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."