on the first week in hawaii

Well, things have finally settled down enough in Hawaii for me to sit down and write this entry. It's been quite hectic the past week, trying to find an apartment, starting the job, and just dealing with moving junk in general. I finally got Internet in my apartment this morning.

I arrived on the 30th. I don't think it really hit me that the weather really would be different until I stepped off the plane and a wave of heat hit me, with me still in a sweater. On the other hand, I've quickly become used to the fact that I am wearing a t-shirt in January.

The past week I stayed at the house that a few guys in the office next door have rented for themselves. It's in a pretty tony gated community a little off the beaten path, but it was way up on a ridge and had the most amazing views of Diamond Head. The other young guys (I call them coworkers, even though they're not actually at my company, which is composed of me and the boss) are all nice enough, but I don't think we have all that much in common. I spent New Year's Eve at the W with them, and that was pretty interesting even though I knew nobody and the alcohol was too slow in getting to me. Lord, I needed way more alcohol this whole week, but ah well.

Aside from that, I spent a good part of this week traipsing all over Waikiki attempting to find an apartment. It was much more difficult and painful than I had imagined, and I finally ended up taking a 1 bedroom that was a little more than I wanted to pay, but it's a nice enough place, decent size, and in a decent location. So, apparently the thing to do for new residents of Honolulu is to move to Waikiki first, since it is near the beach and has lots of stuff to do at night, then come to hate it and then move out to a better location. I'm still on phase one, although the tourists are already grating on my nerves. Also, it feels a little odd sometimes to be out walking around by myself when everyone else is out and about with their vacation buddies or families.

Let me also say that while the weather was bad the first few days I was here (cloudy when I arrived, pouring rain on New Year's day), it is now uniformly beautiful.

As far as the job goes, the first week was pretty stressful and hectic (how many times can I use hectic in this entry?). I think I have explained this before, but we operate on Tokyo Stock Exchange hours, which in Honolulu are 2pm - 8pm, with a lunch break from 4pm to 5:30pm. My boss has hooked up a computerized reader to the prices of certain indices, so you hear this weird monotone drone throughout the day saying things like "300 shares at 570," "up 150 points," etc. To be honest, I found it really creepy at first, but now I've already started to get used to it. I was totally overwhelmed the first time I was there during trading hours (the first day I took the afternoon off to look at apartments). The computerized voice, people cursing and shouting, phones ringing, emails and Bloomberg messages and IMs pinging and dinging and ringing oh my. It felt like the control room for a war zone or something. It seems to be pretty high demand, where you have to learn how to do things quickly, and do them efficiently.

So what have I been doing on a typical day? Besides a more long-term programming project that my boss has outlined for me, sometimes I have short term programming projects thrown at me (short term meaning "get this done by the end of today"), and then there is the general shit work of the new guy, having to answer calls and send emails and check numbers and look up stock information and whatnot. My boss also wants me looking at various financial indicators throughout the day to begin to get a feel for how the markets move. I'm also getting a little better at using my Bloomberg terminal, which is connected to all sorts of financial information. I should also note that I have a pretty nice setup of 2 PCs with 4 LCDs and a big leather chair, so at least I'm stressed out in style. What with all the hubbub during trading, I've been finding it difficult to be too productive on my long term projects, so I will probably be pulling long hours just so I can work on it when the office is quiet.

So that has been the first week of Hawaii for me. Hopefully now that I have my apartment, I can start to really settle in (my car hasn't arrived yet unfortunately), and start finding a schedule and rhythm. I definitely want to check out a few Aikido dojos, and I need to start finding productive uses for my mornings, like sitting on the beach or learning how to surf or something.

The cable for my digital camera is in some box somewhere, so I will post those later.

on the holidays

Well, definitely lots to write about since the last update. I should probably do these things more often, but things just get too hectic sometimes I suppose. I actually wrote most of this before I left for Hawaii, but then got too lazy to finish it, and I just now have Internet access at my apartment (see next post).

End of semester
The semester was wrapped up in the usual fashion. I did well on the one exam I needed to do well on, and did poorly on the one exam I could afford to fail, so it evened out. I submitted a paper for a conference and supposedly set the wheels in motion for a patent application. Given the bureaucracy, I'm not sure if the patent stuff will ever get off the ground unless I push for it, but at least it's started. I bought some U of I t-shirts, because they had a three for one special, and it's my pattern to purchase things displaying my school ties only as I am leaving the school.

Winter Storm
On my way home to Birmingham, I managed to get caught in the big snow storms in Kentucky. While my dad had called me earlier to warn me that it might get snowy, I thought I would beat the storm since I was leaving pretty early, and it wasn't going to snow until late afternoon, according to the weather reports. The bad news started when I was in southern Illinois, and traffic was reduced to 30 mph in one lane, as the left lane was frozen over. Some of the more fool^H^H^H^Hadventurous people would pass some of the slower cars on the icy lane.

Long story short (you wouldn't believe how much text I just cut out), traffic was at a literal standstill for four hours because of an overturned semi, and then I foolishly pressed on towards Nashville through a blizzard instead of finding a motel. I finally limped into whizaway's apartment parking lot at 1:30am with only one functioning windshield wiper, some 16 hours after I left my apartment in Illinois. The trip usually takes about 6 hours to get to Nashville, and it took me some 10 hours to go the last 100 miles. There was no single "oh my god I'm going to die" moment, but it was kind of a background stress for a very long period of time. I thought it was fitting that I be treated to such horrible winter weather right before I leave for the tropics.

Alumni Reunion
Alumni reunion happened again, as it does every year. Once again it was interesting to see where people have ended up since I last spoke to them. This year I actually spoke to a lot of teachers, which I didn't do in previous years. Most everyone did a bit of a double take when I told them I was up and moving to Hawaii. I think my class of 54 has 8 or 9 lawyers-to-be, and only 2 doctors-to-be. What with the holidays for my job, I don't think I'm going to be able to make the next alumni reunion.

All in all, the holidays were okay. This was the first year we spent it without my sister (she came home for Thanksgiving though), and I was basically just fatigued and tired throughout the whole thing.

on asian movies

It's rare for me to see a movie that I simply cannot watch all the way through (I fall asleep every time during Electric Dragon 80,000 V), or that I'm actually angry at having seen (Moulin Rouge), but watching the un-cut, un-rated version of Ichi the Killer was definitely an experience. About 15 minutes from the end of the movie, I realized I was actually repulsed and sickened by the whole thing and ready to call myself a prude by labeling it pornography with absolutely no artistic merit. I can't imagine what it would be like to see that movie on the big screen, the title screen alone made me gag a little.

Anyway, I managed to fight the urge to stop the movie, and after the usual "WTF was that?" Japanese movie ending, I went to the IMDB message boards to see if I could figure out, well, WTF that was. While reading all of the different theories about the ending, I started to think maybe it wasn't all just pointless pornographic violence.

The whole thing makes me wonder if I should even bother watching Miike Takashi's other movies. I hear good things about The Happiness of the Katakuris, and of course there is also Audition, but I think I am going to have to wait a while before I try watching another film of his.

Oh, and I saw House of the Flying Daggers, it was way better than Hero. I can't wait until it's on the big screen out here.

I'm looking for a DVD of Not One Less, but the local rental store only has a VHS tape of it.

Who the heck is not eagerly awaiting 2046?

I also hear great things about Taegukgi.

I can't wait until Hollywood remakes all of these movies because America refuses to read subtitles. Post to come on that.

Here's a raving review of Ichi the Killer:

Though it's not in the movie, imagine a single take, no cuts, slo-mo, shot of a burning hot needle sliding slowly into a restrained person's eye ball. To me, that is an acurate description to the feelings i got watching Ichi. Having said this, I really enjoyed the movie, and would recomend it. -- IMDB Message Board post

on maggie cheung

Why Isn't Maggie Cheung a Hollywood Star?

American producers do occasionally send Cheung scripts, but the independent films are always about, as she put it, "ABC's," or "American-born Chinese," struggling with their identity, and the Hollywood scripts feature dragon ladies or Chinatown mafia molls or martial artists or mysterious fortunetelling women. Right now the West, whether it's New York or Paris, represents freedom for Cheung, and to sacrifice that anonymity for an uninspiring role would be folly.


Shown a script for "X2: X-Men United" a few years back, she declined to pursue it, uninterested in the film itself. "If I start making films like that, they won't be proud," she said. "I'd feel like I was cheating. And I don't want half the world -- we have 1.3 billion people in China -- to know I'm cheating. That matters to me. I have more pride than that."

on working in chicago

Long time no update. Finally went ahead and rejected MSFT's offer. The HR people were understandably pretty surprised, but I think I managed to explain it to them.

I've been driving up to Chicago for training every Monday (3 hour drive each way, yikes!), waking up at 6am and not getting back until past 8 or 9 pm. On the plus side, the company reimburses me for gas + wear & tear on the car, so it hasn't been so bad. I actually rather enjoy driving on the interstate, it is nice to have time just listening to music for a few hours a week, but Chicago traffic is certainly unpleasant.

Driving playlist:
ABBA - Gold Greatest Hits
Rufus Wainwright - Want One
Ladytron - Light and Magic
Freezepop - Fancy Ultra-fresh

In any case, it's been pretty informative, everyone at work is very friendly, and the place has a relatively relaxed atmosphere. I've been spending some time with the tech guys learning their backend systems, and I've been spending some time with the accounting and finance department because it's just work that I'm going to probably take over in Hawaii. I don't want to tell the accountants this, but I'm probably going to replace them with a very small shell script. This Monday I think I'm going to sit down with some of the research guys and the traders to see how they operate. I'm getting pretty excited about the job now, it seems like a lot of interesting stuff to learn. I've also been reading some books my boss in Hawaii recommended to me, and I've been learning how to use a Bloomberg terminal with the public one available in the business library on campus.

What with my brain only able to focus on one one thing at a time, my attention to school has reached new lows. I think I made it to one class this entire past week. Still, I just need to graduate, and that means a B- in my three classes, which is no problem. Ah, the depths to which we sink. Anyway, I'm hoping that one of my projects will lead to a paper later this year, but we shall see. It'd be nice to have some vindication of my ability to conduct research, even as I flee academia.

Also, I think it's been over a month since I last went to Aikido. I think that's the explanation for my sluggishness and fatigue.