got a forwarded e-mail this morning from client B about the itinerary for next week: leaving for las vegas next tuesday morning and coming back wednesday midnight. everything's okay exception for one little detail: the name on the ticket isn't my name. some people know this already but tony is just my nickname; on my driver license, my passport, you'll find a different name. problem? you bet. they're not going to let me on the plane without proper id and of course the names won't match.

weather outside today, ugly, wet, cold, a good day to work. spent several intense hours trying to fix a single bug for client S. the fixes are always just a few lines of code; the hard part is tracing the problem and finding out where it happens.

in the morning (or whenever i wake up) i feed my fish some fish flakes. sometimes if i feel like i feed a little more flakes in the afternoon, but nowadays i sprinkle a few crumbs of freeze dried brine shrimps. the adult female guppy looks like she's about to give birth again, round like a balloon and keeping to herself. some of the older baby guppies are showing signs of reticulating patterning on their caudal fin characteristic of cobra guppies. they seem to be taking a long time to mature but color is starting to show in some of their tail fins. once i can collect all the guppies into a single tank, i'm going to convert the 7 minibow into an acidic soft water amazonian biome and add some rummy-nose tetras.

in the evening i made my way to boston common for a screening of the lookout. i was surprised to see the massive line for a movie i didn't think too many people would come out to see. sara saw me in line and called to get my attention. moments later she got into an argument with a man trying to sneak his girlfriend to the head of the line where he was waiting. sara told him he couldn't her cut and was all, "is what i'm asking so unreasonable? is there someone above you i can speak to?" and sara told him, "no, i'm the only one, get back in line." he mumbled something else and then said "this is bullshit" so that's when sara started seeing red. some guy in a green polo shirt (with a flipped up collar, did he escape from the 80's?) had to break up the altercation. later joel, sara's brother, and his brother's roommate showed up.

from the trailer i figured the lookout was along the same lines as memento, a crime drama centering around a character who has memory loss issues. but the lookout is actually quite different. joseph gordon-levitt plays chris pratt, who after a car accident (where he was driving and several friends in the car were killed) develops brain damage. part of the movie is about him struggling to regain his life, his rehabilitation, a study of someone who's trying to recover from a head trauma. that in itself could've been a movie. the twist is when a gang of criminals target chris and gets him to help them rob the bank where he's the night custodian. carla gugino has a cameo as chris' case worker. have i mentioned how i'm a big gugino fan? just saw her at night at the museum, makes me want to rewatch sin city again. jeff daniels has a supporting role as well as lewis, chris' blind roommate who doesn't let his disability get in the way of his dream to open up a diner or to flirt with women. the film does a good job of building up the tension: as soon as the criminals enter the picture, you just know things are going to end violently, and sure enough, when the finale is finally revealed, the betrayal and violence seem that much more devastating. nevertheless, the movie ends on a happy note ("too tidy," according to joel), not the ambiguous downer you usually find after sitting down for an indie film like this. joseph gordon-levitt is an actor to keep an eye on. is it just me or does he look like heath ledger? another great movie of his i saw was mysterious skin (2004); he has a habit of playing edgy characters and seems to be teetering on the edge of stardom (get it? stardom? "3rd rock from the sun"?).

after the movie i was debating what i should do about dinner and decided to get something to eat at the taiwan cafe. i ordered a bowl of noodles (pork strips and radish slices) and of course a plate of smelly tofu. i wondered if my father, on the other side of the world in taiwan, was also eating smelly tofu as well. there were a few table of non-asians but for the most part the customers were chinese. i got there just when the kitchen staff was finishing their dinner (a long night awaits since the place is opened until 1am). i eyeballed a few of the other tables, distinguishing from their spoken chinese whether they were taiwanese, mainland chinese, or cantonese. they all seemed like new immigrants, or maybe just international students. how can they compare to me? it's been 27 years since my family immigrated to boston. i'm a dinosaur compared to them, i'm surprised they don't hear my joints creaking. i finished eating and paid (hefty tip, that's how i roll), grabbing the train from south station.

of course i couldn't resist field testing the new lens some more. a drunk man hanging outside the station see me taking photos and was waving his arms, trying to get my attention and get his photo taken. "let me take a photo of you," he said, pointing to my camera. even if his intentions were true, you just don't hand somebody your camera in the middle of the night, that's street smart 101. "no thanks," i said, snapping a few more photos, keeping my distance, then running into the station.

confession: it's true that these recent photos taken with the tamron 17-50mm are amazingly sharp, but there's something else i've been doing: i recently discovered the shadow/highlight adjustment setting in photoshop CS3 and it's all i use now. it takes images that are dark (most of my images are dark because i shoot at a -1.0 exposure compensation value) and brings out the details. it's hard to explain and easier to just show you (this is the same photo of the state street building from above):


shadow/highlight adjusted

it seriously makes me want to go back and readjust all my photos. or maybe i should stop shooting with such a low exposure compensation value. if you just play with the auto contrast/level/color you still couldn't bring out as much detail and still have the image look normal. i am totally sold on shadow/highlight adjusting now, i can't live without it!

when i got home an tao had a stack of tax forms he was filling out before he returns to china on saturday. as a non-resident alien working in this country i don't think he needed to pay any taxes but he was doing the paperwork just in case, so he wouldn't get into any kind of trouble with the IRS in case he ever wanted to re-apply for another US visa. i saw how much he made for the 3 month of work he did last summer: a little bit more than just a single monthly mortgage payment! i was shocked how little they gave him, he literally paid his way to do research here. with that kind of money, there's no way any real person could ever work here. the cost of a round-trip plane ticket is almost equal to his combined 3 month wage! and the money he paid me to stay at my place? he was pretty working for free, and at a considerable loss to himself. tough gig!