Monday, March 26, 2007

Marathon Pictures!

Finally I got my pictures from the folks who took them...it wasn't cheap, about 50 bucks, but I figured its worth it since I don't know if I'll do another full marathon anytime soon!

My favourites...

Me crossing the finish line






























Me about 2 miles from the finish line
And me looking quite energetic..must have been before the halfway point =)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Review: Shen Wei Dance Arts

Last night, I saw one of the most impressive dance performances in my relatively short dance experience. The Shen Wei Dance Arts was up at my old school, Berkeley, so I took the opportunity to go up there and see this.

The short review goes like this, there are 2 sequences, with an intermission between each sequence. The first sequence went on for 40 minutes and was composed of the exploration between what seems to be random movement and how one dancer's random movement can affect another dancer's movement. A lot of it seemed like water effects and the dance moves themselves were a mix of Chinese Kung Fu katas and traditional western ballet dance moves. It was interesting, a little thought provoking, but nothing spectacular.

The second sequence however, completely blew my mind away. The curtain opened to a still painting, a moving painting if one will. Inspired by a painting that the choreographer saw years ago, he has transformed that painting into a surreal piece of dance, not too much unlike something you'll see from a Salvador Dali painting..except its motion. The entire theatre was deathly quiet and you could hear people's breathing as somehow tension was brought onto everyone. At the end of the 20 minute sequence, everyone finally started breathing regularly again, and then gave a standing ovation.

Together, the random motion of the first sequence of the dance arts coupled with the slow and deliberate second sequence of the dance painting simply serves to give me my most memorable and intense dance performance that I've ever witnessed.

To summarize, if you get the chance to see this, don't pass it up. The tickets weren't terribly expensive and it is one of the most surreal and incredibly intense dance performances that I think I'l bear witness to

The only bad thing...it has a very limited showing, and I believe there are no more shows in the Bay Area...but for those of you reading outside the Bay Area, definitely something to look forward to if it shows up in your area! Here's a schedule.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An explanation of the mortgage alphabet soup

Calculated Risk is one of the best bloggers around on the housing bubble and its effect on the economy. His posts are incisive, and he also has a great habit of picking up comments from his blog and hoisting them up to the main page. I consider the blog a must-read for those who wish to understand the housing market, how it works, and how it affects the economy.

The post I'm linking to here is a good explanation of what conforming loans are, and why they were created: to effectively homogenize and streamline loans that are easy for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy (both are quasi-government agencies whose goals are to subsidize housing for as many Americans as possible by buying up loans from banks so that fresh capital is injected into the housing market).

In recent years, however, non-conforming loans have become the norm, since rising housing prices made loans made to folks who couldn't handle the prior requirements "less risky." Of course, that created a moral hazard, which drove the risk up until today, when housing prices stopped rising. Now with Mortgage REITs going out of business, it will be interesting to see if housing prices drop since there won't be any new money coming into the market for awhile.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The high prices of plane tickets...

This year seems to be exceedingly expensive for plane travel. 3 years ago when I bought plane tickets for Zurich, I found tickets for $650 each. Last year, for the Coast to Coast, we only found tickets for $775 each. This year, tickets to Zurich are going for about $1050 each, though a few weeks ago we found some for $950 or so. Record high oil prices are definitely partly to blame, but I also think that the airlines seem to have wised up a bit and not released discount fairs so early (last October's prices were still insanely high, while October 2004 had very nice prices for June 2005). It might be that in the future, last minute tickets will end up being much cheaper than pre-booked tickets. We'll have to track prices a bit more to see.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Review: Rising Stars

This is a review of J. M. Straczynski's series, Rising Stars. It's published in 3 parts: Rising Stars , Power (Rising Stars, Book 2), and Rising Stars Volume 3: Fire And Ash.

Part one covers the origins of the Pedersen 113, the children who were in the town of Pedersen when a strange fireball appeared in the sky. The children turn out to be special. Most of them develop interesting special powers, and the story begins when one of them is murdered. It turns out that the death of one of the specials increases the powers of the survivors. A lesser writer would make the story about the mystery behind the murders, and how the narrator solves it. Instead, Straczynski solves the mystery almost immediately, and misdirects the reader into thinking that this would end in a big Highlander-style battle until there is only one.

Instead, the story turns into one of betrayal and recovery from betrayal, followed by an Authority-style exploration of what true superpowers with a humanitarian bent would really do for the Earth, and humanity in general. The stories leap forward in time, spanning decades at a time in between books, and the ending was unpredictable, leaving you guessing all the way until the end. (It does get a bit hokey at the end, but not in a bad way)

Recommended.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

26.2 in 4:30

So this past sunday was the culmination of about 6 months worth of training. From the time I returned to the Bay Area in July and decided that I wanted to run a Marathon, to my first Half Marathon in October, to this Marathon in March....its been a long road. After 400 miles of running since last late october (probably closer to 600 if I add the training for my half-marathon, but I didn't keep track of mileage as meticulously as I do now...), this is an extremely satisfying culmination of all that hard work.

The blow by blow went like, this...I flew by the first 13 miles, getting a sub 2 hour time at the half marathon mark...felt good all the way to mile 17 or 18, and then just had to slow down. It felt like my heart was going to pop and decided to walk a minute or two per mile after that. Even before my body gave up, I had slowed down already, but not by too much, from a 6.6 to a 6.0 pace. But after mile 18, I think I was going at about a sub 6 pace. I maintained that pace all the way to the finish line.

I had an incredibly good kick for the last few hundred yards though, I kept telling myself, almost yelling "GO! GO! GO! GO! GO!" and I blew by about 10 or 15 folks, the cheering really kept me going and the people at the finish line was worried I was going to collapse, but did congratulate me for finishing. They were also surprised that I had such a strong finish for such a lousy time =p

This was an incredibly well organized and supported Marathon. I showed up at the finish line at 5:45, caught the bus to Calistoga that took about 45 minutes, took a leak, got some hydration and some extra Guu, and then at 7 promptly, we went. I started my clock at 7:01 because of the crowd in front of me and my official time was 4:31:44. The course was gorgeous, a little shivery in the 7 o'clock hour, warming up at 8 o'clock, got really comfy at 9 o'clock, then got uncomfortably warm at 10, but a great cloud cover came at around 10:30 and the last hour of my run was in relative shade and comfort.

I ran all the way with my Nano and could not use my Nike+ kit cause I lost the bluetooth portion that attached to my Nano. This was a race that I didn't really need it though, since I knew the start time AND the exact distance =).

Back to the marathon being organized, there was rest stops every 2 miles officially, but there were lots more in actuality, closer to 14 I counted. And yes, these were the ones that were official. At the 21 mile mark they actually had sorbet! That was great even though I'm not a sorbet person and only took one or two licks.

So although I'm 30 minutes later than my desired time, I'm still extremely happy that I finished and this 30 minutes only gives me more incentive to improve should I choose to run another one.

In retrospect, I should have done a practice run up to 23 miles a few times before the event, and I should have paced myself a lot better during the event. Towards the end of the training, I just did not have enough long runs under my belt, so that might explain why I'm just glad to have finished at the 4:30 mark (the lowest boundary of my desired time).

My stat line:
Bib Name Time Overall Place Gender Place Pace
1707 Sy Na 4:31:44 882 569 64 / Men 30 to 34 10:22/M

I also signed up for the San Jose Rock & Roll Marathon for October, right now i'm tentatively saying a time of 1:50! So at least I won't be hanging up those sneakers anytime soon!

Pics forthcoming! I want to see the pics of my incredible (for me anyway) finish! =)

gtags 1.0 released

And there's even the official blog post written by me. Most of the work, however, was done by my intern, Stephen Chen, so thanks, Stephen! I have been fortunate in finding such amazingly good interns.