30 December 2005


One day a friend sent me pictures of pavement drawings made by the artist Julian Beever. They are amazing! They were drawn on sidewalk and are naturally flat, but when viewed at one certain angle, they look three-dimensional! That's how I got interested in the art of anamorphosis.

The web link above to Phillip Kent is a very good site about all things anamorphosis. Normally we look at art at 90 degrees, straight on. However, with anamorphosis, the drawing is made at an angle different than 90, more often at a very odd angle such that when viewed at 90 degrees it looks out of proportion, at least as we normally take it.

I cannot mention anamorphosis without providing a link to Julian Beever's web site, so here it is, http://users.skynet.be/J.Beever/pave.htm . My favorite is the Batman and Robin drawing. If I ever get to meet Beever, I will bow to him while chanting "We are not worthy!", in the fashion of the dudes in the Wayne's World movie.

Also great is Kurt Wenner's drawings, http://www.kurtwenner.com/street/. In my mind, they are both great. How in the world do they visualize the drawings? Great sense of perspective these artists possess. Not only that, it take days to draw as the artist meticulously fill in the artwork square by square.

Not one to have the talent or the time to draw anamorphosis art, I gave Phillip Kent's Anamorph Me! software a shot but so far the outcome has been disappointing. The more I used it, the more I thought, "Hey, isn't there a filter like this in Photoshop?" I think Anamorph Me! can be great at making cylindrical anamorph, but first I have to get some mylar sheets to create the cylinder. So far in my office's neighborhood in Jersey City, NJ, no store carries it. I am tempted to just buy one of the fun book mentioned by Kent, but eventually if I want to give away anamorph and cylinder I still have to be to make them myself.

Oh, yeah, Happy New Year!

20 December 2005

The Day The Subway Stood Still

They've done it! Monday night I stayed up with my hand-crank radio to find out if there would be a transit strike at 12:01 am Tuesday, but alas nothing even at 1am, when my old body could not stay up any longer. At 6:30am, something woke me up and I quickly resumed listening to the radio. It has happened! At 3am, the strike took effect. Maybe it's the less of the two evil, I think it's not right that there's a law preventing the union from striking - it's just too much power for the MTA to abuse. I wonder if anyone went to jail or was punished for keeping two separate accounting books at the MTA...

The first day wasn't so bad for me and my family. I had all my gears ready for a work-at-home day. My wife used her last sick day, my son had an extra hour or two of sleep as school opened 2 hours late. My elder brother stayed home, unpaid, while my elder sister carpooled into the city. Tomorrow can be a bit tricky, as my wife wants to go back to work instead of using up her remaining vacation days, which she wants to carry over to next year. Her brother-in-law won't leave for Chinatown in his minivan until 10am, so she may try to use the dollar van, a subway station away from us. On the way back, she wants to take the ferry from Pier 11 to somewhere in Brooklyn, then I have to pick her up. Not fun. If it's the Army Terminal she needs to get to, she will definitely be seasick by the end of the trip. I don't have a problem with motion sickness and sometimes ride the ferry from Newport to Pier 11, but I would be dizzy if I read the newspaper on the ferry. I think she's better off crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. Still, having to drive out to the bridge to meet her doesn't sound thrilling at all.

15 December 2005

Will They Strike?

It's about 30 minutes away from midnight, when subway and bus workers supposedly may walk off their jobs. Millions of people will be inconvenienced if the strike happens. The government threatens union leaders and members with heavy fines for the illegal strike. I feel sympathetic to the union. Supposedly some Taylor Law stated that it's illegal for government workers to go on strike. Doesn't that give the government the power to abuse the workers then? The MTA has been such a jerk with their overpay and hidden funds, it would server them right to have a union giving them pain.

I secretly wish there will be a strike so that I can work from home a few days. My company already issued memo telling us to resort to all means to arrive at work, but then they also tell managers to expect lateness. So for us who can work from home, wouldn't it be more beneficial to the company for us to put in a full 8-hour workday from home, or rather have us come in late and leave on time? Why waste hours in traffic? It wouldn't surprise me if the current management disagrees with me...

The last time there was a strike I was just a junior high school. I think I walked to school back then. We lived in the Bronx and my dad worked at some paper factory in Queens. He stayed at an apartment of some co-workers in Elmhurst, Queens. After the strike, we all moved to Queens for him to be closer to his job. Alas, a few months later he was laid off from the job.

11 December 2005


In one of my circle of friends in the office, we joke about one of our friend, S., as being a freegan. It all started when she brought to our attention the practice of living off other people's garbage, aka freeganing. It was reported in an issue of the free daily newspaper AM New York a few weeks ago. Now, don't confuse these people with homeless people. Freegans are really activists against the world of overproduction at the cost of nature. In a way, they are environmentalists but they have gone a step further by refusing to pay for anything, or at least pay for as few as possible. They forage garbage bags in search of just-expired food that the stores just threw out, reuse other perfectly good stuff that others threw out simply because their apartments ran out of room, etc. They do dumpster diving to rescue furnitures and other items that can be re-used. The website link above is full of useful information if you want to, uh, dive in. One article that I find amusing, while scary as it takes one on a fine line between breaking the law and causing misunderstanding, is about taking food from supermarkets. Supposedly, some supermarkets collect expired food and store them in the backroom. One can wander in and pretend to look for an empty box, then help oneself to the expired food and walk out the back door. One can easily be misunderstood for a shoplifter, too, no matter that the food would be thrown out. It's somewhat like a burglar breaking into your house only to steal your garbage. Sure, the garbage will be thrown out soon, but while it's in your house, you wouldn't want anybody take it.

I admired these folks for doing what they do. I cannot imagine myself ever doing it - I mean the foraging for food in store's garbage, even if it's a gourmet store. However, I do practice the 3R's to a great degree. Recently, I even practiced some office freeganing myself. On my floor, a whole department was fired recently as a result of some consolidation - it always happens with mergers. I recall from my first job when there were waves and waves of layoffs there would be these big cloth dumpster throughout the floor for people to dump stuff into. I rescued countless ring binders, folders, dividers, and other office supplies. This time around, there aren't any dumpsters yet, but I am pretty sure some day the janitors will come around and dump the content of drawers or sweep away desktop. So far, I've rescued a few USB mice with scrollers, keyboards, docking stations, dry erase markers (perfect for my cartoon board), paper napkins, pens, pencils, and more. It's just too much of a waste to see all that simply thrown out.

01 December 2005

Qaptain Qwerty 2006 Qalendar

So it's fun to dig through old documents and photos to find out info about the living and the dead for my family tree project, but I really should be spending more time promoting my cartoons through the Qaptain Qwerty 2006 Qalendars. For the third year in a row, I give away to my office colleagues monthly calendars with my cartoons in them. They get to choose the 12 pictures to appear above the 12 months, but this year I give them the additional choice of a cover picture. That way throughout 2006, 13 of my drawings are always out there to bring greater fame to me. I've gotten a few "orders" completed and my own eldest sister put in a real order of 10 calendars for $100, God bless her (OK, I'm an atheist, but the phrase is very appropriate to use here, especially because my sister is a believer.) Maybe if I get more requests, I will work harder at producing and promoting the calendars.

Available to the first ten requesters, I'll somehow get a calendar to you, just for the asking. Visit http://homepage.mac.com/linusly/calendar/2006 to customize your Qaptain Qwerty 2006 Qalendar. If you provide an email address only, I'll send a PDF version of the calendar and you'll have to do your own printing. If a snail mail address is supplied, I'll send you a paper calendar. Use your office address if you can, just to lessen the chance of any identity theft happening. I prefer snail mail address, because that way I'll be able to re-use some of the paper I have lying around the house. For my colleagues in the office, it's safe to re-use office paper, but for the public Internet at large, I'll be more discrete with the type of scrap paper used. We receive lots of junk faxes - INVEST NOW IN HURRICANE RELATED COMPANIES! FREE CANCUN VACATIONS FOR THE ENTIRE DEPARTMENT - and I save them, they will be perfect for the calendars going to someone outside the firm.

FYI, I print the month pages on a Brother HL-5040 laser printer. To produce the color artworks, I use an HP DeskJet 5550 inkjet printer. I then use the GBC ProClick hole puncher to make holes in the paper and bind the pages together with GBC ProClick spines. Lastly, since I use scrap paper, i.e. paper that has been printed on one side, I staple every two pages together. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I love it.

30 November 2005

Family Historian

A few days ago, I resumed maintaining my extended family tree. I mentioned "extended" because I would not be content with just knowing about my own immediate family and the wife's. What would be the fun there? On my PDA, I use the MyRoots application and the number of people is hovering around 400. Sure many of them I don't even have their names, just a placeholder and a reference to someone else, like Nguyen Teo's mother. FYI, Nguyen is a very popular Vietnamese last name. The PDA is very handy for collecting data, like the time when my mother said, durig a normal conversation in a car trip, that so and so uncle didn't really father his first daughter... On the PowerBook, I have MacFamilyTree. While I probably can export the database from the PDA and import the info into the PBook, I think that's too much info right now. I try to approach slowly on the PBook and build up the tree with more concrete data and photos. My elder brother remember names very well and I've enlisted his help in identifying people on my mother's side. Then there's the task of acquiring photos to go with the name. iPhoto helps tremendously, but with most of my relatives in Vietname and elsewhere I have to use other resources. For the older people, I'll raid my mother's photo albums - she got some really nice photos going way back. For pictures of cousins and such, today I dugged up a VCD we received back in the year 2000 about a cousin's wedding banquet. I'll try doing screen capture to get some of the faces - they probably won't be very high quality, but it's a start.

In the beginning, I used Reunion 8, but its lack of support for Unicode data entry drove me to reaching out to MacFamilyTree (MFT). With most of my relatives and family members having either Chinese or Vietnamese names, or both, MFT really shines. Another plus with MFT is that when it list people in a family, it sorts them by age, not by the internal codes that indicates when someone was added to the tree. For example, if I add my elder brother after me, listing the tree with MFT still shows me after him, but with Reunion, I would appear before him, which is confusing.

14 November 2005

Dude, Where's My Car's Antenna?

About this time last week, minus an hour or two, I went to pick up my car, which was parked about five blocks away near a public park and a high school. That morning it was alternate parking day and I didn't find a space on my block so I had to park far away from my house. I made a round of the minivan and didn't notice anything amiss - no broken windows, punctured tires, etc. Driving away, I turned on the car radio and got only statics but thought, "Well, I'm right under the elevated subway line, maybe it blocked off the reception." Nothing much to it, I turned the radio off, and went on my way. Wednesday morning I noticed my car antenna was gone. It was one of those that screws on and off easily. That thing sure wasn't made for city-dwellers. Oh well, I have had the car for more than seven years now, it's time the antenna got stolen. I suspect it's probably gotten screwed off by some high school kids passing by. They probably played it like a fencing sword then threw it away afterward. Great fun, guys, except it cost me nine bucks to replace it. Interestingly, at my local Strauss auto dealer, there was only one car antenna left on the rack. Maybe there's a wave of car antenna theft going on in my neighborhood?

Since getting the new antenna a few days ago, I keep it inside the car after parking. Not too long ago, at the height of the jump in gas price, I had to dole out ~$20 for a lock for the gas tank. I don't know if these things normally cost that much, but they were in high demand, as my first call to Strauss didn't have them. I had to call back a few days later to find out they were available. I wasn't worried about losing a few gallons - sure it hurts, at $3.00+ per gallon - but it would be a tremendous pain if the gas thief drains out my tank, leaving my car immobile. To add insult to injury, my 7-year-old Club lock for the steering wheel also decided not to work nice any more. One time it took about ten minutes to unlock it. Too much hassle, I doled out another $40 or so for a new Club.

The worst car vandalism inflicted on my poor Plymouth Voyager was a few days after Halloween last year. I came home and on passing it on the other side of the street, for some reason I was aware of some shiny black fragments on the street. They turned out to be fragments of my minivan's middle window. Upon further inspection, the damage was worse than that - both middle windows were smashed. Glass fragments were everywhere. Even to these days, whenever I do some cleaning I still find a fragment or two. I guess the thief was upset that he was able to find too few coins to make the break-in worthwhile. It cost me some $300 to have the windows replaced. I called the local police precinct right on the spot but the phone rang for a long time with no answer. Another crime stat went unreported.

Incidents like these make me wish I live in one of those New Jersey towns where I can live my front door unlocked and children can play in the community driveway without the parents worrying about them being kidnapped. New York City is just too crowded these days. After 25 years, I think I've had enough. Either that, or I get a new house with a garage before I get a new car.

08 November 2005

Bad Citizen

So New York City will have Mike Bloomberg for Mayor for another four years. I cast a vote for him, without doing much research. I vaguely recall reading about Bloomberg being credited for the drop in crime, better control of public school, and revitalization of the economy. But I didn't do any thorough research on the candidates. I just voted because of some literature that came in the mail, maybe a newspaper article somewhere, but not from anything thorough. I feel ashame of my apolitical way of life. Some people I know are fervent about their political party; me, I can only be enthusiastic about Mac computing and the environment. I'm a registered Republican, probably because my eldest registered us that way way back when, but given the Republic Party's take on the environment, I should be with the Democrats. But then there are those other issues such as abortion, capital punishment, gay rights, etc. It gets a lot more complicated. With the platform war, I can tell from experience how painless Mac computing is, even if it means there are certain programs or web sites that wouldn't work with the Mac. End of story. With politics, it's always so complicated. Both sides would try to shoot each other down, once in a while we have some scandals, nobody would talk straight... Nevertheless, I will make a greater effort to be more educated about the candidates to mae a more informed decision. If people in Iraq dodge bullets and bombs to make it to the poll, I can at least be a more educated voter.

03 November 2005

Amiga Forever

So I got hooked on NotesBuddy, one main reason being the ability to use animation. I had a renewed interest in animgif and soon found myself launching Amiga Forever software on my ancient desktop PC. Amiga Forever is a software emulating the Amiga OS. With Amiga Forever, one can run software designed for the Amiga computer. But what is an Amiga computer?

Back in 1985, when the Mac was still running on black & white screens and Windows 3.1 was the OS of choice for the corporate world, the Amiga computer came out with a color display, multitasking, a GUI & Unixish command line interface, and more. Following a friend's advice, I got an Amiga 1000 (A1000) and had many hours of fun and learning, exploring various aspects of computing. I went on with an A2000, then an A3000, even one with a Video Toaster 2.0, but eventually mismanagement took the Amiga computer's life. I even helped run the local Amiga users group by serving in various positions. In the end, with the advent of the Internet and newer technologies, it was simply too expensive to upgrade the ancient Amiga. I still have the A3000 with the Video Toaster housed in its own external case (Toaster Cozzy), but the computer is not even plugged in.

I do have Amiga Forever the emulation software installed on an old PC. I only have one useful program on it - PersonalPaint. PPaint is basically a bitmap paint program, sort of like Photoshop. The one thing I use PPaint for is to generate animgif of words. The Amiga has the special capability of using animated fonts, or animfont. PPaint's included ARexx script makes generating animated text a snap. Just type in a word and click a few buttons, and you have yourself a very fancy word animating to life. By default, the animation is not in animgif but thankfully there's another ARexx script to handle the conversion. During the conversion, you get the chance to set the delay time for each plus other configurations. The included animfont for PPaint, Bullion, is not enough so some time ago I doled out $70 or so to get the The Kara Collection - a collection of color patterned fonts, animfonts, etc.

Shown in this blog entry are some co-workers' names made with Personal Paint on Amiga Forever, using the Bullion animfont. I'll send them to my co-workers via NotesBuddy. I would love to make custom animgif instead of using those found on the web, but the task takes time, so for now, I'll be content with animgif of names. I will make more animgif with other animation styles and animfonts. If you want a word made, drop me a note!

01 November 2005

KiXtart 2010

Up until recently, my use of KiXtart against NT accounts had been limited to extracting info using GetObject(). Two weeks ago the need to be able to update the profile path for several accounts arose. I already had a batch file that relies on the NET USER command so it is limited to PCs on a certain domain, which shall be called M3. Most of our PCs are not members of the M3 domain so the script isn't widely usable. I knew about SetInfo() but was afraid to try it , not to mention that the chance never came up. Came up it finally did and I was able to put SetInfo() through its pace. I had a new script ready for this past Friday's migration of some 200+ home folders and 400+ profile folders. (In case you wonder why the discrepancy, my counterpart in the deletion department do a horrible job of keeping the data server clean. With every migration I always discover dead folders that should be deleted long ago but instead sit around eating up precious server space.) It turned out the folders belong to users on two different domains, M2 and M3, and together there were about 400 accounts to update to point their profile paths to the new server. No problem!

This week, I started to use KiXtart 2010, aka KiXtart 4.50. I've been using KiX 3.x and its lack of a SUBSTR command finally got the better of me. I love manipulating strings with LEFT(), RIGHT(), etc, and the lack of SUBSTR in 3.x finally became unbearble. Why write a User-Defined Function (UDF) if the function is already included?

28 October 2005


A few days ago I finally had all my cartoons updated with descriptions. Up to then, I've been publishing to the web via iPhoto's web export feature. After each export, I would have to tweak the HTML source code to show my FAQ and stick a few lines of text on the main page. The work is tedious and is a factor in making my web site stale. What's more, the navigation keys are not that great, mere ASCII characters to simulate left, right, and up arrows. For this update, I decided to give Galerie a try.

I have read about Galerie in one of the UK Mac magazines I have. It works in conjunction with iPhoto and other photo management apps. It includes loads of features, as I discovered this week.

Just to get the web site up and running under a new, slicker look, I forewent the FAQ and the intro text. However, I have a very neat idea of including them, without having to do any code-tweaking after the fact.

For now, please check out my newly re-designed Qaptain Qwerty's Qorner web site at http://homepage.mac.com/linusly/qq

24 October 2005

Numeric Entities

In my previous post, I couldn't show the actual HTML codes because they confused the Blogger form. I had to use double open parenthesis ( (( ) to represent open angle bracket ( < ) and so on to show the "codes". It was a pretty lame solution and bothered me so much I dug into my ancient Teach Yourself Web Publishing With HTML 3.2 to find a better solution. I thought there should be some tags that would tell the browser to ignore everything below. I used the remark tag <!-- and --> but then the whole thing would be hidden. I would have to add a note telling my visitors to view the source code to copy it. Not nice.

In the end, the answer is to use numeric entities to represents characters that would normally be interpreted as markup language. < is represented as &#60, > by &#62, and so on. Enjoy!


<body marginwidth=2 ...>
<palettedim cx=266 cy=330 >
<img src="animgif01" alt="" onmouseover="window.event.srcElement.style.cursor='hand'"/>
<img src="animgif02" ...
<img src="animgif03" ...


<style type="text/css">
<body marginwidth=2 ...>
<palettedim cx=266 cy=330 >
<img src="animgif01" alt="" onmouseover="window.event.srcElement.style.cursor='hand'"/>
<img src="animgif02" ...
<img src="animgif03" ...

My New Bosom Buddy

This past week I discovered the joy of using NotesBuddy, a companion program for Lotus Notes and Lotus SameTime. I knew about NotesBuddy before but passed it off as only useful if one wants to hear SameTime messages read aloud. There was enough noise in my office, why would I want to have the PC read out loud my SameTime messages? Then in the same week, two different people told me to get NB installed so they could send me animations. I was hooked on it once I saw the anim, which as it turns out simply animated GIF or AnimGIF, nothing new really. But the ability to send still graphic and animation via a beefed-up SameTime was fun.

At first I thought I would use NotesBuddy only for its chat feature. Then it dawned on me that I could certainly also use the program's email feature as an additional way to access my Inbox. We use a Notes-based request system, called GAGS, for our daily work and GAGS can be painfully slow sometimes when we try to close out tickets. GAGS would hog our Notes session all for itself and we would have no access to email the whole 20+ minutes that transpire. With NotesBuddy, we have a way around the problem. I do run Notes on more than one computer and in one or more Citrix sessions, so NotesBuddy won't make a big impact to me, but I have colleagues who are either have only one computer or haven't started using Citrix.

I like NotesBuddy's primary buddy feature - you can keep a list of special people with their photos. According to the IBM forum on NB, supposedly there's a bug with the feature such that you can only keep five people in your primary buddy list.

So you found all the great animgif and store them in your custom palette, but then when you want to use them, only the first few show in the preview window. Sure you can resize the preview window, but it can only grow so much - there are no built-in scrollbars. Poking around in the folders related to NB, I discovered the custpal.html file and had the idea of updating it to show scrollbars. My idea was confirmed by a post on the IBM NB forum, but for some reason the codes didn't appear in the forum - maybe the forum admin removed them. I googled high and low on various keywords and finally came across one that does just what I need. Try the lines of code below on your palette's custpal.html file. Probably because Blogger doesn't allow HTML tags, I wasn't able to save this blog with the real HTML code. Instead, I had to replace single angle brackets with double parenthesis. To be safe, I also replaced single brace with double braces, for the definition of the style. Undo my spoofing of Blogger if you decide to try out the codes. Note that the width and height don't have to be exact numbers as shown, use whatever the palettedim tag specifies.

Unfortunately, the additional code is lost whenever you update the palette, e.g. by resizing it via NB or add/remove anims. Supposedly the feature will be included in the next release of NB. For now, save a copy of the manually-modified custpal.html and copy codes from it whenever you change your palette.


((body marginwidth=2 ...))
((palettedim cx=266 cy=330 ))
((img src="animgif01" alt="" onmouseover="window.event.srcElement.style.cursor='hand'"/))
((img src="animgif02" ...
((img src="animgif03" ...


((style type="text/css"))
((body marginwidth=2 ...))
((palettedim cx=266 cy=330 ))
((img src="animgif01" alt="" onmouseover="window.event.srcElement.style.cursor='hand'"/))
((img src="animgif02" ...
((img src="animgif03" ...

21 October 2005

The Man Who Waited Too Much

This is my latest submission to MetroExpress, the newsletter of the local Mac user group MetroMac. The editor likes it and most likely it will be published in the November/December 2005 issue.

My first reaction to the announcement of the new iMac was, "Dang, I paid the same price only a few years ago for an iMac without iSignt, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc." Then I realized with technology, if one keeps waiting for the next best thing, one may become too old before long. That's how I come up with this cartoon.

I did some research on the history of Mac OS and the various technologies and features introduced by each version. Each sentence that the old man said laden with techie mumbo-jumbo refers to a release of the Mac OS.

I originally thought to make the announcer/show host say, "Happy with OS 6.0.8, so continues he wait," just for the sake of having two rhyming sentences. Along that line, the OS versions as mentioned by the old man proceeded in the order of 7, 8, 9, and X. In the end, I didn't want to make it sound like the old man was happy to be stuck at an OS version. That would defeat the point of the cartoon - which is that the man wants to upgrade, but he wants something more.

Interestingly enough, so as not to rely entirely on the Internet for my fact checking, I pulled out an old Mac OS 8 Bible book. I think that was the only time I actually used the book to look up info. I bought it back when OS 8 was the current operating system on the Mac but never actually read through it. So much for how useful paper books are.

I know it's probably grammatically incorrect to say "waited too much", but it goes nicely with Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much", so I intentionally use bad grammar for a pun's sake.

17 October 2005

Fun With Outsourcing

So, many of us are faced with the threat of offshore outsource. We can worry a lot and do things to prepare for it, but we can also have a little fun, or at least make a little money off of it.

Yesterday at Barnes & Noble Union Square I saw a book, by a chap named Chad Fowler, with a very funny title - "My job went to India and all I got is this lousy book." Fowler wrote about how to re-invent oneself, how to make oneself more valuable, etc. There was a chapter on automation in which he wrote that in India, people don't believe in automation because it would put many people out of work. But he went on about how we Americans are good at automation and that we should do more with programming. Given the Indian programmers are good with computers, wouldn't automation harm us?

A few days earlier, I learned about JibJab.com. They make computer animations using real politicians' faces and had been into politics, but their latest anim, Big Box Mart, is about offshore outsource. It criticizes us Americans for buying craps we don't need at these megastores that use cheap labor in other countries, only to find eventually our jobs will be gone too. Big Box Mart in particular is about the manufacturing industry, which is not that much news really. I should suggest to them to make one about the I.T. industry.

JibJab animation are basically free for web viewing, but viewing older ones require free registration. They do sell DVDs containing many of the anims and have other wares to offer. Not a bad way to make some bucks. I was very tempted to buy one of the DVDs.

15 October 2005

Tattoo You

I am a fan of Norman Rockwell, the painter best known for his portrait of idyllic American scenes. This cartoon was inspired by a similar painting by Rockwell - the only difference is that all the names that were crossed out are women's. The sailor probably had a different girlfriend every time he sailed to a different port. In my case, the names are upper managers'. We recently had another management change - our boss' manager was moved to some other project and we got managed, one layer above, by another manager located in Florida. I never understand why there needs to be so many management levels...

Everybody Wins!

(Friday, October 14, 2005)

Today I participated in Everybody Win!'s Power Lunch program again. The program matches office workers with school children who need help with reading. The pair meets during the child's lunch time, the child picks a book, the adult reads, months later the child's reading skill improves. At least that's the theory. Last semester I was paired with a first grader who turned out not what I, The Idealist, thought should be. He was rude and had next to zero attention. I would be reading and he would run off to swipe food from another kid, or roll on the floor playing dead, or take long bathroom breaks. He got me real upset one time when he came in and just plain blurted out, "Come on! Go get the books!" I tried to entertain him using my drawing and origami skills, but I didn't think it helped much. Today I learned that he got held back. Oh well, I tried. The kid was already in the hole too deep, hopefully what little I did will help him get out of the hole sooner.

This semester I signed up for a third grader because the lunch hour is better for me. I start work at 10 so when I used to go for "lunch" at 12:30 with the first grader it was a bit too early. Besides, I didn't want that first grader back anyway. I have enough troubles disciplining my own son, let someone else do the parenting or counseling for that kid.

14 October 2005

A Better Way To Advertise

I recently both signed up with AdSense for this blog and started to use GMail, the free email service from Google. With the AdSense program, I got ads placed on my blog and supposedly I'll earn some money out of it, eventually. But I digress. I actually enjoyed the ads briefly and don't hate them. They are tied to the content of the blog and are small enough to be unobtrusive. Just plain text ads, even with matching colors to my blog's environment. No annoying animated GIFs or misleading come-ons about me winning an iPod or whatever the hot item of the day. Similarly, while using GMail I would see a few ads along the message, again related to the message content. I welcome this refreshing change of Internet advertising and hope that other web site follow Google's example. I look forward to a world without pop-ups ads, dancing ads, etc.

09 October 2005

Bang! You're Dead.

Some time early in my Blogger experience, I mentioned learning of a new way to process several NDS user objects in different containers. Up to then, my use of UImport had been limited to users in the same container. For example, I can change the password for x users as long as they are in the same container. If they are not, I would have to run UImport against each of the containers. With the new technique, which I shall call The UBang Technique, the context isn't stored in the UImport control file, but is instead specified in the data file, in the form of

!Name Context = blah.bleah.whatever

Two hundred users in two hundred different contexts? No problem, just put !Name Context two hundred times. FYI, the exclamation mark is also known as "bang". Just like backslash ( \ ) is called "whack", these short names make tech talks shorter.

Even though I was excited to learn of the technique from my then-colleague Monika, the opportunity never came up for me to try it out. It didn't help that work had been hectic so there was no time to try new things. At long last, the need arose and I grabbed the chance. On our network we had many desktop deployment accounts. One can have a regular account and then also has a deployment account to carry out desktop deployment for the UmpteenDesk project. Recently, the project came to an end but desktops with the UmpteenDesk image still need to be deployed. The deployment accounts should be terminated with the project, but for some reason they need to be given an expiration date instead. I had 400 of such accounts to work on and they are scattered all over the network, not in a single container. It's true that many were bunched together, say, 20 in a NW container, another 15 in a SE container, but they are still scattered. The UBang Technique comes to the rescue! A colleague of mine helped extracting the necessary info via BindView and further manipulation in Excel and I got myself a .csv file of all the accounts each with its own context, unique or not. Feed the .csv file to my KiXtart script and I got myself a UImport data file with the various contexts properly setup. By some chance, it happened that my own PC couldn't see the network properly so at first the script failed. Running the same script on a colleague's PC worked, so I rebooted and tried again with all 400 accounts. It took almost no time at all. Ah, the Joy of Scripting.

08 October 2005

The Joy of Chess

Friday, October 7, 2005

I had a good chess game today at work against my colleague Cesar. Over a period of several months, we played a number of games and as of this afternoon we were tied. The game was supposed to be a tie-breaker and by the fashion he beat me in the last two games, I was sure he would win. Indeed he started out very strong, his Queen breaking my pawn structure and had my King run around. However, Cesar made a mistake and had to sacrifice a Rook for a Pawn that was just a square away from being Promoted. He made good use of his Knight and three Pawns and it was I who had to force a stalemate, even though I had a Rook and Bishop on a black square, plus a Pawn.

In my opinion, Cesar is indeed the best player I know in the office. He moves quickly and always seems to have everything planned, versus my haphazard placement of pieces. It amazed me that I managed to beat him before. The first few games I can understand that he wasn't aware of my ability and laid out traps that, when I didn't fall into, turned against him. I simply cannot think at his speed and not make total blunder. Even when I took a long time to think, he still defeated me.

Chess grandmasters can memorize many moves and supposedly to them the game isn't as challenging anymore. Some had to come up variations of chess just to add more complexity to the game. To amateurs like us it's still lots of fun. I tried playing against the computer but it's just not the same. Whereas when I play against human players, there's a chance they will make mistakes, including dumb ones. With a computer, in my case, to be exact, a PDA, it never works.

I actually started playing Chinese Chess before International Chess. I still have a little trouble adjusting to the transition. With Chinese Chess, the pieces are more restricted. The General's Guards are limited within the Palace, where the General is also confined in. The Elephants, great as they sound, cannot cross the river. Pawns don't get promoted once they reach the other end zone - kinda like Communism vs. Capitalism, you are stuck with whatever occupation the Party told you to be in. Knights and Elephants can be blocked off. So on and so on. Subconsciously, I usually try to trade Queens early in the game so the setting is more similar to Chinese Chess, as there is no Queens in Chinese Chess.

01 October 2005

Run, Qaptain, Run!

Years ago, before I moved into my current home, I used to run 4 or 5 miles every weekend. Back then, Lafayette High School's track & field was open to the public - it probably shouldn't be, but it was simply not locked. I would run 16 or 20 times around the track while on the field H.S. kids practiced football or Mexicans played soccer. Today I happened to work at home and finished early at 4pm. My son was at the park in Chinatown with my wife. I asked my nephew to go biking with me but he was with his friends. For the first time in a while, I have some free time on my hand - no need to entertain my son, no nephew to take out, no office work to worry about. I could have sat down and enjoy a movie on DVD, but it was such a beautiful day and I've been inside all day already, it would be too wasteful to spend more time indoor. Run, Qaptain, Run!

I walked half an hour to the Bay Parkway waterfront. Next, I ran a measly two miles - one mile west then back. The markings on the road were pretty faint, on the way west I missed the "4" markings and only noticed the "3 1/2", "3 1/4" and "3". On the way back, I went past the "4" marking, just to push myself a bit. I covered the two miles in half an hour, pretty much my normal speed of 15 min/mile. I used to run 12 min/mile six years ago, so it's to be expected that I would do worse than that. It's a start, I just have to stick to a schedule and work my way up to 5 miles per run again. OK, at 15 min per mile, it was really a jog.

26 September 2005

Diarrhea of a Mad Man, The Final Chapter

I had my colonoscopy done today. It was pretty quick, the only time that I felt the urge to get over with was during recovery. I spent very little time in the waiting room and was admitted almost immediately. Slipped into the fancy gowns (one front, one back), I had a little time to read amNewYork and Metro New York before it was my turn. The anesthesia doctor was friendly and chatty. It took him a second try to get the IV in place, but shortly afterward I was knocked out. By the time I became groggily awake, I was in the recovery room already. I felt bloated and gladly passed out gases that were pumped in during the exam, which I learned from the nurse before the exam. Signed out by my wife, I went to the Starbuck's in the nearby Barnes & Noble and devoured a toasty cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese, while downing a mocha Frappuccino, venti.

25 September 2005

Diarrhea of A Mad Man.

Today is the day before the colonoscopy. My father had colon cancer but it was discovered too late. Ever since his death in 2001, I've promised myself to have a colon exam to take advantage of any early detection. In preparation for the exam, I had to have a light breakfast, a light lunch, and a liquid dinner. Then an hour after dinner, take 1.5 oz of phospho soda to cause diarrhea so as to clean out all the sh!t. The stuff really works! It helps that I didn't have much of a dinner, just a lil' congee (rice porridge). My mother kept saying the solution would be yucky but I mixed it with ginger ale soda and it was rather yummy. The only effect of the preparation, other than the diarrhea, is a nasty headache, brought about by the lack of food. I'll just suffer thru the night and half of tomorrow then I can pig out for the late lunch.

21 September 2005

Hit Counters

A few days ago I decided to put a hit counter on this blog. I looked around in the help section and went with Easy-Hit-Counters.com. Sure it was easy to create the code - fill out some form and then you are presented with some code to copy and paste into your blog. It did ask for a username and password. Today, I found out that my hit counter isn't there any more. I probably put it in the wrong place or did not re-publish my site, whatever. Of course I didn't save the code the Easy-Hit-Counters.com gave me. I searched around E-H-C.com but there seems to be no way of logging in to the site to retrieve the code. Oh well, I'll just go with another company.

BraveNet.com seems to be a pretty decent service, given the price - free. I chose the cartoonish BraveNet image. Let's hope my hit counter will survive longer than the first one. Let's hope too that BraveNet.com will remain free.

04 September 2005

Battle of Brooklyn Bridge

One of the joys of life I have is bicycling. It's healthy, it doesn't pollute the environment, and it's a good way to hang out with my wife's nephews, H and C. Well, the last time we went biking, only C tagged along, as H had to hang out with his girlfriend.

So far this summer I've gone bicycling only once, with C along the Belt Parkway. Today, we cancelled the trip to the Hall of Science in Queens because of high gasoline price and H & C wanted to go bicycling. It would most likely be our last bike ride together this summer so I wanted to make it special. Instead of just another ride along the Belt Parkway, we went all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge AND crossed it. We got onto Shore Parkway South via 26th Avenue, went against traffic briefly then got onto the waterfront at Bay Parkway. At Owl's Head Pier we went by Owl's Head Park to Second Avenue. It was somewhat of a scary ride along Second Avenue on the weekend as the place was deserted. At 36th Street or thereabout we turned north to get to Third Avenue, as 28th Street and Second Avenue had been blocked off since 9/11. There is some jail at that junction and supposedly the government doesn't feel it's safe to keep the street open. At Prospect Avenue, we could have followed the Gowanus elevated highway but I felt it's safer to go along Third Avenue. A friend of mine, E, lived in the neighborhood so I decided to visit him. We turned south at Union Street, crossed some bridge over the Gowanus Canal, turned right at the first corner off the bridge, and turned left at Hackett. I didn't ring E's doorbell but he heard us talking and came out with his toddler daughter. Onward along Smith Street, we turned left at Livingston because I mistakenly thought at Hillary and Livingston we would see the majestic towers of the Brooklyn Bridge. Even at a few blocks away from the foot of the bridge, we only could see a tower of the Manhattan Bridge, nothing about the Brooklyn Bridge. So much for invoking feelings felt by immigrants of bygone years when they spotted the Statue of Liberty. At 3:45pm, some two hours and fifteen minutes from the time we started out in Bensonhurst, we were at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn side. We took some photos and then up the bridge we went. The ride up to the Brooklyn tower of the bridge was difficult and I ended up pushing the bike most of the way. H & C did a little better but still pushed their bikes near the end. I don't know how those people did it, but they were zooming up the bridge as if riding on an even road. We stopped at the Brooklyn tower to take pictures to commemorate the event. It took only fifteen minutes to cross the entire bridge. The trip down was somewhat scary as it was steeper than I thought. There were many pedestrians and some of them overstepped into the bike lane. There were many bicyclists going into Brooklyn, against our direction. Then there were those taunt cables holding the bridge up. It didn't help at all that my brakes weren't working properly - I had to use my feet to slow the descend.

Originally I thought about going back to Brooklyn immediately via the Brooklyn Bridge. By the time we crossed the bridge into Manhattan's City Hall area, we were too tired to even think of that. We skipped lunch and the trip had taken all of our energy. And the pain in the butt! Whoever invented bicycle had to have a small butt or was light enough not to feel pain while spending a long time on the bike. Feeling joyous but tired, we walked our bikes to Chinatown to use the toilet at the bookstore belonging to H's father, then bought a late lunch which we consumed voraciously in Eleanor Roosevelt Park. A friend of H, playing basketball in the park, came over to hang out with us and fetched soda for us. For the trip back, we rode the D train instead of our bikes.

Eighteen miles. Two and a half hours. We crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on bicycles. What a great feeling.

29 August 2005

Back in NYC

That's it for my vacation to Seattle and Vancouver. The last few days were painful - stuffy nose one day, followed by headache the next, even though I had plenty of sleep. Must be because of all the driving and the irregular meals. To top it off, on the flight back, for some reason I simply could not sleep. It was a late flight, leaving Sea-Tac Airport at 11:10pm local time, 2:10am NYC time. My son had no trouble at all, but for me no position would get me to sleep. In the end, it was after getting home that I was able to put in about four hours of sleep. Back to NYC, to alternate parking regulations, to steamy summer weather, to watching J play with the neighborhood kids, to visits to the public library.

One thing I wished I could have brought along was my new PowerBook laptop. Spotted people here and there with the cool laptop. Nah, too much hassle going through airport security and I probably wouldn't have any chance to use it.

28 August 2005

Seattle Vacation Almost Over

Just got back to Seattle from an excursion to Vancouver area. We stayed at a Sheraton out in the 'burb of Vancouver, Guildford, Surrey to be exact. Even though it was out in the suburb, nothing was free. Parking was $6/day, wireless Internet access $10, in-room bottles of water $4.50 each. Give me Holiday Inn Express any day... After so many days of driving around and eating at irregular schedules, my fatigue finally set in and I've been sneezing and walking around with a stuffy nose. I should be in bed now, getting ready for the last day of vacation tomorrow. Tomorrow night, we'll fly and be back in NYC by the a.m.

22 August 2005

Hello Again Seattle

Flew from New York to Seattle yesterday. This is my second visit to Seattle in about fifteen years. Much has changed since then, mostly about myself. The first time, I traveled with my older sister V., this time it's a whole army of fifteen people, mostly on the wife's side. Back in the early '90s, NYC didn't have any kind of recycling regulation and I was excited to see recycling bins on the street and at curbside in Seattle - I still have those photos somewhere. Back then, we traveled around the city by bus and was driven around by one of the distant uncles we had. One evening we didn't know which bus stop to get off and had to borrow a stranger's home phone to call our grandaunt. This time we have two rental minivan filled to the brim, one driven by me, with cell phones on most of the adults. On the first trip, we went to Chinatown once for lunch, went to some museum, some places that resemble the South Street Seaport, some waterfall, and visited V.'s friend at her college dorm. This trip, so far we went to the Seaport-lookalike place, Chinatown for a walking tour, and some Vietnamese strip mall for a Chinese dinner. I doubt we'll have any museum trip or anything educational or historical to gather from this trip. I'm a pessimistic person so it's good not to expect too much only to be disappointed.

20 August 2005

Pushing The Envelope of Technology

I'll be on vacation tomorrow so I will be away from all my home computers. I'm fascinated by technology and want to make the most of it. Blogger has an option whereby one can email postings instead of updating the blog via a web browser. This is a test of that feature. Theoretically, during vacation, I may hop on some Internet cafe's PC and send an email to update the blog. Wait a minute, if I can get on a PC, most likely it will have a web browser already, why not update the blog the regular way. It's all about pushing the envelope...

19 August 2005

Harmony Playground

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Some time ago, I declared to myself that I would take my son to a different playground every week. Of course that never happened, but I tried and so far he's been to Washington Square Park, Battery Park City, Owl's Head Park, West Playground, and more. Today it was Harmony Playground in Prospect Park, at Park Drive South and 11th Street. I don't like J. to spend too much time at home watching TV or eating junk food, so almost every chance I get I take him to the park. The exercise should help him lose some weight. Harmony Playground is different than the typical city park thanks to it unique water area, the sand lot, and a music theme. It's sponsored by the New York Methodist Hospital and is in an affluent neighborhood, so the facility is quite clean. Good thing, too, as shortly after arriving at the park, J. had to make a dump.

Will it matter in the end? All the attention and love a father lavishes on his son, will the kid remember when he grows up? I don't recall my late father ever playing with me, but I still loved him much when I grew up. My third uncle on my mother's side was an alcoholic. Not only he didn't help the family make money, he spent much himself, yet his children, some of them anyway, speak highly of him. For now, it warms my heart when my son tells me he missed me when I came home from work. Now that's something worth looking forward to after a day's work.

18 August 2005

Besta 98 - Best Suited for the Task

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A few weeks ago I lamented the lack of Pinyin input/display in my newly purchased Besta 98 Chinese electronic dictionary. It turned out, fortunately, that I was wrong.

I put the Besta through its pace by using its handwriting recognition feature to look up Chinese characters for the songs from a Sally Yeh compilation CD. I had to increase the recognition delay to 2.0 minutes to allow myself time to write some of the more complicated characters. Whenever it finds the word, it shows the Taiwanese-style alphabet plus Pinyin. Wade-Giles and other codes are shown when the Other button is clicked on. I was able to enter the Chinese characters for eight songs out of sixteen on the first CD in the compilation. Doing so using paper dictionary and such would take me several hours. Well worth the $299 price tag.

17 August 2005

Magic Eye

Tuesday, August 16,2005

Remember those 3D posters of the '90s which you are supposed to look at cross-eyed only to see some object floating out of it? Coming on the heels of my success with photomosaic, I figured I'd give stereography a try. It got off to a bumpy start as the "shareware" I came across, 3D Maker by Sandy Knoll Software turned out to be cripple-ware. Not only certain features are crippled, the only stereogram option available produced a final picture that has the word "unregistered" plastered across it. It's bad enough these 3D images are hard to see, having the "unregistered" noticed defeated the whole purpose. At only $5.95, the software is very affordable so I registered it to get rid of the nag. The first image produced with the registered software is pretty decent, admittedly I could only see the 3D shape after printing it out. 3D Maker does a lot more, not just stereograms, such as 3D images that must be viewed with those green/red paper glasses, 3D cubes, etc.

For the photomosaic posters, I was aided greatly by colleagues in taking the many photographs needed. I plan to thank them by making stereograms of their names using their own head shots as "tiles" for the stereograms. Cool bean!

15 August 2005

Don't Watch Dragon Boats, Raise Some Little Chickens Instead

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The title of this blog entry comes from the Cantonese children's song, Tum Tum Chuen, meaning "Turn Round and Round". Like most children's songs, the phrase doesn't mean much, or maybe it means something that I just fail to grasp.

Every year before, my son's birthday party falls on the same weekend as the dragon boat race in Flushing Meadows Lake. This year the race was moved a week later so we finally got to go see it. The lake is big enough and the race takes place way out there, so everyone can see the whole action, albeit from far away, but visible to see who's who. But it was too hot a day to be outdoor. I didn't do well under the relentless sun. My sweat came down in rivulets and I looked like I just took a shower. Near the end of the outing, I found a bathroom and doused myself with cold water. It felt great!

For lunch we went to the Flushing area. Flushing Mall was our first stop but it was a major disappointment. Only the stores had air conditioning and the food court was hot. Maybe the A/C servicing the hallways was out of service, maybe it's a money-saving measure, or maybe it's a way to discourage non-buying dawdlers from staying, whatever it was it was a bad experience for us shoppers. We ended up eating somewhere else nice and cool. We did come back to the Mall since our cars were nearby. When it was time to leave, I discovered another disservice the Mall has for its customers - no pickup lanes. There's a bus line running through the front entrance's street and the street is narrow. I felt it would certainly happen that when I stopped to pick up my passengers, surely there would be a bus behind me which wouldn't be able to pass. There would be much honking from the bus or other vehicles behind it. With my type of bad luck, there would be a ticket agent, uh, a DOT foot soldier nearby, who would come right over to ticket me. Luckily, I happened to notice a back entrance, which besides not having a bus line, also has a little room. When I double-parked, since the other side of the street was an entrance to some other parking lot, vehicles behind me could still pass me. It's a shame that Mall management couldn't get a pickup lane created in the first place.

13 August 2005


ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more popularly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a disease of the spinal cord that causes the muscles shrink over time (atrophy), usually beginning with the limbs. Currently there is no cure for it, although there are clinical trials and treatments to lessen the effects of ALS.

In September 2004, I found out a friend of mine, M., was afflicted with ALS. He's a young person my age, with wife and kids. ALS seems to strike anyone at anytime. I just went to visit M. today. He and his wife are in a very good spirit. More power to them! I offered M. to babysit his kids some weekend so they can have a break. They seem to be doing ok with the kids, as his wife's parents are in the city and probably helped a lot. I myself would love to have some time to myself some time so I figured M. and his wife can use some themselves.

I wish I can visit him more often but job and family take away lots of time. I rarely have time to catch a movie (good or bad) on DVD or lay back to listen to some favorite tunes on CDs. I must try to visit M. at least once a month though...

Happy Day in Qaptain Qwerty's Qorner

Friday, August 12, 2005

It's a happy day in Qaptain Qwerty's Qorner. First, my photomosaic of soon-to-be ex-colleague Monika was a hit with most people at the office. It did not come about easily but the hard work paid off. It needed lots of photos of people around the office and I took some on Saturday and Monday, but then I earned a work-at-home day for Tuesday, Wednesday was my regularly scheduled work-at-home day, and Thursday is my regularly scheduled day off for working Saturday, so I had to recruit more photographers. Thanks to Doris, Vitaliy, and Cesar, I had a lot more photos, but it still wasn't enough so I had to make copies of the existing photos as well as keep changing the album name in iPhoto 4 and exporting the photo by album names. Several hours and a few bad mosaics later, at 35 tiles x 35 tiles and with 1,400+ non-unique images as source, I got my desired result. I thought of logging the many hours I spent, on my Thursday off, to OT, but it probably wouldn't fly.

FYI, I generated the photomosaic with MacOSaiX version 1.0.1 and printed out the final product with an older version of Luxor Development's Poster Print.

In other good news, my wife found for me, in Manhattan Chinatown's Far Eastern Bookstore, a CD containing the Chinese classical music Dagger Society Suite. I've been looking for the Overture from that Suite, ever since years ago when I saw the movie Once Upon A Time in China II. Some months ago I actually ordered it online from HugoCD.com but then the CD went out of stock and I got my money back to my PayPal account, but no CD. I looked for it a couple of times in a few brick-and-mortar stores, but not knowing enough Chinese the search got me nowhere. Today I got it. I will definitely add the Overture to my iTune Wake Up! playlist. Thanks, honey!

Last, but not least, my PowerBook 15.2" laptop has arrived. As a matter of fact, I'm writing this blog entry with it. Wireless networking is so cool! More later...

11 August 2005


One of my favorite comic strip is Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. It centers around the life of a teenage boy named Jeremy and his parents. The various stories are about: how kids not look up to their parents; teenage romance; cleaning up after kids; and more. I was a mild teenager compared to Zits' Jeremy, but can identify with some of the issues in the strip. I wonder if my son J. will be like Jeremy some day.

A recent Zit strip was about Jeremy tracking his newly ordered iPod. He followed it online from the time it left the factory in Taiwan or wherever, flown across the world, trucked from one location to another, then finally to his home. In the last strip, his dad asked, "Whatever happened to waiting for days at the mailbox?"

I have been doing something similar. I ordered a PowerBook 15.2" some weeks ago. After a minor issue with the credit card company, it finally shipped on August 9. Last I checked it arrived in Parsippany, New Jersey. I don't know how far that is, but I feel like driving there myself instead of waiting for one more day. Ah, The Waiting, as the late Tom Petty once crooned...

Sandy Hair

Yesterday my son J. went on a school trip to Jones Beach Park. A few days earlier I was told that they would be playing sand and would not be in the water. It makes sense, why would a handful of summer school teachers and some teenage assistants want to lead fifty or so kids into the water at a beach? According to J., his classmate Donny threw sand onto him. J. has a crewcut but the hair retained quite a good amount of sand. Shortly after mentioning that Donny put sand in his hair, J. rested his head on the arm of a sofa and sure enough grains of sand were all over the sofa arm. I washed his hair and lots more sand came flowing with the water into the bathtub drain.

A story my mother told me more than once about my childhood days was the time I put sand in my hair. Of course I have no recollection of it. According to my mother, I was playing in the front yard and simply decided to take a sand bath. Or something like that. I wonder how I got washed that day...

10 August 2005


At the risk of sounding like Woody Allen in one of his dark comedy, in this post I'm going to discuss my medical condition...

I know I carry traits of anemia (or anaemia). My mother has it, from one of her parents. People with anemia look pale and weak. I certainly don't have a nice tan. They also have low count of red blood cells. I think one of the effect of anemia on me is that I sneeze a lot or have stuffy nose under certain conditions. It usually happens after physical work such as running or carrying heavy objects or lack of rest. I do recall sneezing a lot after running five miles as part of my regular weekend exercise. If I stay up late one night and wake up early the next morning, there's a good chance I'll be sneezing all day, then in the afternoon, start to have a nasty headache. Nothing helps and only a good night's sleep would chase away the condition.

I consulted my doctor and he sent my blood samples to the lab. He said it's not anemia that causes my condition and gave me a sample of the nasal spray Flonase. I was just about to try it but my nose is no longer stuffed so I'll pass it. I don't like to subject my body to medicines unless I absolutely have to.

I normally create new posts late in the evening after my son has gone to bed. When he is up, he either needs me to play with him or joins me at the computer, uninvited, so with him up there's no computer time for me. Yesterday, even though J already slept my condition was so bad I decided to postpone updating the blog until the next day.

09 August 2005

What do you care... Revised

Monday, August 8, 2005.

First person I bumped into in the office building of course was Doris. I apologized to her for doing a lousy job and offered to re-draw it. Re-drew I did, with her posing live, and the result is many times better than before.

On a less exciting note, not too long ago I just logged off the company network, after some marathon troubleshooting some Excel problem. It all started at 6pm, I finally left at 10pm because all the solutions discussed had nothing to do with my group, but then they called me at home and on my cell phone while I was in transit. I logged back in at 11pm and agreed to generate the list of affected users for the two particular network shares that people were having problem with. My department's involvement is so little yet we got pulled into this meeting and that discussion...

08 August 2005

J's Birthday Party

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Today we held a birthday party for our son J. The previous four years the party was held at home and ran almost all day with lots of cleanup afterward. This year, it was held in our neighborhood military base's bowling alley, probably for about the same amount of money but with much less work. We got all the lanes for our party, a party room, soda and food, for about two hours. There was even a CD player with speakers in the room, but since I didn't bring any CDs along it was useless. Luckily I did bring my JBL On Tour portable speakers and my trusty iPod so plenty of "Happy Birthday To You" was played. Of course the food is just the standard fast food fare of hot dogs and pizza, so the old folks may not like the food that much, but the kids, and most adults, had fun bowling, playing pool, arcade games, air hockey, etc. There was plenty of room for the little ones to run around, even though they are probably not supposed to, the place was mostly ours so nobody seemed to mind. C's teenage nephews brought their friends along and they bowled a little then went off to play basketball. We even went shopping, tax-free I might add, in the Exchange after the party and the little ones then had fun at the playground. Something for everyone. I even got to take a nap on an empty bench near the playground.

J came home and ripped away all the gift wrappings. At the end, he even said "That's it?". After bath time, he quickly slept for the night. Last night he stayed over at maternal grandma's home and supposedly woke up at 7 a.m. today. Wish he is like that on school days.

06 August 2005

Besta 98 - Could Be Better

I've been playing a bit with my new Besta 98 Chinese electronic dictionary and have realized it's missing features that I can definitely used. The main reason for me to get the gadget was to be able to input the titles for all the Chinese songs that GraceNote doesn't have. A big portion of the songs on my iPod are Chinese and not all of them have titles. They are generically named Track 1, Track 2, and so on. The Chinese characters are right there on the CD inserts but it has taken me forever to look them up in the paper dictionary. So far I had better luck with looking up the words, via Cantonese phonetic, on my Visor Deluxe PDA outfitted with cjkOS. One nice feature cjkOS has is that as you locate the Chinese characters you can also have the phonetic equivalents listed right behind them, in brackets. Since I only know how to input Chinese on the iMac via pinyin, I had cjkOS lists the pinyin phonetic for me. Deep down I secretly hoped that an electronic Chinese dictionary would do just that for me, but alas, not the Besta 98. It's made in Taiwan so for each character in its database, it only lists the Wade Giles phonetic and the Taiwan spelling system. Not quite exactly what I wish to see.

I used to wonder what's the difference between Besta and its competition Gold Dictionary. Now I suspect that Gold is made in China and supports the pinyin system. Too late for me now, I already plunk down $299 for the Besta 98, better make the most of it.

04 August 2005

Service Star

Today I got myself a Chinese/English electronic dictionary. It's one of those electronic gadget that lets one look up words and in some language, in my case, Chinese. I've been wanting to get one, mostly to look up Chinese characters for their English meanings. I have this hardcover Chinese-English dictionary but looking up the Chinese character is a very laborious tasks. The dictionary is sorted by some Chinese system of radicals then by number of strokes. I'm sure a scholar in the Chinese language art has a better explanation for this. I know some of the radicals but lots of time the characters I want to find belong to one of those radicals that I don't know. It's sort of like using an English dictionary but not knowing how to spell it. In that case, wouldn't it be nice if you can say the word and let the electronic dictionary look up the word for you? That's why I've been looking for a Chinese dictionary that allows me to write the character that I want to look up.

Some months ago I visited this store in Flushing, Queens near the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street. I asked about the dictionary but the salespeople were very lukewarm about it. They just showed me the box and, while I was reading the description on the box, didn't offer anything else. Today, I decided to ask the good folks at World Journal Book Store in Brooklyn's 8th Avenue Chinatown. My mother has bought a number of Korean soap opera on discs and the store always allowed her to return them because of problems with subtitles or video signal. I don't understand why a Chinese store would sell Korean discs with spoken words only in Korean and subtitles only in English and Korean, but the store people were always nice and friendly when taking them back. The most recent problem my mother had was that the disc she got output only PAL signal, a video signal mostly used in Europe. In case you don't know, we in America use NTSC. When World Journal gave my Mom credits for the PAL disc, I asked them if they have any Chinese e-dictionary. One of the ladies quickly took out a Besta 98, charged it up, and let me took a test drive in the store. She showed me how to look up the characters by writing it, which button to press to hear the words spoken in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English, etc. A very different experience compared to the store in Flushing.

Good service is so hard to come by these days. Lack of training, poor wages, whatever. If someone is helpful to me in a store, my first reaction is that the person must be the owner or someone with a stake in the store. It seems the typical employee doesn't care when the business collapses. When getting services or buying things, I avoid dealing with people whenever I can. The ATM and the web do well for me, most of the time. I am against drive-thru fast food, for pollution reason, so I occasionally have to deal with the MacDonald's clerk who says "Have a nice day" but whose uncheerful face says something else.

Viet Rap

It was another hot and muggy night in Brooklyn so we (me, the wife C., and the little 4yo son J.) ate out. After dinner, we strolled over to the home of C.'s second elder sister, H.C. Some weeks ago H.C.'s second son C. asked me to help him re-setup VNC for his local network of one iMac and one PeeCee. It worked before and they had fun playing pranks on friends but for some reason it stopped working.

While fiddling with Chicken of the VNC and OSXvnc on the iMac, I couldn't help hearing Vietnamese lyrics in the rap music blaring from iTunes. I don't like rap and think they all sound the same but most teenagers I know seem to love it, and H.C.'s two sons are no exception. The particular song I heard was supposedly sang by Azn Rap and is titled "One Life One Love". It was rather amusing. It sure got my attention. There were phrases like "Anh yêu em" ("I love you", said by a male person to a female person, usually) and "Anh đi ngang nhà em" ("I walk past your house", again said by a man to a woman.) I suppose if I was at the home of my Vietnamese-speaking nephew, A., it wouldn't be so surprising.

My nephew H. thought the non-English lyric was in hakka, a Chinese dialect. I knew it was not because I could understand the Vietnamese portion. There was another portion that sounded like either Thai or Cambodian. I speak neither but heard them before to recognize them. A quick Google search indicated that it's Khmer (Cambodian).

I made some more searches for the lyric itself but found nothing useful. Either it's too hard to type Vietnamese and Khmer, or nobody cared enough to type it up. What's more, the more I searched the more it appeared less likely that the singer or band is really called Azn Rap. So much for the reliability of MP3s downloaded off Limewire and similar P2P networks. Give me iTMS any day - a buck a pop but I know who sings it. Some people don't care who sings what or who plays what roles in what movies, but these things are important to me.

03 August 2005

UImport, iImport, We All Import

No, the title doesn't mean I'm in the import business. Running a business is the last thing I have on mind.

I'm a LAN Account Administrator at a major financial company. My department is responsible for creating network accounts and updating their various properties, e.g. add to groups, change account expiration date, etc. Lest you think I'm in a managerial position, make that "Me and my fellow grunts" instead of "My department."

Half of the company's network runs on Novell Netware. Amazingly, in these days of LDAP, LDIF, and long filename, UImport is still the most frequently used tool in my arsenal against Tedious Thaddeus - my personification of boring, repetitive tasks. I have nothing against people named Thad, "Tedious Thaddeus" just has a nice ring to it.

Today is a historical day in the Annals of Scripting. For a while now, all my NDS scripts are limited to running against users in the same containers. For example, if I have 1,000 people to modify, but 500 are in one container, 200 somewhere else, yet another 100 in yet another container, 125 somewhere again, and the rest in yet some other container, I would have to run my scripts 5 times. Sometimes the user population is so fragmented, i.e. bunched into too many different containers, that it's almost not worthwhile to run scripts against them. All that will change! Today my colleague Monika told me about a special feature of UImport that allows embedding the user context into the UImport's data file. Instead of specifying the user context once in the UImport control file and be stuck with it for the rest of the script run, I now have the option of specifying the user context on the fly. Mucho gracias, Monika!

Very powerful stuff, unfortunately, given my crazy work atmosphere, I'll have to wait until Saturday to test it out. I work Monday thru Wednesday, off Thursday, then work Friday and Saturday. It's nice to have a day off during the week and it's good to have a weekend work day, when I can actually do some work that requires thinking. During the week, I'm frequently interrupted by instant messages, phone calls, and in-cubicle consultation. I'm sure it's the same everywhere in Corporate America.

In case you wonder why I mentioned scripting in the same breath with UImport: UImport by itself is basically a command line tool. You prepare the control file and the data file, then you run it by typing uimport control.txt data.txt. Preparing the control file and the data file take some knowledge that most of my colleagues lack, not to mention tedious and error-prone. What I have done is wrap a KiXtart script around UImport so that all it takes to run UImport is to specify the context in a text file, the list of usernames, and just one more text file having the data to apply to the users. e.g. groups to add users into or expiry for account password. Double-click a .cmd file and off you go - no DOS box, no fiddling with control file, no having to save the data file as comma-separated value file.

02 August 2005

Q of the Day

Ah, the brave new world of blogging! I want to teach the world to sing...

Or at least to share with it my enthusiasm for automating laborious LAN Account Admin tasks, my witty cartoons drawn in the office, origami and other uses of office scrap paper, the joy of Macintosh computing...

Why the Qaptain Qwerty moniker? Alliteration. Unlike the typical computer geek these days, back in the '80s I was taught how to type by my eldest sister, O. I am proud of my ability to type with 10 fingers. QWERTY are the keys above the home keys (ASDF) on the left side of the standard keyboard. Note that I indicate "standard keyboard", as there are other keyboard formats, such as Dvorak. They are out there, just not as widely used as the so-called Qwerty keyboard. To have something to go with Qwerty, I gave myself the title Qaptain, an aberration of Captain. Qaptain Qwerty. Sort of like "She sells seashells on the seashore."