties with Indonesia could provide several benefits to America, first and foremost being to counteract the notion (unfortunately widespread among the Islamic world) that America is at war with Islam. If we could show, through a close relationship with a large Muslim democracy, that we not only tolerate but indeed support strong, independent, self-governing Muslim nations we might go some distance to correcting our damaged image with regard to islam. Indonesia already occupies an important place in the world because it daily disproves the notion (unfortunately widespread in the West) that Islam and democracy are incompatible. Furthermore, a strong relationship with Indonesia could pay dividends in Asia for many years to come.

The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN, from here on out) has largely been ignored by the United States up until now, and not without good reason. Their response to the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and their delayed earthquake response in 1995, not to mention their total unwillingness to apply pressure for democratization to Mayanmar have shown the organization to be weak and somewhat directionless. The so-called “ASEAN way,” the organization’s MO based on personal agreements, back-room bilateral deals, and seemingly endless negotiation are difficult for the Western world to take seriously. We are much more confident in a ‘legalistic’ approach like that of the EU, where laws are adopted by the whole body and member states are obliged to comply. However, all that being said, ASEAN is showing signs of moving towards a more ‘legalistic’ approach, the first big test of which will be the percolating free-trade agreement with China (which will also have the added effect of making ASEAN an even bigger economic power in Asia.) I expect to see some combination of the ‘ASEAN way’ and the more ‘legalistic’ approach, which will be more comfortable culturally for member states while also incorporating the more effective Western law-based approach.

Indonesia got lost in there somewhere. I said all that to say this: ASEAN has the potential to be to South East Asia what the EU is to Europe, and making an investment now in a relationship with ASEAN’s largest nation and fastest-rising economic star could provide many benefits later, especially since our relationship with other prominent ASEAN nations like Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are – to put it mildly – fraught. And President Obama may be uniquely placed to develop this relationship since he spent part of his childhood in the country. ASEAN is also critical from a security standpoint in maintaining a stable regional balance of power with China, since it is a strategically valuable region, several of whose member states share a border with the giant to the North. (I offer the caveat, however, that for the U.S. to ever truly engage ASEAN, they’re going to have to at least try to do something about Myanmar.)

Hillary Clinton did call on Indonesia on her first trip to Asia, and that is certainly a start, and I realize that for the time being Obama had a very full schedule with several large and pressing issues to address in the region and South-East Asia very understandably took a back seat on this trip. However, I would encourage him and his administration to consider making fostering a close and productive U.S.-Indonesia relationship a priority.

Convenience Squared

2 12 2009

by: christow

Remember when having a store open 24 hours was the ultimate convenience? Me Neither.

In 2009, we saw the evolution of mobility develop into the ultra-connectedness with cell phones. iPhones and Blackberries alike have integrated themselves on par with wallets and keys. The e-mails, the blogging, the tweeting, the photos have all formed so easily into our daily routine that without these mobile devices some are left clueless. Some would argue that this wave of technology has turned users into robotic drones, swallowed whole by their mobile devices. Applications and text messaging alienating them from human contact and being present amongst a group of people.

Those arguments are all valid but leave little room for the argument of convenience, efficiency, and innovation. Although cell phones can have that introverted effect on us, they can also be a source of efficiency and convenience. Today the term convenience goes head on with people who are old-fashioned. Many people who avoid the mobile devices say they enjoy the phone calls and simple texts still, writing down notes with a pen and pad and having time away from the Internet. But continuing with the argument, convenience is still there for those who are willing to engage on the benefits and don’t necessarily fit into the mindless cell phone users.

There is personal-financing with Mint.com, music filtering recommendations with Hypem.com and Pandora, and even ways to manage your health (via food budgeting) with Daily Burn. These are all tools that can enable your life to be easier in some sense by actively doing work that could take your hours at a time. The following argument then ensues, do those hours of work make me sharper and better for it or do those hours saved by using those services create valuable time used for other things? An argument worth addressing in the future. But in the meantime another service worth keeping an eye out for.

Meet Square.

In brief, Square is a venture into the market of mobile purchasing. With Square, users will have a virtual account that manages your purchases and utilize an add-on device that plugs into the audio (headphone) jack to make your purchases. This allows you to swipe your card in order to make physical payments. What are the benefits of using a system like this?

Visa, Mastercard and American Express have all agreed to allow Square to take payments. This is notable because, like PayPal, Square allows anyone to have a virtual merchant account and take payments directly. Getting a merchant account isn’t trivial, which is why only actual businesses usually do it. But with Square, people can sell tshirts at football games. Street vendors can take credit cards. We can sell tickets to our events on site, etc.

via TechCrunch

The venture that Square is making with mobile purchasing could have a lasting effect on our spending habits. Think about it, how much money did you spend today? Did you keep track of all of your receipts from your transactions today? With Square, every transaction can send you an e-mailed receipt or a text message with your purchase. Budgeting could very well be just a tad bit easier. Even more, carrying cash or running to the ATM won’t be as vital (those $3.00 convenience charges add-up).

Or Square could be added to a long line of start-ups that had a great idea but never integrated into an everyday service. One of the major problems of these start-ups is that cities beside San Francisco throughout the United States may not have technology so heavily incorporated into their lives. The San Francisco Bay Area is unique in that the heart web innovation lies in Silicon Valley. The tech culture is enveloped in this area and accepted within the communities. Other cities may not be so inclined to hop on the constant wave of technology booms.

That’s not to say that the users in the cities are not open to such ventures; most users are equipped with the aptitude of learning new technologies that can enhance their lives. Rather, the businesses are who I worry about catching on. Not every store owner in New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles may be an iPhone and Blackberry user and may not be as open about having a service such as Square apart of their business. The challenge for Square and other companies hoping to engage in this market isn’t the concept of mobile purchasing, but proving that the service can have an easy and efficient integration into the business setting.

A delicate position

17 11 2009

by: Jared McClelland

I was trying to conceive of a topic for my first post here when current events helpfully made the choice for me.  President Obama is on his first tour of Asia, which – in spite of everything going on in the Middle East – is likely the most important region for America’s long-term interests.  As such, there are hundreds of things about this trip I could write about (and I’ll probably get to several of them.)  But today the topic is Japan.

Our entree to this discussion is Obama’s bow to Akihito, Emperor of Japan, which has many in the Neocon wingnut community positively apoplectic.  (Michelle Malkin calls him O-bow-ma.  The Los Angeles Times asks “how low can he go?”  American Power Blog accuses him of “bowing before monarchs and tyrants!” and points out that Reagan didn’t bow, the implication I guess being that anything Reagan didn’t do just shouldn’t be done…ever.  Powerline goes even one step further, noting that Douglas MacArthur didn’t bow to Hirohito.  Of course, he was accepting Japan’s unconditional surrender at the end of a bloody war, but that’s irrelevant, obviously.  It goes on and on.)

It is true that the US President bowing to the Emperor is unprecedented, and represents a departure.  I can understand the view that this is a bad thing, because a bow represents more than respect; it is also a sign of deference.  For those who believe that a never-ending show of America’s might is the President’s primary task, this is obviously upsetting.  But shouting “The American President bows to no one!” while shaking your fist (and thereby rattling your saber) is not exactly a nuanced foreign policy position and fails to account for several realities we face in Asia.

America, while still the preponderant military and economic power in Asia, is slowly but surely watching its status deteriorate.  As is frequently pointed out, China’s economy continues to fare reasonably well despite the global economic crisis, and their military is growing concordantly. America’s failure to make any progress at all with North Korea during the Bush administration (and to in fact lose the progress made during the Clinton administration) highlighted our flailing in the region and further diminished our standing.  This is especially true in Japan, where the North Korea issue is particularly sensitive.

But the biggest change, and probably one of the most consequential, is our changing relationship with Japan.  They are the world’s second largest economy, they are geographically critical to America’s power projection in Asia, they command a larger military than most people realize (Asia’s largest conventional military force), and since the end of World War II they have been a staunch and unfailing ally.  But they just had an election.

Fifty years of almost unending rule by the same political party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has come to an end, and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has risen, and all the implications of that are not yet clear.  What is definitely clear, though, is that their new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama campaigned partly on a platform of carving out a much more equal Japan-US alliance.  They have vowed to stop refueling our Afghanistan-bound ships in the Pacific, which will make an already difficult (if not impossible) and costly mission there even more so.  They have made noise about renegotiating our Status of Forces Agreement, which would compromise our military position vis-a-vis China and North Korea.  But where it gets really sticky is that they have begun divesting the “bureaucracy” – a collection of ministries and agencies with no democratic accountability whatsoever that, until now, has made practically all decisions regarding Japan’s foreign policy – of its power.  This means that for the first time ever, Japan’s foreign policy is controlled by the democratically elected government, and therefore by public opinion.  So, to get what we want from japan we will now be forced to court them diplomatically.

Our relationship with Japan – our most important and closest ally in Asia – is in flux, for the first time since the end of the second World War.  I’m not saying Obama was necessarily thinking of all this when he bowed to the Emperor. It could have just been a goof; but even if it was, given the circumstances I can’t see it as a total loss.  A sign of high respect, tinged with a little deference, may be just what we need.

And One.

17 11 2009

by: christow

Keychains are easy to fill with keys. Even if you don’t use the key that often you at least know what each has a purpose for. The most typical add-on is a bottle opener, so typical. Why have just a bottle-opener when you can have so much more?

Mr. Do It All

A bottle opener and phillips head screwdriver for starters. The Gerber Shard has 4 other functions (still unknown to me). Oh and it’s airline friendly.

Courtesy of Uncrate

A Smart China

16 11 2009

by Kevin Connors

Let’s say you’re in middle school. You were awkward for a few years, maybe even got picked on towards the end of elementary school. But once 6th grade came up you suddenly got some swagger in that step. You started wearing Abercrombie. You got some cool boot-cut jeans and $99 Airmaxs your mom bought for you at Footlocker.

Now you got some confidence, right? At least more than before, that’s for certain. So you wanna start talking to girls. Before, you’d always have to go through your friend–the good looking one who’s good at b-ball and the fly 6th grade honeys are always crushing on. Usually you’d call him up on your iPhone (also purchased by your mom) and tell him you were trying to hollerrrrr at a fly honey.

But now…oh man. Now YOU can just talk to the girls yourself. You put your buddy on the backburner and now HE has competition because your balls dropped, you picked up your skirt, and you just went with it.

Now insert some players here. Your friend is the US, You are China, and them fly chics are the rest of the world.

Let’s take a step back. China’s got some momentum. It’s on the front page of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal everyday. It’s the world’s 3rd largest economy and Obama even said himself China is of the highest priority of the American people.RMB

But China (You) is like maaaan. I don’t need you Obama. I run this…so they do. They start doing whatever the hell they want. They’re officially atheist so they run around closing churches that become a bit too popular. They manipulate their currency so their goods are cheaper abroad and everyone snatches them up at stores across the Western world. They violate every human rights law in the book. They essentially finance the US wars in the Middle East via purchasing of US treasuries. And after all this they sit back and drink tea because there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

One of the cool things China  is also doing–and the point of this post–is it puts its currency, the Renminbi–in the hands of other countries. Why would they want to do this? And how do they do this?

First, they want to do this because if you’re buying stuff from China you probably want to pay them in Chinese currency. Basically, it’s easier for you if you can just hand China Renminbi when you buy them new Nike Airmax kicks made for $1 and sold for $99. Before, you’d have to go to a bank, exchange your local currency into dollars, then dollars into Renminbi. But China’s got some balls now. So basically they’re slapping the US in the face and being like, “Our country is pretty sweet too, the time of American world economic domination is coming to an end.” And the sad things is…they may be right. Back to our example, you don’t need your friend to hook you up with girls anymore because you got that Abercrombie zip up. You’re cool on your own.

A bit more technical, but HOW they are doing this is pretty cool too. They’re engaging in currency swaps, or more specifically central bank liquidity swaps. China is handing over billions of Renminbi to countries like Argentina, South Africa, and South Korea in exchange for those countries’ own currencies in equal value (so for example, China hands you 10 billion Renminbi, and you hand them the equivalent of that in your local currency). This essentially provides liquidity to these countries so they can now purchase Chinese goods using the Chinese currency–which makes things much easier. Plus, the other half of the swap agreement is that in 10 years, after your country buys a ton of stuff from China and you can self sufficiently provide liquidity in Chinese currency, you swap back with China the same amount at today’s exchange rate. Basically, you’re borrowing Chinese Renminbi, interest free, for ten years at a predetermined exchange rate.

It also makes the Chinese goods cheaper because it subtracts the transaction costs related to going to banks and exchanging currency. Finally, it also insulates the local country (Argentina, South Africa, South Korea, etc.) from fluctuations in the US Dollar–which lately has been getting railed by the global economy.

Strategically, this is really smart on China’s part. When other countries are running around trying to find the definition for a collateralized debt obligation, China’s making it easier for other countries to buy its stuff and, as a byproduct, undercutting the US Dollar’s role in the global economy.

You (China) are now providing your friend (the US) with some competition. How will your friend react? Will he tell all the girls you’re a loser? Will he help you out? Will he act like he’s cool with it but behind the scenes sabotage your ascent to stardom? And the only real question left to ask is, when YOU (China)–the new cool 6th grader–finally sack up and ask an 8th grade fly honey (the rest of the world) to the dance, and your friend (the US)  does at the same time, who will she say yes to?