The House of Random Crap
A clearinghouse for my crazed, deviant, trivial, irreverant & occasionally reflective thoughts.


Thursday, March 27, 2003  

I caught a telecast of the Academy Awards last night, which was largely hum drum, as they tend to be. Some of my observations:

1. Steve Martin did not live up to my expectations. Most of his jokes were flat, and he lacked his characteristic energy. He did make one joke I found pretty hilarious. To paraphrase: "I was saddened to hear that Richard Gere didn't receive a nomination for his work [in Chicago], and I just want to say to him: Welcome to my world, Richard Gere!"

2. Michael Moore's tirade against Bush and the war was not the big deal that everyone makes it out to be. For God's sake! Did anyone not see this coming? The man has made his living and won his numerous awards byharassing the Establishment, so why should either Bush or the Iraqi War be exempt from his attacks? He won an Oscar, he got his time on stage, and he used it as he saw fit. End of story.

3. I missed out on seeing Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah perform "I Move On". I love that song, so I was pretty bummed.

4. I thought this year's Awards were too self-congratulatory, as if it wasn't an overly pompous affair to begin with. Ok, so it's the award's 75th anniversary, but I thought gathering most of the past winners onstage was borderline cheesy.

5. "Always the bridemaid, never the bride my foot!" Peter O'Toole's self-deprecating acceptance speech for his honorary Oscar was not only extremely witty and funny, but oozed class and sophistication. He da man.

6. I thought Nicole Kidman's win for Best Actress was fantastic. "The Hours" bored the hell out of me, but she undoubtedly delivered a knock-out performance as Virginia Woolfe. I think this should once and for all prove that she is a top notch actress in her own right, and not merely riding Tom Cruise's coattails. Her acceptance speech was perhaps the best among recent best actress recipients. Yes, she cried, but it wasn't a blubbering messy affair. In fact, she seemed almost exasperated and amused at her inability to stop weeping.

7. Perhaps the most amazing moment of the evening was Adrian Brody's win as best actor for his role as Polish composer Wladyslaw Szpilman in "The Pianist". Most of the time, those who lose out tend to be cordial and clap and cheer for the winner, but you always get the sense of intense disappointment and occasionally jealously. Not so in this case. The other 4 candidates looked genuinely pleased with Brody's win, and Jack Nicholson and Nick Cage looked almost ecstatic (if I'm not mistaken, the 4 losing candidates were among the first to jump to their feet in applause). If just winning a best actor Oscar wasn't studly enough, Brody accepts the award from Halle Berry and the sweeps her into a passionate embrace and deep kiss, which she seems to enjoy, after which he remarks to the crowd "I bet they didn't tell you that was in the goodie bag!" Brody was practically inarticulate for most of his speech, but when the producers start cranking out the theme music as a way of getting the recipients off the stage, he had the balls to tell them to hold off, shut off the music and let him speak. His calls for a peaceful resolution were very heartfelt, especially his well-wishes to his buddy currently serving in the Gulf. This guy is certainly a class act. I will certainly make it a point to watch this film.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 6:35 PM |


Wednesday, March 26, 2003  

Work is starting to pick up. My new project has just commenced, and over the last 2 days, I've put in a total of about 6-7 hours at the client site, though starting today (when the real nitty gritty analysis starts), it's likely that I (and the analyst support me) will be putting in 8 hours a day, 2-3 days a week for the next several months. The senior management at our client company is psyched to be working with us (as well they should, since we are offering our services at a price so low as to be akin to highway robbery), and our main problem now is to get them to focus on the work at hand, and perhaps talk later about expanding the range of our serrvices to them (as well as expanding our compensation, of course!). I'm glad that I'm starting to get out in the field now; I like putting together our infrastructure and learning the ins & outs of running an organization, but I need to feel like I'm doing something that's actually bring in revenue to the company.

Internally, I'm not sure if things are moving in the right direction. Every Tuesday, the principals of our company (the 4 of us) meet after our regular team/staff meeting to discuss strategy and outstanding managerial issues. These are normally contentious and confrontational affairs, with at least two of us arguing about something at every meeting. I normally don't see this as too troubling, since none of us are fully Thai (which would make us prone to being overly sensitive and less likely to be blunt or direct) and we are comfortable enough to get in each others faces without taking it personally. Or so I thought. It turns out that one of the partners finds another partners presentation style as too confrontational and arrogant, and has let these feeling build up for quite some time. It came out yesterday in a big way, erupting into a full scale shoutfest, with me and one of the remaining partners caught in the middle trying to mediate the situation. Since the walls of the conference room aren't all that thick, the screaming partner stormed out of the room and nearly ripped the door off its hinges, and most of our junior staffers were still in the office, I am a bit concerned for the morale of the rest of the team.

In other news, the Academy Awards were filled with both surprises and non-surprises for me. I'm ecstatic that Chicago took home best picture and several other awards, and very surprised that dark horse Adrian Brody took home the best actor award. Not that I'm complaining. My HSX portfolio jumped up big time because of it. I shorted the hell out of most of the front runners for best actor, expecting that the losses I would take when Daniel Day-Lewis won the award would be balanced by the gains I would get when Jack Nicholson and Michael Caine lost. That all 3 of them lost meant that my profits skyrocketed, bring my rank up to 222,835 (43.98%). It make me wonder if I should have gonbe into the entertainment business. Don't laugh. Before I got accepted into Kellogg, I was admitted to business school at UCLA, which has a top entertainment management major. As early as my time in law school, I had toyed with the idea of financing deals for major studios and eventually climb up to studio boss. I think the main factor that held me back is that I hate living and working in Southern California...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 10:05 AM |


Sunday, March 23, 2003  

I have no idea where the weekend went. I did some work, but not nearly as much as I had hoped. Looks like a busy weekend for me.

Cal lost to Oklahoma 74-65 in the second round of the NCAAs, as expected. Actually, Arizona is the only one of the five Pac-10 teams still in the tournament, with Oregon falling in the first round, and Stanford and Arizona State falling in the second.

I finally caught the end of "The Ring" today (my pirated DVD had a glitch, which prevented me from watching the last 2-3 minutes, so Nicha replaced it last week). I'm not one for horror movies, so the film didn't make too strong an impression on me. Maybe something got lost in the translation from the Japanese version. At any rate, the last few minutes were disappointing, though I can see how the film conveniently sets itself up for a sequel (as it was done in Japan). I also just watched "Catch Me If You Can" today, which I really liked. Leonardo DiCaprio is a bit of a hit-&-miss actor for me. I wasn't really dazzled with "Gangs of New York" (which I saw last weekend), which is surprising since I tend to go for the epic period pieces. But I liked the storyline and performances of CMIYC. Leo's performance as master con artist Frank Abignale Jr. was terrific.

My HSX portfolio is doing rather well too. I've increased my portfolio by over 150k this weekend, boosting my ranking about 50,000 places to 259,745 (34.33%).I'm getting the feeling that I'm better shorting securities (at least fake movie-related securities) than going long. Anyways, I took profits on some of my investments and shorted a ton of Academy Award options. I've decided to try and break into the top 100,000 before the end of April, and top 1,000 before the year is out. I wouldn't mind investing in the real equity markets again sometime this year, but I'll take a wait and see attitude for now.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 10:18 PM |


Saturday, March 22, 2003  

My brother posted a link to the Prison Bitch Name Generator. If I ever find myself in the funhouse, my new name is Count Suckula (unless I wind up in a Thai prison, in which case I'll be known as Fudge Packer).

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:22 PM |


Friday, March 21, 2003  

I am insanely unmotivated right now. There really is no logical reason why I should feel this way. I work at a start-up with smart people, I get to play being a senior executive, and am about to start a cool deal with a great client. Still, I feel a bit bummed, and in no mood whatsoever to do any work. So here I am in the office on a Friday afternoon looking for ways to goof off.

I just finished watching a pirated copy of the movie "Daredevil" I downloaded using Kazaa. Very very disappointing, all the more so because I was a big fan of the comic book. I personally don't care much for Ben Affleck as an action star, yet, he happens to be desecrating all my beloved fictional heros (including Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan in "Sum of All Fears"; more on Clancy in a bit). This is the first time I've seen any of Jennifer Garner's performances, and given all the press about her, I must say that she is completely over-hyped. I was distinctly unimpressed. The only bright spot of the film was Colin Farrell and his performance as the hitman Bullseye. I may try and catch "Narc" or "Quiet American" before I leave for the day. I don't know why, but I've taken a bit interest in indie and foreign films lately. It's not like I don't like mass market fare (I go for the occasional big-budget action film or schmaltzy chick flick), but I've been feeling the itch for more cultural and intellectual fare. I hate to say it, but I think being in Thailand is starting to (for lack of a better expression) "dumb down my soul." Culturally and intellectually, I find most Thais shallow and uncreative. Harsh? Yeah. I love my country, but it tends to grate on me from time to time.

And speaking of indie films, some of my bets are starting to pay off. My Hollywood Stock Exchange ranking has jumped up 15,000 places to 310,232 (21st percentile) since yesterday on a well-place short on "Irreversible", a supposedly disturbing French Film starring Monica Belluci in a snuff-like 9-minute rape scene (I can't say I've seen any part of the film, but judging from the reviews and the current American distaste for all things French, I figure a short is a sure bet).

I've also started reading Tom Clancy's "Red Rabbit", the 11th book in his Jack Ryan series which was recently released in softback version. The reviews have been fairly tepid about this latest effort, but after 10 books, I can't not read it.

The one truly bright spot of my day is Cal's come-from-behind, game-winning 3-pointer in overtime to advance the Bears to the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament. As I said yesterday, I am not all too optimistic about our chances against Oklahoma, but I'll root for the Bears until I turn blue in the face. I may decide to screw up my sleep schedule and try to catch an Internet radio broadcat of the game this weekend.

Lastly, a classmate of mine from business school is launching a new website/business idea Vuxo, an application that let you shuffle among homepages, and even link to other people's favorites. I'm not all that good at describing it, since I have yet to try it out, but knowing my friend, I expect it will be a creative and intriguing concept, so give it a whirl if you have some time on your hands. Below is the text from a venture capital newsletter reviewing the Vuxo application:

"News from Stealthmode Partners: VUXO.com

21 March 2003

Namaste,

I'm testing a piece of software for a friend of mine. I do this often enough that I have another friend (the great Pat Borjon) as personal tech support, so when my system crashes from driver conflicts I have immediate help.

This won't crash my system, because it's a piece of web technology at a site called VUXO.com. Vuxo is actually a way to deliver content to web browsers. Corporations can use it for knowledge management and information sharing.

I, however, am using the "My Vuxo" variant, which allows me to rotate my home page among my favorites. So What? So a lot. When you go to the Vuxo site, it says "tired of the same old home page, day after day?" After almost ten years on the Internet, I am. Even if it's the New York Times. And certain sites I've bookmarked yet never see. So Vuxo, a free browser enhancement that lets me change my home page without opening up the Internet Tools and making a permanent change, seems cool.

Vuxo intrigued me. When I signed up, I also had the option to let Vuxo rotate some of their favorites among my favorites. Admittedly, I
haven't lived with this for very long, but here's what's happened so far:

I opened by browser and was greeted by the site for "Hot or Not," [Paul: incidentally, Hot or Not was also founded by a friend of mine, a Berkeley MBA I met when I was on exchange at London Business School] which I had never visited before. I had heard of it, but now I've experienced it.

I opened a new window and there was the Tech Oasis "Get Involved" page, which I hadn't seen since it had been updated. The next rotation was to worstcasescenarios.com, where I learned how to jump out of a building into a dumpster, start someone's heart with a defibrillator, exit from a sinking car...you get the picture.

And then it changed back to www.lifeclinic.com, a site on which I used to record my blood pressure, weight, and pulse so I could see if there were trends. Then it's at housejewelry.com, a site I bookmarked so I could get fancy dimmer switches and cabinet knobs for my new home. This morning, it's at Calculink, a site that puts you in touch with all sorts of calculators for everything from body fat to mortgage rates.

I believe a tool like this could be at least entertaining, and perhaps even educational. The best learning (for me) always occurs
accidentally, and the random nature of My Vuxo is right up my alley.

However, the corporate alternative is probably quite a bit more controlled, rotating among things your employer might think you needed to know, but might never seek out by yourself: details about the company benefits, for example, or sales figures from the worst region. The corporate demo suggests you might bookmark all the site of your competitors, and thus be assured that you'd visit them regularly and see what's happening in the competitive space. I really like that one.

Another suggestion is to use Vuxo to look at the sites of your customers, to know better what's going on in their businesses. And you can always do what I did: let Vuxo choose, so you have an appropriately randomized view of the outside world."

Ok, back to pretending to work...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:11 PM |


Thursday, March 20, 2003  

I'll be damned if these aren't some of the cutest baby pictures I've ever seen. Nicha commented the other day that "she [my niece Jessica] looks just like [my brother] Pete, except that she's really cute." Sorry, Pete. I love you like a brother (amazing, considering that we're actually brothers, eh?), but I am inclined to agree. Heck, if my ugly ass brother Pete can crank out such a beautiful baby, then my kid is gonna be gorgeous!! Of course, like Pete & Jessica, I'm assuming an inversely proportionate relationship between my looks and my kid's....

Well, I guess I ought to at least comment on the war, as the U.S. has launched its attack on Saddam regime. Am I for war? Of course not. Am I for Saddam getting the hell out of the country (or perhaps shuffling off this mortal coil)? Absolutely. Yes, there is a big oil component. But so what if U.S. actions aren't completely without ulterior motives so long as the ultimate results are beneficial to all (except Saddam & Sons)? Could armed conflict have been avoided? No doubt, but I don't think the burden should fall squarely on the US/UK. It's not as though Saddam didn't have ample opportunity to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors. But right or wrong, there is a face issue involved. It's bad enough that the UN should allow Iraq to thumb its nose/flip the bird at it, but for "bullies" like the US/UK to give the regime that much leeway would be giving penny ante dictators carte blanche to fuck around all they want knowing that the world powers are too emasculated to do anything about it. Yes, we should give peace a chance, but once a line is drawn in the sand, dictators should only cross it under penalty of firm repercussion. In the end, I really don't have strong views about the matter. People always feel that the here and now are among the most interesting of times, but personally, life is always interesting, better or worse. History has always been characterized by periods of peace punctuated by wars, and thus it will always be. I do worry about things like the economy and the safety of my friends, family and countrymen, but to think that war can be completely avoided in my lifetime (in Iraq or otherwise) is foolish fantasy.

My big hope now is that the Oscars or the NCAA Tournament isn't pushed back (or if so, not too far back) due to the war. Cal is 8th seeded in the east, and I have high hopes that it can get past NC State, though I expect it will bite the big one against Oklahoma in the second round. As for the Oscars, I'm in the process of trying to catch as many of the films as possible before the presentations. I generally take a slightly-more-than-passing interest in the Academy Awards, but I am particularly passionate about the awards this year because I absoluetly loved Chicago, and am hoping it sweeps. I very much enjoyed the 1998 Broadway revival when I was in New York on my MBA summer internship, but the movie simply blew me away. I think musicals are a bit of an acquired taste, and for me, Broadway productions are among the few things I truly love and miss about New York (and San Francisco, not to mention Chicago [the city]). Some critics panned Zelleweger, Gere, and/or Zeta-Jones (or even all three of them), but like 'em or not, very few actors could have done song & dance routines worthy of a musical, and they pulled it off spectacularly.

And speaking of Hollywood, I've started investing again on the Hollywood Stock Exchange, or HSX. Never heard of it? Well, it's sort of a fantasy investing league, except you invest in securities based on Hollywood actors, actresses and movies (new investors start out with 2 million Hollywood dollars). A MovieStock is a share in a movie (ranging from the concept through release stage) with the trading price reflecting the market's expectations of it's cumulative gross box office receipts in the first four weeks of release. A StarBond is an investment in an actor or actress with the security price reflecting the expectation of the actor/actresses' future trailing average of the grosses of the films they are starring in. I started trading on the HSX many years back when it was first established, but lost a ton of money and soon had to give it up due to lack of time. Lately, I've been following the industry closely (especially the smaller independent or foreign films), and as my new job is more stock market oriented, I thought I'd try and hone my investing skills. What is impressive is the sheer scope of the community. My current rank is about 325,700, and my lifetime returns are positive! Lord knows how many people are below me! Also, the investment options are fairly sophisticated. In addition to buying and selling stocks and bonds, you can invest in options, warrants, and funds, as well as short securities. So far, I've made a tidy profit shorting the Brit-Indian film "Bend It Like Beckham", but am taking a bath on a long investment in Sopranos-actress Edie Falco. My other 6-7 other positions haven't moved much, but with several release dates coming up over the next few months, I expect to see some movement soon.

As for work, things are about to get pretty busy for me. I've spent doing a lot of one-off pieces of analyses for clients and setting up our investment fund, but I am about to kick-off my first major advisory assignment, and one of our first major paying clients. The project involves a bit of everything, including a strategic assessment of the company, and an analysis of its capital structure and financing alternatives. It's pretty meaty, and is likely to result in a longer term relationship and perhaps several follow-on assignments. Since the likelihood of friends travelling to Thailand (or Nicha and I going anywhere to distant) over the Songkran (Thai New Year) Holiday, it looks like I'll have lots of extra time to devote to this project.

Toodles....

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 6:13 PM |


Sunday, March 09, 2003  

I’ve done a masterful job blowing off my blogs, haven’t I? And it’s not because life has been uneventful, or that I’ve been exceedingly busy (ok, so I have been busy, but if I have the time to play computer games and watch episodes of Star Trek, I can certainly find the time to post a blog or two every now or then).

My mind is a bit muddled right now, so instead of writing out a lengthy narrative, I will adopt a method popular with the strategy consultants I work with and simply highlight major events using bullet points:

• New years was great fun. Nicha and I went to a party hosted by my mom’s cousins, which is a fairly traditional thing that I have managed to attend at least 4 or 5 times in the last 10 years or so. Lots of booze, food, and karaoke (and relatives too, but with the first 3, who cares?).
• We also made it to the Rachaprasong Intersection in the central business district in time for the new year countdown. Its fashioned to be Bangkok’s version of New York’s Time Square new year countdown, complete with descending ball on to of the tower. We enjoyed fireworks from a great view on the skytrain platform. Making our way around the hideously packed intersection was akin to a cross between a mosh pit and a European football riot.
• I became an uncle for the 2nd time on January 21st when my brother Don and wife Fiona welcomed their baby boy, Jadon Matthew Ark. I hear he’s quite the eater, cries like a bloody banshee, and is cruelly forced to wear pink dresses. Read all about the latest adventures of J-Mat at here
• My niece Jessica is developing into the most beautiful baby girl in the world. She makes cute little gurgling noises, and sounds adorable even when she cries. Best of all, she has uncontrollable and distinctly unruly hair growth, giving her this very punk-like look, contrasting nicely with her chubby cheeks and somewhat vacant stare.
• And speaking of babies, my good friend Minnie just had a baby boy in late February. She’s Korean and her hubby is Persian, so I’m sure their boy Nicholas will grow up to be one helluva heartbreaker. My friend Christine is expecting her kid in a few months, so the next time I’m back stateside (hopefully in late August for a Napa Valley wedding), it looks like I’ll be neck-deep in babies.
• Nicha and I made our way out to Pattaya for a weekend. We joined a few guys from work at a secluded little resort that caters to wind surfers and a few other water sports. Nicha and I did a bit of jet-skiing at one of the more touristy portions of the beach, but I spent an hour at the resort reacquainting myself with a Laser (single-person racing sail boat). Considering my last experience with a Laser in Pattaya (capsized 4 times, broke the boat in 3 places, and lost my wedding band), I felt almost vindicated this time around. In the evening, we met up with some others and had a great seafood dinner followed by a relaxing evening listening to a Russian jazz trio (I had now idea that Pattaya was practically overrun by Russians, did you?). It was perhaps the first time that I truly enjoyed getting out to Pattaya, and and certainly hoping to get back out there again soon.
• In other sailing news, the Swiss team Alinghi recently won the America's Cup. Why is this such a big deal? Well for starters, it is the first time in the Cup's 150+ year history that a European team has ever won the cup (the United States held it for 125 consecutive years, making it the longest winning streak in the history of sports). Ironically, Switzerland is a completely landlocked nation...
• After an almost decade-long absence from the Berkeley campus, Nu Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon (my fraternity) has re-established itself with 26 brand-spankin’ new pledges, and a hopefully soon-to-be refurbished chapter house at good ol’ 2725 Channing Way. I haven’t been too active in fraternity matters over the years (having HQ close down your chapter makes you a wee bit bitter), but I think having an active chapter really does galvanize the alums and acts as an anchor that we’ve lacked since the time that I came out of Cal. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a chance to swing by the house for a post-football game beer, just the alums did when I was at school.
• Professionally, things are going well. The company is managing to keep afloat, we have several deals in the works, and have even started managing our first fund. I’m still spending more time implementing infrastructure initiatives than I am executing deals, but I find myself creeping towards an even balance. I can’t say that I’m a natural at senior management, but I’m learning.

Alrighty, back to work for me. I won’t take months to post my next blog, so stop by soon. See you on the flip side…

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:58 PM |
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