Apr 20, 2024

War & the Long Peace

This is a somber, but ultimately insightful video. Watch until the end to see how it flips to the positive.

Many of us never experienced World War 2, or fully  understand it. Recent, and developing events are quite concerning, but it helps to zoom out to see just how good the world has been.

The Long Peace may end, but not likely. Humanity have learned and and evolved since WW2...hopefully. We may worry about the future, but we can rely on knowledge of the past; peace has benefited generations. We are better than we have ever been. We don't know what will happen, but we can take solace in the fact that the odds of continuing the Long Peace are much higher than its end.

Then again, the specter of WW3 haunts us.

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." 

Albert Einstein 

Apr 12, 2024

Movie thoughts: 12.12: The Day

My all-time favorite movie is Kingdom of Heaven. It is a story of righteousness and honor, even in defeat.

Life is fraught with trials and tribulations: struggles beyond one's ability to cope and control. So, how do you fight and continue to fight for the right things?
Where do you draw that courage from? Religion? Hope? Those you care about? Or is it honor?
Kingdom of Heaven asks these questions and provides some good answers.
Beyond good acting, inspirational dialog, awesome cinematography, and great direction, Kingdom of Heaven sort of became my moral compass. It was THAT good.

Cut to November 2023 when I saw 12,12: The Day.
This movie was shaping up to be another Kingdom of Heaven for me. It's more visceral, dark, but the fight was similar. Two sides vying for power. Good guys vs kinda bad guys.

It's been a hot minute since I first saw Kingdom of Heaven. In the intervening years, I've become older, hopefully wiser, but definitely more jaded. My view of the World isn't as positive or naive as it once was. Life has a tendency to grind you down. I've become more tired, jaded, less hopeful than I was, but that fire to do the right thing still burns inside. The mantra of "Be the change you wish to see in the world" still resonates deep within me.

I watched 12,12 without knowing much about it. My wife told me it's some Korean action/drama about a real event, but that's about it.

Boy was I surprised. I sat through the movie and increasing became anxious as it unfolds. I immediately identified with the good guys, but I also understood the "kinda" bad guys, and everyone in between. Wow! This movie got deep and complex with so many characters. I love it!

As I was munching my popcorn, I found myself getting drawn into the event more and more. The many fights and surprises kept me on the edge of my seat. Good stuff!

Then the end came. Holy smokes! What the hell?! Noooo!

Spoiler Alert: The side I rooted for in all this struggles lost! After so much struggles and pains and support...how can it end like this?! I was shocked and distraught.
The ending hits me hard and shook me to my core.

I always thought doing the right thing is worthwhile. I always believed that light will be at the end of the tunnel. No matter how long or how dark it is, hard work perserveres. Yet, here is an outcome where it doesn't. Doing the right thing here, even for people waffling in the middle, didn't work. It was an utter failure.

Then comes the next shock: this was a real story that actually played out in Korea. What results is a regime of "bad guys", but it wasn't that bad. I mean, life went on and it was fine. The balance eventually swung back, but even before that, it was fine..

This is when I found myself asking an existential question: does it even matter to fight hard for the right thing?
It made me question my constant push to do the right things and to make the world better (at least in whatever capacity I have).

Do I give up now? Do I just go with the flow because it's not that bad either way?

The lessons from this movie are tough for me to accept, but it is real life. I have since embraced it while not giving up on what I think is right. All the things I know and appreciate are worth fighting for, so I will continue to fight.

Being middle-aged, I find myself still learning and growing. This is an experience that adds to my definition of right and wrong, and the path forward.

Wow! What a movie!

Apr 9, 2024

Movie thoughts: Civil War

This is Alex Garland's (director of Annihilation & Ex Machina) latest and last movie. He specializes in movies that make you think.

This movie depicts a fictitious future where civil war breaks out in America.
Written in 2020, Civil War is fictitious, but there are some parralels in real life (recent border crisis led to renewed talks of Texas seceeding). It's scary, but let's focus on the film.

My wife and I saw it last night. Wow! What a visceral depiction of war on American soil. The suspense/stress in some sequences is unreal. The movie does a great job at putting you in the war. It's an odd feeling, but it gets to the point where you'd want to hear gun shots to put your mind at ease, because it's away from you. Crazy to think of it as daily life for some folks.

I've seen many war movies, and Michael Bay films. I'm no stranger to explosions or the sharp "pings" of bullet shells, but this movie makes it feel so real. The constant unease and restlessness you experience is hard to describe.

When we got out of the movie, we both felt relief and a certain level of PTSD. Thank God it was just a movie.

We've also traveled to countries where we saw real destruction & military presence in civilian life. Serbia stood out as they still have big holes in bombed out buildings and burnt rubbles. Our bus was stopped at military checkpoints in Russia, a tourist police with gun accompanied us in Jordan (to keep us safe), and we saw men with huge semi-autos guarding McDonald's in Guatemala. Heck, I used to find bullets while foraging for copper as a kid (yes, that's a thing in 3rd-world countries). All that is to say: I've experienced real bits and pieces of war-torn places, but that's all after the fact. Nothing prepared me for the feeling of being in it like this movie.

This is an A24 movie so it makes you think, but this "thinking" is accompanied by such a visceral feel. Its cycle of fear, relief, suspense, fear, stress, shock...becomes a sort of wartime state of mind. Even as you become desensitized, the humanity in you questions who you are as crazy things happen around you, then you realize it doesn't matter because you might not live though it.
In our daily life, we have alot of control. In war, you become a ragdoll, thrown around, kicked around, and just existing until some future point where it hopefully stops. Hopefully you are alive at that point. Even then, you won't be you anymore.

This film takes us into a future of what could be. Now we get to think about why and how we can prevent it.
There are plenty who romanticize war & idealogy. This movie is a counterstatement to that romance.

Reminder: we have several wars going on in the world right now. In fact, on my upcoming vacation, I am going near one of them. Hopefully things don't get crazy. One realistic war movie is enough, I don't need to experience the real thing.
Oh shoot, I forgot we have an upcoming election where...nevemind.

Dec 6, 2023

New car: Genesis GV70

I thought I'd be spending at least 5 years with my 2021 Toyota Mirai, but that relationship was cut short when I was rear-ended, leading to the car being totaled.
Making lemonade from a lemon situation, I went shopping for another car.

Yes, interest rate is high so this isn't a good time to buy a car, but I needed something. Sharing my wife's car would save us a bunch of money, but at the cost of great  inconvenience. That and I realized this would be the 2nd or 3rd to last car I buy so, let's enjoy it.

Competition & other considerations

Part of me wanted a fun weekend car so I thought about the Toyota Supra and Nissan Z, but they're too small and rough. As such I looked towards SUV land (my wife approves). Specifically, I was cross-shopping Lexus NX350, Audi Q3, Q5, Toyota Venza, and Tesla Y & X (incredible deal on one of my dream cars). The Venza is no longer available while Lexus has next to no discount. Audi Q5 looks decent but interior is dated. The Q3 has a modern interior but its available engines are too weak. After some considerations, I decided to not deal with charging hassles so I eliminated all EVs (Audi Q4, GV60, GV70e are great EVs if you go that route).

To broaden the horizon, my wife and I visited the LA Car show. There, the only manufacturers that peaked our interest were Lexus and Genesis (and a certain Honda Prelude concept 😱).
Availability and lack of deals kept us away from Lexus, but the Genesis showcase wowed us. Everything from the G70 sedan to GV80 SUV held our attention. The design, tech, fit and finish were top-notch. I quickly zeroed in on the GV70 due to its design and affordable price point. A few days and a bunch more research later, I was set on a 2023 2.5t GV70 Advanced. It had most of the features I wanted without the low profile (rougher ride) 21" wheels and cheap-feeling mesh seats. It's also the sweetspot as it has several features that are moved to the top of the line Sports Prestige package in 2024.

The car

Over the years I've purchased and owned a fair bit of cars, some with many nice features and amenities so I'm no stranger to "luxury features" like HD surround cameras, cooled & heated seats, auto highbeam, panoramic roof, etc. Still, the Genesis GV70 wowed me, even after owning the lovely '21 Toyota Mirai.

Here's my beautiful 2024 2.5t Saville Silver (no metallic/pearlescent white on GV70). She makes 300hp and 311 lb/ft of torque (for quick acceleration).

Looks nice with the Genesis 2-line design language. Those 19" wheels are nice and soft. Silver brake calipers front and back too.

Detailed interior with ambient lighting. I wanted the tan interior but they don't make them for 2024. Doh!

Blue ambient lighting shown on the door handle. This is their wave line backlit trim.

Day time view

Glass crystal & aluminum shift by wire knob + touch pad MMI controller for infotainment. Yes, it has ambient lighting and the shifter changes with the rest of the lights.

Analog gauge on left + digital. The glowing light saber tach means you're in Sports mode.

Beautiful rear with bright LEDs. The LED brake lights are awesome too, but I didn't get a chance to catch them in picture.

Puddle and handle lights are even better than in the Mirai

Other features I love

  • Sports mode is amazing. It feels like driving a sports sedan vs comfort mode. It's faster than a GR86 because it's the same engine as the awesome G70/Stinger.
  • Blindspot cameras show up on the instrument cluster as you signal. I've never seen this in other cars.
  • Power lift-gate with auto detection so you don't have to touch any button. Just stand behind the car for 4 seconds with your key and it auto opens, hands free.
  • Double-sided glass for all windows plus many other techs insulate the cabin for a luxurious, cushioned experience.
  • Ambient lighting is so cool in this car.
  • Interior design (inspired by air plane's wings) is unique to this car.
  • Huge 14.5" infotainment display with crystal MMI controller.
  • Included sounds of nature + OTA software updates.
  • Life time connect services (for cool things like remote lock, remote start, location tracking, etc.) You can start and stop your car anywhere in the world!
  • Heated steering wheel (got it back since my Mirai didn't have it).
  • Panoramic sunroof (missing on the '21 Mirai).

Leg work

It's the end of the year, dealers need space to bring in new models so they have more room to negotiate on 2023 models.
I also saw 2023 models have $1k incentive + $1.5k competitive owner incentive + 3.5% APR promo financing. 

Armed with this information, I went shopping.

Using dealer's websites, I searched GV70 inventory all over Socal and found a dealer 40 miles away that has the model I wanted along with a few others (for backup).
Long story short, the model I wanted was in transit and already spoken for, and a 2023 SP model I test-drove was also sold earlier in the day (doh!). To make it up, the dealer made me a good offer on a 2024 Advanced in the color of my choice. After some more research (tried to find the 2023 advanced across the US to no avail) and negotiations, I took the deal.

The deal & my process

MSRP was a bit over 53k (including some dealer add-ons like cargo net and such).

I did my research and knew leasing with Genesis is a no go, so I went the finance path. But first, I focused on getting that MSRP down. This is the most important thing when buying a car. Monthly payment means nothing, and dealers often use that to hide the real price.

Genesis incentives most should qualify for:
1) 1k customer cash for month of November & December. 
2) 1k for owner of competitor cars (Toyota, Mazda, etc.)

From there, I pushed. Bring on other competitor cars' offers (check leasehackr.com for pre-negotiated deals to get a benchmark of what deals look like off MSRP). I used this method and focused on an Audi Q3. Apparently Audi weren't moving much inventory so they offered 13% off msrp in a lease deal where they can make roughly $2.5k extra. Using this as my base "deal" price, I set a target of 10% off MSRP. 

What I didn't know was the GV70 were selling like hot cakes and most dealers won't budge off MSRP. My target of 10% was pie in the sky. Still, I found a dealership saddled with a ton of inventory and needed space, so I pushed hard.

Let's just say I got close to 10% off msrp with the incentives. 😁

This is with a dealer in a unique situation so it will be hard to replicate. In fact, I spoke to a few other dealers who wouldn't budge even 1k on top of the 2 incentives above.

One thing to note: dealers know high interest is hurting sales. They also know going into next year, economy won't be strong, so car buying is going to be tough. A glut of EV's are already on the market and other models are over produced (low demand, excess supply). If they can get a decent deal this year, they would take them, so car buyers have that going for us.

This was my recent car buying experience. Good luck with yours.

Sep 28, 2023

Samsung deal & overview of S23 Ultra, Tab S9 Ultra, and Galaxy Watch 6

Samsung recently offered a crazy deal where you can get the S23 Ultra, Tab S9 Ultra, and a Galaxy watch 6 for around $400 (+ tax) with various trade in items. You could also add 2 Galaxy Buds 2 Pro for $50 each (which was a deal on its own). I was going to wait for the S24 Ultra but this was a deal I couldn't pass up.

How to add fast wireless charging to your S23 phone

I recently took advantage of a great deal from Samsung and upgraded to a Samsung S23 Ultra from my launch S22 Ultra (1 year and 7 months old).

S23 Ultra in Spigen's Zero One case
S23 Ultra with Spigen's Zero One case

Everything was great until I found that my fast wireless chargers don't fast charge the S23U. I was scratching my head for a while. I thought my S23U was defective...but it couldn't be. Everything else work fine.

Apparently for the 2023 model year, Samsung capped wireless charging speeds for non-Samsung wireless chargers to 10W while even their own fast wireless chargers aren't allowed to fast wireless charge at max speed (15W). This is apparently done to reduce heat and extend battery life.
So, all Qi compatible fast wireless charging (15W) chargers can only charge S23 series phone at 10W. Doh!
For 15W fast wireless charging, you'll need to use Samsung's own fast wireless charger. I happen to have one so that will do. But, you still need to enable it in software.

The article above doesn't mention it but if dug around and found out how. 

  1. Go into Settings by pulling down from the top of the screen then clicking the gear icon.
  2. Go to Battery & device care > Battery > More Battery Settings
  3. Here, scroll down and click the option for Fast wireless charging to enable it. 

  4. Now put the phone on your Samsung fast wireless charger and you should see it charge at the faster speed.

That's it! Enjoy your fast wireless charging.

Sep 17, 2023

Life lesson from Fight Club (the movie)

As usual I was wasting time watching YouTube videos on a late weekend (after all, it's MY personal time)...but this was not a normal time waster. This time, I found a message that shook me deep to my core:
Don't worry about external chaos, control your inner chaos and embrace what is to come.

In the movie Fight Club, Tyler Durden is the manifestation of the main character's need to control his life. Most people don't have control of their lives hence chaos kept happening to them. We feel helpless and become afraid of it.

Toxic masculinity aside, Tyler Durden teaches the protagonist to embrace chaos, not fear it.

For me, this idea is almost transcendent. I am always seeking to stabilize and control my life. Unlike the movie's protagonist, I am happy and content. I like what I have now, and want to protect it. At the root of that need lies an inate fear of chaos, the unknown, a future that's worse than the present.
But why fear chaos? Why not embrace it by controlling your inner chaos? In other words, control your reaction to external forces so you can better deal with what may come.

Today I realized I've been approaching life the wrong way. I don't need to fear the future; I just need to better react to what may come. To do that, I need to practice control over my reaction. I always knew I should exert better control over my emotions, but never thought about embracing chaos.

A quote from the Count of Montecristo: "You must look into [the] storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine!" 

Many times, the fear of what's to come is much worse than the thing itself. That imaginary monster and the punishment it brings, are as big or as little as you think them to be. You have that control.

Now, I need to find my Tyler Durden because doing this alone is hard. 😜

By the way, Brad Pitt is awesome, but Edward Norton is one of my favorite actors.

Another great movie that holds a special place in my heart is Kingdom of Heaven. I can never forget the last quote by Salahuddin in response to Balian's question of what Jerusalem is worth (after all the fighting and losses).
He simply stated: "Nothing... and everything!"
Jerusalem is just a piece of dirt with some structures built on top of it. But what it stands for, is everything. That belief, that imaginary thing, causes so much destruction and pain, but it also gives hope to generations of people. It is everything!

That movie has so many great moments. Here's another one that resonates:

Priest: "I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God. Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness. What God desires is here [points to head] and here [points to heart] and what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man - or not."

Jul 31, 2023

Comparison of 2 mechanical keyboards (EVGA Z15 & Loriik LR68)

Part of the joy of owning a mechanical keyboard is the high amount of customizations that comes with it. 

Revised keycaps config under bright light. Z15 (top) using HyperX PBT pudding keycaps while LR68 (bottom) rocking XDA "this is plastic" set

Lights off to show more RGB 😍

In the process of replacing keycaps. You can see the Gateron Brown switches here.

Original config of the LR68 vs Z15 (main keyboard)

...and RGB! They're actually quite nice and can be set to various single color modes

Starting with a mechanical keyboard, you get the ability to choose a switch type (the thing that clicks when you press a key) then you can change the key caps (the plastic cap covering each key), color modes, etc. With a hot-swappable board like the EVGA Z15, you get the ability to swap out the switches as well, giving you the ability to have a hybrid keyboard with different types of switches.

For example, I love clicky switches so I bought the Z15 with bronze switches. They're lovely to type on but loud. I game on these so I changed a few of the often-used keys to silver switches (8 included) which are linear (non-clicky). Without it, the constant (and rapid) clicking noise will bug the heck out of my wife. To make them even quieter, I added a rubber O-ring below each key.

Jul 30, 2023

Marquis of Wucheng - MoshowToys robot figure

My first MoshowToys figure arrived and it's huge!

Ive been into Gundams since I was a kid. Having built many kits, I'm used to Gundam HG and MG grades, but this new robot figure is easily 2X typical MG size.
That said, it is amazingly detailed and high quality.

I no longer have time or patience to build quality Gundam kits so these pre-built & painted action figures are just the ticket. I'm waiting for batteries to make the many LEDs in this kit shine but here's a shot with a bit of lighting to make it interesting.

May 7, 2023

A new take on American exceptionalism

A recent post on Reddit on how Vietnam defeated 3 world powers in 30 years prompted me to think about how one of those powers (the US) compares.