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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How Do You Save?

I mean, really, how do you save? I have serious problem with the whole concept of saving. Let me explain.

I earn fairly well, so despite Japan being a country with a huge ass cost of living I'm supposed to save a reasonable amount each month. But alas, I fail at it miserably, even more than Mervin Silva would struggle at his ordinary level Math class. But wait, don't think I'm like one of those chicks who shop just for the sake of it. No I don't go ga-ga when I see a shopping mall. In fact, I hate shopping pretty much. That is why I never went on a shopping spree with my ex after the very first time or two. I usually get tired after an hour of browsing through the shops, two max, but she used to want to have even two day shopping sprees. You, the poor guys out there, should know how I must have felt. But I digress. The point is, I'm not a crazy shopaholic, but I don't seem to be able to save a penny these days. OK, not just these days, ever since I can remember.

The funny thing is, even I can't figure out where all the money went. For starters, I don't know how much I spend each month because I never keep accounts. Once I tried writing down all the expenses for a month, and the whole exercise lasted all but one day. I have a sneaky feeling though that it could be the 'this won't make a difference' attitude. Imagine those two red devil and the white saint guys who appear on each of your shoulders and whisper to you. Whenever I'm going to buy something those two guys appear and the saint dude is all
"Sach, don't! You're supposed to save, my son. This is not a necessity right? You can do without it. Don't be so careless with your money blah blah blah..... OK?"
And then the evil fella laughs his evil laugh, which is pretty awesome by the way, and goes like
"Dude, who gives a fuck! Enjoy the day! Who knows what'll happen tomorrow. For all we know an asteroid might hit the earth tomorrow and you'll be study material for scientists in another 65 million years. Plus it's pretty awesome right? Go ahead sucker, buy it!"
So, after carefully considering all the pros and cons I usually end up listening to the evil fella. Damn it's about time I listened to the boring yet wise old nice guy. He sure knows what he's doing, or rather what he's saying as that's all he ever does. Anyway, yeah, I must try save some money I guess.

By the way, there's this point and shoot camera I saw the other day which is pretty awesome.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Are We Truly Alone?

So I've been watching a lot of Astronomy related documentaries, and reading on the subject as well. Call it a renewed interest, as there was a time when I was totally into that kind of thing. I think until the age of 15 or 16, the heavens always amazed me. Well, it still does but however that interest died down after that age. Back then, I had a collection of newspaper articles and photos cut from newspapers or photocopied from library books. Yes dear reader, it was a time when the so called age of information was still a decade away. I did not own a computer and the Internet was only heard of. So, yes, the information was not a Google search away and come to think of it that may have been one reason my interest died down. But a few weeks ago I read this news somewhere about a new found solar system some thousands of light years away, and that sparked my interest again. Luckily, this time around I'm better equipped - the Internet is there, and you can download just about all the documentaries that there are. Thank God for the speedy Internet in Japan though. Thus I set to work; downloaded some stuff, started reading on the subject and started feeling amazed again. How can you not be? Here are some fun and amazing facts that I recently learned, or refreshed the memory of.

Our Sun is a very average star, it's about 5 billion years old and will probably live another five more. The moon was created as a result of a huge body more than half the size of our earth crashing onto the earth, at a very early stage of Solar System's life. Now, the moon's been orbiting around us since then but gradually moving away from us at a rate of 2 inches every year. And it is destined to leave us one day, once earth's gravity is no longer able to hold it. The results would be catastrophic to earth; earth's tilt of 23 degrees will be much more than that, the four seasons will be all messed up with having 6 month long winters or summers depending on which part of the globe you are in. Some species will be gone forever, our biological clocks altered, there won't be tides and it'll take some getting used to. However, luckily, the deadline is some 50 billion years away. Thank God.

Mars has the largest volcano found in the Solar System, and it also has an ice cap. There's also evidence that there once was flowing water on it, but it's all gone now. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are all gas planets while some of them have bigger moons than Pluto. Speaking of which, it was demoted to Dwarf Planet because there are a couple of asteroids out there that are bigger than Pluto. Poor guy, must have hurt his feelings. Jupiter has a moon called Europa, not Europe, which has a thick crust of ice beneath which scientist believe is an ocean. One big ocean that is. And they say it is very likely there is life on it, or rather, in it. Sadly, with the current technology we have it takes six months to Mars, the closest planet, while a trip to the outer Solar System takes up decades. Planning a weekend swim in Europa's oceans is a little too early I guess.

Let's move outside our Solar System. The closes star is some 4 light years away. That's crap, so even at the speed of light which probably we will never achieve, it takes four years to get there. But hold on, if that is the closest, how far away do you think the furthest? Well it's hard to say, but estimates have been made that it's possibly 156 billion light years wide. To put that in perspective, the age of universe itself is estimated to be a little over 14 billion years according to the Big Bang Theory. I mean the real theory, not the TV show. That means if you started travelling at the speed of light since the beginning of the universe, as of today you have covered only about 10% of the width of the universe. This might seem a contradiction, because according to the Big Bang Theory, when this big bang happened, the universe was a singular point. Now if nothing can go faster than light, how come the universe itself did? Well, read on, it's explained there.

The largest star found so far is estimated to be between 1800 and 2100 solar radii (the radius of the Sun), but luckily it's 4000 light years away. Though it is a singular star just like our Sun, most of the stars out there are binary stars. Even they don't like being alone do they? Some of these massive stars, at the end of their lives may collapse onto themselves forming black holes. Now black holes are big bad guys who suck up everything that dares get too close. However, contrary to popular belief they don't go around sucking up everything in their paths. If you go near it with just the right speed and angle you can settle into an orbit around it just like you would orbit around a planet. There are some billions of black holes are out there, and you could find a super massive black hole at the center of most galaxies including our own, Milky Way. Their masses are on the order of hundreds of thousands to billions of solar masses. However, you'd be surprised to learn that they have an average density lower than that of air. Don't believe me? Go here and read then. And if there are billions of black holes in the universe, how many stars are out there do you think? Well, there are about 10 to the power of 11 or 12 stars in our galaxy alone, and there are about the same number of galaxies in the universe. So, do the math. To put this in perspective, there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on earth. How's that sound?

But, the sad thing is despite knowing all this, we still have absolutely NO evidence whatsoever to say that we are not alone. Not yet at least. When you think about the size of the universe, the variety of it, everything suggests that we must not be alone. Think about it, among so many trillions of stars there should be at least a few planets that are able to support life as we know it. Of course there could be life far different from what our conception of it, but let's not go there. The universe has all the elements we have on earth in abundance. Scientists have already found a few Earth like planets and they have estimated there must be at least hundreds of thousands of such planets in our galaxy alone. So why haven't we met anyone yet? The most probable answer is that the speed of light is actually can never be broken irrespective of how advanced a species you are. It could just be the limit of transportation after all. Of course there are theories such as using wormholes for interstellar travel, so maybe we just aren't in the right place or the time yet. It is also possible that we are not really of any worth intelligence to those higher beings that are able to travel to distance stars, and that they are giving us time.

Or, simply, it could be that we truly are alone. I dearly hope though that it isn't the case.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Where Have All the Speedsters Gone?

This year's Tri-Nations ended last Saturday giving the All Blacks yet another emphatic win, and us fans a memorable game. Actually this years whole tournament was full of them - both wins for the Blacks and memorable games for us fans. The tourney got underway with two thumping wins for the Blacks who swept aside the Boks with ease. While the Blacks were mighty impressive you could also attribute the margin of victory to the lackluster performance by the men from the Rainbow Nation. They seemed so out of touch, out of sorts and without a plan. Then the Blacks went on to demolish a relatively young Wallabies team and and looked set for another Tri-Nations win. All they needed was to lose by less than 7 points to the Boks in the next game to secure the trophy. But that just isn't the way they do things; after trailing behind for the better part of the game, Blacks crossed the line twice during last five minutes, first by their ever impressive captain Richie McCaw and then the big man Nonu. The whole game was a treat, and the Boks had improved immensely from the last few games. That was the first of four memorable games to follow; Wallabies and Boks shared a piece in their next two encounters both of which were absolute nail biters. Last of the two was just a phenomenal game. Boks were trailing 31-6 just before the half time and their impressive lock Victor Matfield scored a dazzling try to give them some hopes going into the breather. Score: 31-13. And they did hit hard after the break and the scoreline read 31-30 in favor of Wallabies around the one hour mark. After that it was just one tense game, but finally the Wallabies edged ahead. Then this weekend was the last game of the Tri-Nations. Again, Blacks showed that they are a class apart and arguably one of the greatest Blacks lineups ever with a coming from behind win to claim a clean sweep of Tri-Nations game.

OK, so it was a great tournament and one for the memory. But now let's go back to the title of this post. While it was such a great tournament, it lacked fast open rugby specially by the backs bar the penultimate game of the tournament between the Wallabies and the Boks. Yes the All Blacks back division with the big names like Cowan, Weepu, Carter, Nonu, Conrad "Average Man" Smith, Rokocoko, Jane and Muliaina is almost intimidating. Yet they hardly matched their predecessors of late 90's or early 2000s in my opinion. I think that the Blacks' line up (specially the backs) of that era is probably their best ever as well. Justin Marshall at 9, combined with Andrew Mehrtens (and later Spencer) at fly half and probably their best ever center Tana Umaga. Then they had the wingers like Jeff Wilson, Dough Howlette and the big man Jonah Lomu, but probably the best of them all was their legendary fullback Christian Cullen. Man, he was FAST. Not just fast, he was mighty good. And the best thing about their rugby; they ran fast and they ran wide. There were so many counter attacks from their own 22 running the ball wide and often ending up crossing the line.

But nowadays, I'm seriously missing that. I don't know what the reason is, but I'm boiling it down to two reasons. Either the defensive play in rugby is improved a lot or simply the fast runners like those guys have vanished. Or perhaps a bit of both. Come to think of it I do believe that the defense has improved immensely, with carefully planned tackles and better marking of players. But perhaps it is also possible that those legendary runners are extinct for real. Now that would be such a waste.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Plug that's Worth It

Yes, a plug to a post that's actually worth something. It's from my good friend Nee's blog, and it's a new perspective to the whole retardedness that is ragging. Maybe this is why they do it.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In Retrospect

I'm not quite sure about the meaning of the title. However it felt like the right thing, plus I believe it makes me sound intelligent. Which is something very important. Throwing in a big word or two, casually, is a good method of achieving the target. But I had a feeling that you might not notice the fact, hence this opening para. This renders the 'throwing in casually' part null I know, but still.

So, yes. The past year has been one of the absolutely best in my life. Was it perfect? No. Did everything happen the way I expected? Yes, but merely because I expected things to not happen the way I expect. The point is, nothing's perfect and I shall not expect them to be. With that in mind, looking back, all I can say is the year has been nothing short of awesomeness. To start with, I quit smoking for good and now it's been a year. I never really thought I would be able to though I so wanted to. You see, it IS cool, and how can I give up, thought I once upon a time. Wrong. All you need to do is find the right reason, and you'll be fine. However, cigars are an exception. They don't count right?

Then you might know that I love food. In case you didn't, now you do. But I've stuck to a far healthier diet of late, cut down meals in half, added a lot of veggies and less carbs. Believe me, a well prepared veggie meal tastes as good as any juicy beef steak. OK, maybe not, nothing matches that, but still it's almost there. I've always been a fairly good cook if you exclude the first couple of months. The problem with me was I'm very lazy to cook. (Isn't Hogwarts so awesome, with food appearing on your table and all). Not anymore - I've made it fun to experiment with new stuff and all, and things are looking good. Then, I'm a long sufferer of migraine so eventually I gave up of chocolates and coffee, two heavy triggers of migraine attacks. It was shit at first, but I've learnt to live without them, and things seem good.

But it's not just these. Personally, I think I've become a better human being. I've stopped being a jerk as much as I can. I've learnt to let go of my big ego at least at times. That helps. Built up seemingly lost relationships, helped people in need, fixed things I should have fixed long before. And I am glad for all that, way more than I could ever tell.

Doing the right thing ain't easy, but it sure as hell make your life wonderful.