30 December 2006

Home Manufacturing

I visited a high school friend's home recently. My son was happy to play with his two children and a nephew. One of the toys the kids played with was basically a mold for making miniature "robots". It was in the shape of a robot standing erect. The big robot's chest served as a chamber where Crayola crayons would be stacked and become melted. The melted crayons would flow down into a mold that served as the lower part of the robot. Supposedly, three whole Crayola crayons would make two miniature robots. The little "crayon oven" made me fondly recall a fun time I had when I was in the refugee camp in Indonesia.

I was a young lad of twelve years of age when I left Viet Nam with my parents and siblings for the open sea. We were known as boat people. Incidentally, the Vietnamese were not the first to be known as boat people. That honor was first bestowed upon the Irish who left their homeland and the devastating Potato Famine, for America. The Vietnamese, being half the world away from the U.S., had to first aim for some neighboring country of Viet Nam, such as Malaysia or Indonesia. In our case, we ended up in Indonesia, probably at some northernmost islands of Indonesia's many islands. In the refugee camp, I helped out around the house, or the hut, to be exact, with chopping logs into fireworks and drawing water from the well, but otherwise had much free time. No TV, no Internet access, no electricity, no telephone, we were mostly removed from civilization. Chinese chess was a popular pastime for many people on the island. In international chess, the pieces are tall cylinders with the upper part shaped to resemble horses, castles, etc. In Chinese chess, the pieces are merely short cylinders, much like checker pieces, with Chinese characters on the top side. Some people got the bright idea of making the pieces from scratch. I think it was more of an activity to pass the time, as there were a few sets of Chinese chess throughout the camp, probably brought from Viet Nam on the outgoing trip. The process of making the chess pieces were ingenious to me back then, and now, too.

The pieces were made out of plastic. We would gather plastic garbage, such as leaky plastic bottles or other types of plastic containers. A large pot would be set up on three bricks and a fire kindled underneath the pot. Into the pot all the plastic pieces went and shortly afterward we had a pot of foul-smelling hot, melted plastic. To make the mold for the chess pieces, someone would cut open soda cans, flattened them out into rectangular sheets, then cut the sheets into thin strips. The strips would be rolled up and somehow held together. I cannot recall how it was done, as we certainly didn't have Crazy Glue at the time. Anyway, molds were laid out and the hot, melted plastic would be poured into them. After some amount of time had passed, the solidified plastic disks were removed from the molds and the Chinese characters were engraved onto them, possibly with a pocket knife. Lastly, toothpaste was used to fill the engraving lines. What I cannot recall is how we distinguish the pieces, as back then we only had white toothpaste and none of the fancy Slime Green or Bubble Gum Pink that are available at the corner pharmacy. Maybe we somehow darkened the toothpaste for one side while the other side's pieces were left as white. All in all, it was a lengthy process, but hey, we had all the time in the world to kill while waiting for a possible sponsor in the U.S. or elsewhere to be contacted, for the sponsoring process to get rolling.

28 December 2006

Block the Flasher!

Web annoyances, such as pop-up windows and animations, are they, collectively, just an ugly fact of life or is there anything to be done about them? I am very glad to tell you that it's the latter choice. I have for a while enjoyed life on the web with no pop-up windows, thanks to Firefox's built-in ability to suppress them. To be fair, other web browser nowadays have popup blocker built-in, too. The issue with animations is a totally different story. Lately, I have been getting my news from Yahoo! and it sure has many annoying animated advertisements. I naively thought the ads were animated GIFs (animgif) but animGIFs are so 1990's, just what was I thinking? I searched through Firefox's list of available add-ons and extensions to somehow suppress these annoying ads and had no success. By viewing the source code of the web page I finally determined that the ads were Flash animations. Enter Flashblock and the problem was resolved. Now when Firefox loads a web site that is plagued with the Flash anim, Flashblock replaces the anim with a placeholder showing the Flash logo, like that on the right of the screenshot. Should I really want to see the anim, I would click on it and only then would it be loaded. I installed Flashblock for both my PowerBook (OS X 10.4) and my Windoze XP PC SP2 and now my web-surfing experience sure is much better.

Get your Flashblock extension for Firefox and other open-source web browser here:

26 December 2006

Kodak Z612

I have been playing around with my new digital camera, the Kodak Z612. I got my first digicam some time in 2001 and it was not the top of the line of the time - a measly 2.2 megapixel was all it had. Not that megapixel means too much for me, as megapixel is only an indication of how large the photos can be enlarged without losing quality. Even 2.2 megapixel translates to 8.5" x 11", so really 2.2 is quite enough. Therefore, I didn't get the Kodak Z612 for its 6.1 megapixel size. Instead, it was the battery use (high-capacity rechargeable Lithium-Ion instead of landfill-choking AA), 12x optical zoom, and video recording feature that got me interested. With the old digicam, I really hated the frequent change of batteries. I tried to use rechargeable AA batteries, but it was such a hassle to have to recharge them so quickly. Instead of using the LCD viewfinder, I had to squint through the regular viewfinder because using the LCD drains the batteries very quickly. I didn't bother mentioning digital zoom because it's next to useless. Sure you can zoom digitally from some distance, but the resulting image would be jaggied or darkened. Lastly, the ability to record and press just a few buttons to review the new recording is such a major convenience. I have a miniDV camcorder but the hassle of rewinding and forwarding is such a pain I haven't used it much. Besides, it's somewhat bulky even for its small size and takes some time to be up and ready. Same thing with the old digicam. Turn it on and I would have to wait a few precious seconds while the device reads the memory card. Not so with the new Z612. With a 2-GB SD memory card added, I plan to use the Z612 as a camcorder whenever the chance comes up. Naturally, I already recorded three clips of my son in his usual animated status. YouTube anyone?

25 December 2006


A few days ago I had dinner with some old friends from my Amiga users group days. It was good to talk about the good old days.

For over seven years, I was involved with the Amiga Users Group of New York, a.k.a. Amuse. Yes, it's a very contrived abbreviation or acronym, if it can be called as such. It was some time in the late 1980s when I first attended an Amuse meeting, held at the School of Visual Arts on 23rd Street in Manhattan, the Amiga computing platform was at its height. The Video Toaster was opening new frontiers in the desktop video, Psygnosis and Electronic Arts, with other big game companies, released titles after titles for the Amiga platform, and AmiExpo events were packed with attendees. At first I was just your average attendee, going to the meeting just to see and hear what's new, in hope of getting some freebies or good deals. One of the freebies was the Amuse newsletter. In the beginning, the newsletter was coming out regularly, then slowly it didn't come out at all. I started heckling then-President Scott M about the missing newsletter. Maybe the action made me more memorable to Scott, for he invited me to a board meeting and I came out of it the group's Program Coordinator. My role was to bring in speakers for the meetings. I cannot remember those that I successfully brought in, but I still remember those that I made so many calls to yet got no results in the end. All that working the phone was done without a cell phone or PDA. Amazing what we can do when we have an undemanding job and NOT married with children. At some point, Mr. Program Coordinator became the Membership Administrator and also served a Internet Special Interest Group (SIG) Leader, as well as Newsletter Contributor. The nice thing with being in charge of the membership list was that I got to know most people by their first names. I think it gave them a good feeling to go to the meetings and be greeted on a first name basis. For the SIG, I regularly held meetings at Internet cafes to introduce to the handful of people that show up the basics of the web. The newsletter, for which I was originally got involved with Amuse, in the end became half-owned by me and another volunteer, Ed L. A desktop publishing expert, Ed produced the beautiful newsletter and even wrote many articles himself. I rounded out the newsletters with news and announcements that I received at the group's mailbox. In the Amiga's heyday, we regularly received sample software or trial stuff, even fully-functional software every now and then.

By and by, the Amiga computer's parent company, Commodore, fumbled in the market and the Amiga technology went through a few ownership. I still stuck by the users group at its many temporary homes - School of Visual Arts, various Internet cafes, Giorgio Gomelsky's Studio, or any businesses that would host us. The final home, even to this day, is New York University. The thing that finally separated me from Amuse was marriage. I moved to Brooklyn after getting married and lived with the in-laws, coming home late three times a month just didn't jive. By then each meeting had only a few faithful and there's nothing to show anyway. I am amazed that my old Amuse friends continue to meet until this day. Supposedly there's an Amiga One computer coming out any day now. Then there's even a Pegasus computer, which is a clone of the Amiga OS. With the computer world largely dominated by Windoze, Mac, and Linux, this piece of news is like hearing about new dialect of some remote island civilization's language.

If you happen to still use an Amiga computer, you can try joining the Amuse Yahoo!Group through the button below. Like all things hosted through Yahoo!, you'll need to have a Yahoo! account to login.

Click to join amuse-ny

23 December 2006

Save PDF to iPhoto

I had been blogging for about a year when I got my sister O into it. She had been reading my ranting for some time and printed out most, if not all, of my posts and keeps them in a binder. Sister is more comfortable with things she can have physical contact with, versus things in cyberspace that one have to interact through search windows, menus, etc.

She enjoys blogging very much so I thought of making her a booklet containing all her blog entries. I suspect she may have a set of hard copies somewhere. The pages were possibly printed on one side and kept together in a three-hole ring binder. I figured I could do a better job with the printouts given my technical expertise and the proper collection of hardware.

The first thing I considered doing was capturing the printouts in PDF (Portable Document Format) then assemble the pieces together, perhaps in Acrobat Professional. Adobe's PDF standard allows any computers with Acrobat Reader to read documents created elsewhere. Acrobat Reader is available for all the major computing platforms. On my XP PC, I have CutePDF installed to capture anything printable into a PDF file. I would go to each of my sis' blog entry, select Print, then choose the CutePDF printer driver, and give the document a name. Even with her seemingly infrequent publishing schedule, O still has many blog entries, something in the neighborhood of fifty or so. I have never used Acrobat Professional much so the thought of learning something new on a tight deadline wasn't attractive. Alternatively, I can try using OpenOffice, assuming it can treat PDF files as just any other graphic files. I know that in Photoshop Elements if I open a multi-page PDF file, I would have to tell Photoshop which page I want. Photoshop wouldn't automatically import all the pages and re-arrange them. Whichever way I cut it, the process seemed tedious, not to mention I have to put up with working with Windoze on my personal time.

Purely by chance, I came across the Save PDF to iPhoto option of the print window of Mac OS X. Ever since the first release of Mac OS X, the option to save anything printable on a Mac into a PDF file has been there. The resulting PDF may not satisfy the die-hard Acrobat superuser, but for daily use, it is just the ticket. No need to go out and buy Acrobat Pro or install a third-party piece of software. Have something to pass on to someone who may not have the programs you use? Save to PDF when you print it then email the PDF file to him. Not everyone has Microsoft Word and some of us outright refuse to use it - so PDF would be the perfect medium for exchanging data, especially if the info is for reading only. I don't know when the other PDF options became available, but in addition to simply saving something to a PDF file, there are now options to save PDF file to a particular folder (web receipts) and Save PDF to iPhoto. iPhoto is Apple's consumer-level photo management program. Plug in a digital camera and iPhoto automatically launches and offer to import the photos for you. Once imported, you can arrange the photos in many different orders, group them in folders, order printouts, etc. - all from within iPhoto. With the Save PDF to iPhoto, I was able to quickly convert my sister's rantings into picture files visible in iPhoto. The files were given some forms of filenames, possible from the first few words in the documents. I simply renamed them in the format of yyyy-mm-dd-a, where a is some suffix to further organize the files, as my sister sometimes published more than one blog entry for a given day. Not having to export the web pages to a file, then re-import those files somehow, saved me much time. It all has to do with barrier to entries. The fewer the steps in a process, the better is the process. In iPhoto, I kept all O's PDF files in one album, then order them by their titles, and finally printed them out on my duplex-capable (read: double-sided) HP laser printer. For the cover, I drew a picture of O sitting atop a famous arch. I don't think the "portrait" was very accurate, but O didn't seem to mind. To top it all off, I went to the nearby Staples store and got a pack of fancy paper (granite). Bind the whole thing together with Pro Zip spines and the package sure looks professional, at least IMHO.

I have decided not to divulge O's blog name. It's a world wide web, it would be fun if someone somehow makes the connection between Qaptain Qwerty and what's-her-name. In the screenshot showing Save PDF to iPhoto, I've used my ex-colleague Nurse2Be's blog, so no, Nurse2Be is not my sister O.

22 December 2006

Hùng Ca (Hu`ng Ca)

My re-kindled interest in Vietnamese music continues unabated with the help of the web. I've been searching for more tunes that I heard when I was in my teen or when I first came to the U.S. One particular tune I like is Trên Đầu Súng Quê Hương (or TDSQH for short), which in English means "On the Muzzle of the Nation's Gun". I must have heard it on some propaganda TV show some time before 1975. (As you may recall, April 30, 1975 was the day the South Vietnamese government was defeated by the Communist army from the North.) TDSQH is the type of music called Hùng Ca in Vietnamese, or Majestic Music. Something to rally the troops, to extol the virtues of the soldiers, to gain support for the government's war effort.

Tunes like these are not likely to be found in your typical music store, so I didn't even bother with iTunes Music Store this time. The best place I've found for these majestic Vietnamese tunes is http://www.bdqvn.org/ , where BDQVN stands for Biệt Động Quân Việt Nam or Vietnamese Rangers. The web site pays tribute to the special force Vietnamese Rangers and includes a page of popular majestic music. The tunes are in .WMA format, but the dynamic duo of Audacity and iMic took care of the work for me.

Feeling somewhat patriotic toward the late South Vietnam government, I sought and found the South Vietnam national anthem, or Quốc Ca. On the other hand, I also obtained the tune Hận Đồ Bàn, which is about Chàm, an old kingdom that was conquered by the predecessor of today's Vietnam. I think someone told me that the song was banned by the South Vietnam government. Maybe that was why I liked it - a forbidden fruit has its attraction.

20 December 2006

Nắng Chiều (Na('ng Chie^`u)

A few years ago I saw the foreign film Cyclo, by director Tran Anh Hung (Trần Anh Hùng) and starring Hong Kong movie star Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. The movie received much critical acclaims, although to me it's just a very dark and sad movie about post-1975 Saigon, aka Ho Chi Minh City. Life for a rickshaw (cyclo) driver was hard enough as it was, some thugs working for the rickshaw boss had to rob him of his rickshaw. To pay back for the robbed vehicle, Cyclo Driver had to enter the crime underworld to make the extra money.

There were many visually stunning scenes, but somehow the one that I remember most about the movie was where at some restaurant, a team of two male amputees performed the song NắngChiều to try to earn money. In wartorn Vietnam, amputees are usually war verterans. It certainly wasn't the first time I heard the song. Maybe it was the theater's superb audio system, or maybe it's just the mood the movie set me up in, I started to like the song very much. The first place I looked in trying to find the song was in my late father's CD collection. The song wasn't in there, as most my father's CDs were actually musicals, stories put to music. There were other Vietnamese pop music, but Nắng Chiều wasn't in them either. I don't know why I didn't search for it on the web, maybe back then I didn't bother exploring the MP3 format. A few days ago, the urge to have Nắng Chiều in my iPod somehow surfaced again. First thing I did was check the iTunes Music Store to see if it has the soundtrack for the movie Cyclo. Personally, I hate movie soundtrack CDs as they usually contain the one theme song performed in seven or more different ways - normal, fast, slow, with lyric, etc. But I want Nắng Chiều bad and I was willing to pay for it. Alas, iTMS didn't have the soundtrack. I live not too far from Chinatown, where there are some Vietnamese stores that carry Vietnamese music, but I don't have the time to just run out to Chinatown to flip through several CDs to find the song I want. Besides, I would have to know the names of the singer in order to locate the song. Next best option - Google.

Sure enough, with Google I learned that the songwriter was Lê Trọng Nguyễn. I also came across a web site with lyric for the song accompanied by a MIDI tune. MIDI means it's just an instrumental version, no lyric, kinda like Muzak. Next I found a WMA (Windows Media Audio, a format foisted upon the world by the Evil Empire aka Microsoft) of a performance by the singers Kim Anh and Doanh Doanh, first in Vietnamese then in Mandarin. Yet another version was totally in Japanese - I have no clue what it says, but it sure sounds good. In the end, no MP3, but that wasn't a problem. As long as I can play the music from the computer's built-in speaker, using the audio program Audacity and the iMic USB device I can capture it into an audio file. From Audacity, converting the audio into MP3 is just another simple step. So for now, I don't have a Vietnamese-only version of Nắng Chiều, but the three versions I have - MIDI, Vietnamese-Mandarin, and Japanese - will have to do. I'll make an effort to visit one of those music store in Chinatown in the upcoming weeks, too.

"Nắng" means "sunlight" and "chiều" means "evening" or "dusk", so "Nắng Chiều" can be loosely translated to "evening light" or "the light at dusk". Unlike American songs where the song title is repeated umpteen times in the song, in Vietnamese songs the title appears only once, sometimes not at all. With Nắng Chiều in particular, the phrase only appears near the very end of the song, in

Nhớ em dịu hiền nắng chiều ngừng trôi...

meaning "Missing you so much the evening light stop moving".

18 December 2006

Google Checkout

You found some good deal on the web, you fill up the shopping cart (figuratively, of course, as online shopping carts have no bottoms), and click on the Checkout button. Huh? Username? Password? What password? You try a few combinations of username and password, but none works. You had to resort to the Forget Password link, answer some challenging questions, then open a tab (I'm a Firefox user) in your browser, check your email for the new password. It's possible that you won't get to keep the new password. Hopefully you'll be able to set the password back to what you think it should be. In some extreme cases, you haven't been to this particular online shop for so long that you cannot even supply a valid username in order to retrieve your password via email. A familiar scenario? You bet! It's a very frustrating experience going to all the various shops on the web and be expected to cough up a username and password each time you check out. Surely you can set them all the same, but every now and then you may slip and forget to do so. Or even worse, some sites have different password requirements, e.g. the password must contain a number or maybe cannot have two consecutive characters being the same. Enters Google Checkout.

You establish a Google account and you have access to many of the services Google offers. Next time you are ready to pay for your loot, look for the Google Checkout button and use it. Instead of having to supply the username and password corresponding to that shop, just use your Google account's. That's it. No need to store usernames and passwords all over, either in Post-It notes or in PDA, just the one Google username and its password will do. During this holiday season, Google even offers a bonus to encourage people to use Google Checkout. Get something from Buy.com that costs over $30 and use Google Checkout to lop off $10! At the link of http://www.google.com/checkout/m.html , there are many shops to choose from. Even though my favorite Mac online stores are not there, I certainly won't mind switching stores just to make use of Google Checkout.

Google Checkout - it's a great idea whose time has come. Make use of it! (I know, it sounds like an advertisement for Google, but I like the service so much I'm doing this for free.)

16 December 2006

175 - Priceless '06

Last month, a colleague in the office, C, entered fatherhood. On the week that the baby was predicted to arrive, day after day, nothing happened. We jokingly compared the child birth to our normal workflow. Service Level Agreement (SLA) not met! Company losing millions of dollars everyday! Escalate!

The title of the cartoon is Priceless '06 - Priceless because it was inspired by the Visa commercial and '06 is short for 2006. Way back when I first started putting the cartoon series, I used the Priceless theme in referring to the privilege of working at home. You can see that 'toon here: Priceless-03

Originally, I wanted to show the baby sucking on TWO pacifiers. C thinks it's bad for babies to use pacifier so the poor thing has none - it would be fun to give him two in the cartoon. I actually have a photo of my son doing that, back when he still needed pacifier. Somehow the pacifier I drew didn't come out right, so I opted for a large milk bottle, because I overheard another colleague, Purple, saying that C's son was drinking more and more milk everyday.

C is the best chess player in the group so I threw in a few chess pieces in case no one recognizes his "portrait". Three out of four people who saw the portrait today knew it was C, so that's a good thing.

15 December 2006

The Price of Fame

I really like the book Flags of Our Fathers so here goes just one more blog entry related to the book.

Of the six Marines who were immortalized on film while raising the Old Glory, only three survived the war. Contrary to popular belief, overcoming Mount Suribachi was just the beginning of the Iwo Jima campaign. Days after the event, Mike Strank, Harlon Block, and Franklin Sousley all died in battle. John Bradley was badly injured and had to be taken out of action and ended up in a hospital in Guam. Only Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes stayed in the war.

The Photograph, as the flagraising photo came to be known, was such a powerful icon that the entire U.S. was talking about it. People wanted to know who the soldiers were. F.D.R. then issued the order to have the Marines found to become celebrities in a new Bond Tour, to help sell U.S. government bonds to finance the Pacific War. After some initial difficulties, eventually all three surviving men were found. Being on Bond Tour at first was nice - top-notch hotels, rubbing elbows with movie stars and famous singers. fine dining, etc., just the opposite of fighting the Japanese on Iwo Jima's jungle. After a while, the work too became exhausting, with lots of road trips, repeating the same disclaimer that the flagraising was such a non-event. Each of the three Marines reacted differently though and their lives, after the Bond Tour, also came out differently.

Ira Hayes, being a Pima Indian, whose tradition discourages tooting one's own horns, was always the quiet one during the Tour. He tried to withdraw from the horrors of war by drinking alcohol, lots of it. His drunken appearance eventually forced the military to pull him out of the Tour. After the war ended, he did odd jobs during the day and get drunk at night. In the end, he was found dead and drunk.

John Bradley had always dreamed of being a director of a funeral home and did achieve the goal. He tried to live a normal life by not granting any interviews, for years, and never even answered the phone when reporters called. He rarely talked about his war experience. Being a medic on the battlefield, seeing young men dying and trying in vain to save them, permanently damaged him. Still, he had a somewhat normal life and was a great figure in his community, not through exploitation of his Iwo Jima fame.

Rene Gagnon and his wife tried to capitalize on Gagnon's celebrity status but got nowhere. The author stated that even though Gagnon didn't qualify for the state police, he could have used his veteran status to obtain training to become qualified. Instead, he relied too much on the sweet talk people gave him during the Bond Tour. "Sure, call me up whenever you need this and that...", many people would promise but never lived up to it. He got nowhere and was a janitor by the time he died of a heart attack. Since he didn't have enough medals he wasn't allowed to be buried in Arlington, but his wife made much noises and won in the end. She even made sure that his tombstone extolled his fame. Others, like Mike Strank, a.k.a. a Marine's Marine, who have contributed much more than him during battles, only got simple tombstones that made no fuss about their lives.

The story of Rene Gagnon sounds like some people I know in the office, except that my Gagnon guy is alive and well, living in the lap of luxury. Supposedly there's a chap in the group who makes as much money as me but I know for a fact he doesn't do much work. I know because someone who used to work with him always had trouble to get him to do his part of the load. How he clinched the deal to secure that salary is beyond me. It's a shame that too often it's not what you know but who you know that gets you a job.

12 December 2006

The Replacement Flag

Spoiler Warning: If you plan to see the movie or read the book, STOP! DON'T GO ON! Assuming the movie is a true rendition of the book, I'm revealing something that you may not want to know prior to seeing the movie.

End of Spoiler Warning.

I'm almost done with the book Flags of Our Fathers. I'm past the flagraising event and there sure are many interesting facts unearthed in the book. In the "historic" photograph of the six Marines raising the flag, it was really a non-event. It wasn't done during the heat of battle, with bullets whizzing past the soldiers as they planted the flag. As a matter of fact, no fighting occurred during the FIRST flagraising on Mount Suribachi either. That's right, the historic photo captured the second flagraising event. After days of fierce fighting, the Japanese either abandoned Suribachi or committed suicide deep inside the volcano's carved-out core. The Marines didn't know that and cautiously sent up a small group to plant a relatively small flag. The first flagraisers were Boots Thomas, Hank Hansen, Chuck Lindberg, and John Bradley. Military photographer Lou Lowery captured the images. It was this first flagraising that got the victorious combatants' attention. Down on the beach and up on the ships, Marines and Navy people cheered as the flag flapped in the air. Shortly afterward, some Navy bigshot mentioned that he wanted to keep the flag as a souvenir. Colonel Chandler Johnson of the Marines didn't like the idea at all and wanted the flag kept with the battalion. He ordered a replacement flag put into place. It was the planting of the replacement flag that Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press snapped on film. Unfortunately for Lowery and fortunately for Rosenthal, civilian film traveled faster than the military's, so it was Rosenthal's seemingly insignificant pictures that reached the U.S. first and became an icon overnight.

As it turned out, the historical replacement flag was left fluttering in the high wind of Mt. Suribachi for three weeks and became all torn up in the end. No souvenir for those @$#!* Navy honchos!

10 December 2006

Flags of Our Fathers

I am not done with the book Flags of Our Fathers but sure have learned a few things about recent American history. I love history, even though I know it's mostly written by victors. At least with American history, I get to know ugly chapters like those referring to the maltreatment of Native Americans.

The movie/book Flags of Our Fathers is about the lives of the Marines who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi of Iwo Jima - a famous scene to anyone who knows anything about World War II. The men, or rather boys, were John Bradley, Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, Ira Hayes, Rene Gagnon, and Mike Strank. Personally, I can count at most only five people in the photo. The book was written by James Bradley, son of John Bradley. Through years of research about the six Marines and many people in any ways attached/related to them, with references to historical events, the book brought to light the climate at the time, the life, the characters' background and upbringing, the battle for Iwo Jima itself, the after-effect of the flagraising incident on the six Marines, a whole saga. I am only up to the end of D-Day, February 19, 1945, the day invasion of Iwo Jima (Sulfur Island) occurred, which is just a tad past half of the book. Here are some interesting facts I've picked up so far:

  • In comparing the different types of warfare being waged in Europe and Asia, the book mentioned that in the European theater, the fighting followed certain traditional "rules". For example, generals would call off the fighting at 5 o'clock in the evening or that there were time-out for medics to come out to tend to the wounded. On the other hands, Japanese fighters were told specifically to target medics to hasten the deaths of more U.S. Marines. Also, the Japanese soldiers would always fight to the death and would employ tactics such as the blowing themselves up as U.S. medics approached them to help, just to drag a few more lives with them on the way out of this world.
  • The Navy was mostly useless to the Marines. Bombardment before the invasion was ineffective, both because the Japanese were covered well in their underground network of fortress, but also because of the Navy's selfish crave for publicity. The Navy supposedly had already allocated ships to bombard mainland Japan to look good in the public eye and gave the Marines all kinds of excuses not to help with the bombardment prior to the invasion.
  • I read Helmet for My Pillow years ago and knew Guadacanal played some important role in WWII, but with FoOF I learned that it was on Guadacanal that the Japanese suffered their first defeat. At the hands of the Marines no less. Again, the Navy was of little help, as their ships withdrew from the beginning of the battle after losing some ships.
  • One recurring theme throughout the book was that many young boys went through much troubles to get into the armed force. Some lied about their age, others ate bananas to gain weight, and then some simply signed up even though they were not U.S. citizens. Perhaps it was great government propaganda. Or maybe it was just true patriotism, with Pearl Harbor as a background. Some people I know in Vietnam were not eager to join the war. One of my uncle, I believe who was already in the armed force, used some kind of eyedrops, made for the purpose, to make his eyes crossed so he could be discharged. Others he knew carefully blew up their own index fingers using hand grenades to make themselves unfit for battle. I guess it's one thing to be young, unmarried, and gung-ho, but it's a totally different thing to be drafted into an armed force run by corrupted government officials. It probably didn't help that these Vietnamese men probably already had wives and children waiting at home.

08 December 2006


I've been enjoying the Harry Potter series of book. My Wife has read all six books, from Sorcerer's Stone to Half-Blood Prince. I dutifully borrowed all the books for her from our local Brooklyn Public Library and also scoured the other branches to find the four Harry Potter movies. I was curious as to what was all the fuss and watched parts of some of the movies. Not having the background info and viewing the movies in pieces, plus the British accent, got me totally confused. Goblets of Fire was the only one that I saw the most of, but then the DVD was on hold for someone so I had to return it without finishing the movie. I've decided to read the books before going back to the movies. It helps NOT to have a photographic memory. Even though I saw the ending of some of the movies, while reading the books I was not sure how the endings would be arrived at. Or which ending goes with which book.

I've read books that are so slow and boring that I found it hard to finish. The Harry Potter series is just the opposite. I found myself engrossed in them, reading one chapter then another. It's got fantasy, parallels to the real world, comic relief, hope, on and on. No wonder the series was such a big bestseller.

Last week I finished Prisoner of Azkaban but didn't have the chance to pick up book #4. Then I started on Flags of Our Fathers and now have to make sure I finish that before I start on Goblet of Fire. I don't have much chance to go to the movie so I try to read the book version of the movie whenever possible.

One thing I noticed is that on the first book, there was a note at the end of the book stating that the author was a struggling single mother when she first started writing the book, or something to that effect. On succeeding books, the note only mentioned where she lives. I suppose she wasn't thrilled about revealing her unhappy past.

03 December 2006

Novell NetWare

I just completed a week of training on Novell NetWare 6.5. I first came into contact with NetWare at my previous job as network admin for a small department. It was NetWare 3.12 and now I'm using NetWare 6 but the basic hasn't changed that much. Over the past six years I've learned much about NetWare but never thought of going for a certification. Taking the course last week convinced me that I should. Most of the materials were not new to me. Sure there were topics like iManager and iPrint, basically Novell's attempt at making NetWare less reliant on Microsoft Windows. Microsoft has been known to purposely change its Windows architecture to make competitors' products stop working so Novell counts more on web browser technology, which hopefully is not locked down by MS. Have the proper web browser, some Java components, and theoretically you can most of the basic work of NetWare account administration.

The instructor advised us to take the CNA certification test within thirty days of completing the course. That means I must take it some time in December 2006, before the new year. It's a challenge but I will take it on. All ten or so of us students in the class signed up to get the voucher for the cert exam and the online sample exam. Whether management pays for it or not, I'll still go for it. It's about $100, something I can afford. I doubt passing it will make any difference with the current job, but I'm sure it will in future jobs. One other, noble reason for me to take the NetWare cert exam is to be there for any companies that need a certified NetWare expert. I hate Microsoft for squeezing market shares out of NetWare. Hopefully, with one more qualified NetWare expert, the conversion from NetWare to Windows server will be slowed down.

Not that long ago, NetWare was the king of networking software with some +70% of the market. Then Windows NT Server came along with its graphical interface and took away lots of business from NetWare. It's probably true that NT Server is easier to start but there's a lot more to a server than just setting up user accounts and shared folders. My work experience and the five days of training provide plenty of examples of NetWare's superiority over Windows. Everyday, I as a LAN Account Admin would create NetWare accounts and Windows accounts. For NetWare, there's nothing to worry about the new user's home folder. As long as I use a template with all the home folder properties defined, the home folder is created at the time the account is created and the user is given access to it. Not so with Windows. Even with ActiveDirectory, I still have to somehow manually created the home folder and set permission. I manage to make the process easier by using various KiXtart scripts to do the work, but if Windows can provide the choice of a template, I wouldn't have to go the extra mile in the first place. There might be some third-party plug-in to achieve the goal, but with NetWare it's already built-in, you don't need to spend extra money for it. Another very friendly feature of NetWare that I as a LAN Account Admin have come to appreciate is the last login date. I don't know how NetWare does it, but if I look at an account's last login date, then that's what it is - the last time the account was used to connect to the particular tree. Not so with Windows, NT or AD. The true last login date for a Windows account can only be determined after all the last login dates on all the domain controllers have been collected. Then from the list, one would extract the real last login date. Alas, if the Windows account is only used to map a drive, the act of authenticating during the mapping process doesn't trigger any records of the last login date. So, if Mr. John Smith every day maps to the resource \\server1\shared$ but never logins to any of the domains, his account appears inactive to the LAN admins. Per auditing requirements, the LAN admins would disable Mr. Smith's account and a whole series of detective work would go into high gear before the root cause of Mr. Smith's sudden loss of access is determined.

The class instructor was an interesting chap. He had long hair, told us he played in some band and drives a motorcycle. He told us that the user symbols in Novell products are faceless because the Novell corporate echelon consists of believers of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). Supposedly, per LDS, inanimate objects have no soul and no face.

30 November 2006

Going in Circles with Freecycle

The circle in the title of this blog entry refers to a fruitless process, not the recycling circle. I love recycling and its siblings, re-use and reduce, and the idea of freecycling is great, at least in theory. Through Yahoo!Groups, such as http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BrooklynFreeCycle, one would post notices about wanting something or having something to give away. It's preferable that your first post is a give offer, not a take offer. When someone wants your offer, he'll contact you via email and the two of you work out the arrangement to meet in meatspace ( as opposed to cyberspace) to transfer the object(s). Someone gets something for free while you free up some room in your house (hopefully not to be filled up with other junks). Simple, no? Some years ago when my Kid no longer needed diapers I was able to meet someone in my neighborhood to give away his unused (of course!) diapers. It took a few email and cell phone calls, but it was a success in the end. My recent experience with the Manhattan and Brooklyn Freecyle groups is rather disappointing.

I figured the Freecylce sites would be a good place to go ask for a free internal CD burner for my "rescued" Friday PC. Sure enough someone wrote to me saying he had an unused burner that I could have. He even told me to write to him at another email address, different from the one he sent the email from. I wrote back but then there was no news from him ever since. It's a big city, maybe he got into an accident or moved to another city, but yet I'm still pretty miffed. Luckily, I already found a burner by other means. While in the Freecycle sites, I couldn't help reading the other posts. One lady asked for a set of equipments to go with her second-hand PeeCee. I happened to have just the things - keyboard, mouse, speakers, and power cables. We exchanged a few email and finally settled on a date and place to finalize the process. She never showed up. I learned later via email that there was some problems at home. So we made another appointment and again she didn't show up. The second time there was no email whatsoever. She probably figured her welcome mat had been worn thin and she should burn the bridge and never look back. Luckily, while waiting for her Godot I had my iPod with me and some Mac Geek Gab podcast to keep me entertained.

Two other Freecycle contacts also ended in failure. One lady had some toys offered, and even though my Kid already has too many toys, some of the items she had were something Kid really likes. Again, a few email and then silence. It turned out she had some deaths in the family and naturally had to attend to the more urgent matters first. Understandable. In the other case, someone else needed floppy disks and I was glad to offer her a bunch, I was hoping like one hundred, but she only wanted twenty. After I told her that I travel to work in New Jersey via certain transfer points in Manhattan, she said that she couldn't work out a plan to meet me. Oh well, I tried.

I've had enough of Freecycling this year. I'll lay low for a month and maybe get back in it next year. It's a worthwhile cause but it is so frustrating when things don't work out.

26 November 2006

Have A Blast With iTunes podcasts

I've heard of podcasting some time ago and even though it sounded like the greatest thing invented since the sliced bread, I never gave it a try. Until recently...

It started with NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams videos. Lately I do feel behind with current events. I used to stay up until 11 p.m. to watch Eyewitness News on Channel 7, with Kaity Tong and Ernie Anastos, Storm Field, etc. but lately between my Wife and my Kid, I don't have the time to watch TV. So watching news video seemed like the next best thing. Once I subscribe to the free service, the videos get downloaded to my hard drive and I can watch it at my leisure, no Internet access required. Then I ventured further and lo and behold, there's a whole world of interesting stuff out there. I am a junkie for tech news. I visit MacMinute and CNet News almost everyday. I would love to watch video shows about computer stuff but haven't found one. Even if I find the site, the process of going to some site, click on some link to watch the video, then maybe do some Ctrl click to save the video for offline viewing... too much work. Not to mention the delay of buffering the video, lest the video sputters on and off. The process with audio podcasts via iTunes Store is so much simpler. Browse the available podcasts, with attractive icons and descriptions, subscribe, then at certain time the podcasts are downloaded to iTunes on the computer. Plug in an iPod and sync then the files are ready for listening. Very minimal barrier to entry.

I already enjoyed listening to This Week In Tech (TWIT), some Mac podcasts, and part of a MacObserver Geek Gab episode. I like to listen to the news while driving, but after a while the news would repeat. With podcasts, I can easily fill a one-hour drive with stories about the dismal Zune premiere, Vista availability, Core Duo, etc. One minor problem is that the podcasts must be listened in one sitting. Once it's paused, I don't know how to fast forward to the place where I last listened. What I've done so far is to re-listen to the interrupted podcasts on the computer, where I can move the slider to various points in the file to find out where I paused the podcast.

I went on a shopping spree and subscribed to podcasts about Learning Mandarin, vocabulary words, and comedy (The Onion and Comedy Central), but only listened to the techie stuff. So far, the podcasts haven't max out my 10-GB iPod's hard drive, but I'm afraid it will soon. There's so much free and interesting podcasts out there.

24 November 2006

Blue Friday

Black Friday shopping - it is indeed a crazy thing to do. I got up at 3 a.m., picked up my two nephews at 3:30ish, got to the Gateway Mall off Belt Parkway's Erskine Street exit around 4 a.m., an hour before the Circuit City electronics store's opening. There were already 200 or more people lined up outside the store, ending at Staples. We actually got into the store shortly after 5, after witnessing a bunch of people simply cutting right in the front at the store entrance. The entrance should have been roped off on one side so only people who were on the queue able to get in. A beefy security guard stationed at the rope would help, too, but neither guard nor rope was there. The store probably didn't care whether people behave decently or not, as long as they get to unload the merchandise. Inside, the same scenario occurred, only worse. My goal was to get the Kodak Z612 camera and a stack of it was in the camera corral, but the line never moved in two hours. Supposedly, one salesperson took down what the people on the line wanted and place the piece of paper on top of the merchandise. When the people advanced to the cashier, they would pay for and walk away with their loot. That's the theory. In practice, it was total chaos. People just jumped in front of the line and made all the fuss. Only a few people got to tell the salesperson what they want and had their notes taken, while the rest just stood on line. To make matters worse, two ladies held up the line for hours because of some problems with their credit cards. I'm a pessimist so I chalked that up as bad credit. The ladies probably blew their credit limits the day before and yet still went out shopping. My nephews managed to grab some blank discs and car stereo stuff so I had them pay for those first. By the time they came back, I was still in the same place on the camera queue so I gave up. Instead, I went to Staples and got an internal DVD burner and other items. Mission failed.

I wasn't tired while waiting on line but by the time I got home, a nasty headache set in and lasted all day. It didn't help that I had to drive my Kid and Wife to music class, plus my sister to her office in midtown to take home her personal belongings. Both Chinatown and midtown Manhattan are unfriendly places for cars. Inattentive pedestrians, horrible traffic, you name it. My sister and I tried to buy lunch at the Pathmark's in Chinatown but they didn't make sandwiches, even though some idiot Pathmark employee said so when we asked him. Instead we got a fruit plate, a manager's special, which is just another way to refer to rotten fruit. Half of the fruit chunks smelled and looked bad and had to be thrown away. The worst part of the day was when I came off the Manhattan Bridge and unintentionally ran the red light at the foot of the bridge. Maybe because of the insufficient amount of sleep, I simply didn't realize it was a steady red until I passed under the light. There was a traffic agent nearby with his back to me and he did turn around. He didn't flag me down and I didn't dare to make eye contacts - maybe he's lazy and would let me go. I secretly wished that maybe if he really wanted to ticket me, he could have either walked over or alert the other two agents at the next light. Shortly afterward, a few blocks away, a truck that had stopped at the red light that I ran came alongside me to tell me that the agent back there wrote me a ticket. Maybe he lied, just to make other people's life miserable, or maybe he told the truth. I'll just have to wait a few days to get the ticket in the mail. Or maybe never.

In case I lose my senses next year and plan to do this again, NEVER AGAIN! I'm too old for all this hassle. Six-hour special my foot! I just checked Amazon and it had the camera for $286, just $16 more than Circuit City's $270, but don't forget taxes.

Well, the evening is still young, what will happen next? I told you I am a pessimist.

23 November 2006

Black Friday

I plan to do something that, in my book, is considered crazy. I will get up early, really early, like 3 a.m., to drive to a shopping mall with two nephews on my wife's side to take advantage of Black Friday sale. In past years, I don't care much about the great price drops at most stores on the day after Thanksgiving, but this year I do have a couple of things in mind that I want to buy. I've been checking around on the prices for the Kodak Z612 digital camera. I was going to get it from Staples but now my first stop will be Circuit City. We will still go to Staples, since it opens an hour later than Circuit City. Other items I plan to get are DVD burner, flash drives, blank media, and maybe a label printer. I will charge my cell phone and iPod to the max in case there'll be a long line outside the stores. What a crazy idea, eh? Losing a few hours of sleep or wasting some time on queue to save $50 or more. Or maybe for nothing. What if the stores only have a few of the advertised items? I'm sure the salesperson will "recommend" other items for higher prices. That's how they make the money. Just pulling the customers into the store and they already won half the battle. Let's see if I can control myself and not buy anything if the things I want are not available. Well, I am going to go to bed soon to catch a few precious hours of sleep...

22 November 2006


The $100 gift certificate that I won at the AAARI dinner was really a receipt for store credit. I am used to receiving store credits in the form of a plastic card with bar code and magnetic strip, so it was somewhat strange to have paper "gift certificate". My first guess was that someone in AAARI bought something at the store and had to return it, but couldn't get cash back and instead got store credit. He had no plan of using the credit so he donated to AAARI as a raffle prize. Also, one of the worries the Wife and I had was that the store may not be in business any more if we don't use the g.c. soon. I don't have too much faith in the Asian businessman. One day the store's stuff fly off the shelf and the next it declares bankrupt, really just to cheat the government of some tax dollars. I'm a pessimist, what can I say. Maybe if I'm black, Hispanic, or of some other races and know the race well, I would view upon them, as an insider, the same way.

Fortunately, when I visited the store this past weekend, it was still there. Earlier, I decided to either get a digital camera, with optical zoom of 10x or more, or a portable DVD player. The store's selection of digicam was rather poor, mostly Sony stuff. The choices of DVD players were not that great either. On the one hand, we had an 8" JWin. On the other, there was this Sunia brand, model 900V, with a 9" screen. JWin I have heard about, but Sunia? I am aware that the DVD market has many largely unheard of brands, but Sunia is something I never heard about. What's attractive about the Sunia player was that it could play discs of all regions. Every now and then we would come across DVDs made for other regions and naturally they wouldn't play on our American-made player. What a pain this region thing! Properly just a scheme for the movie studios and manufacturers of DVD players to make more money. Anyway, at $199, I could get the Sunia model for half-price when the g.c. is used. The salesperson even made it $190 so in the end we paid only $90. He also told us to keep the box and receipt as the device could be replaced free of charge within a year.

On the past few road trips I had, I really wished we had a DVD player in the vehicle. I don't like the built-in types, as they are probably magnets for car burglars. I don't care what the statistics indicate, Brooklyn is still an unfriendly place to park the card outside with fancy electronics aboard. My Sunia does come in its own case with straps for attaching to the back of the car seats. Originally, I've wanted a 10" model, but 9" didn't seem to be too bad. The sound is good, not tinny like some other devices I have known. As you crank up the volume, on more inferior devices, you would notice the sound getting worse - but not so with the Sunia 900V. The rechargeable battery pack fits to the bottom of the player to tilt it up allowing some room for movement of hot air. The player can do both NTSC and PAL video signal. It is not a surprise that it has output for watching and hearing of video on an external display and speakers, but with a flip of a switch, you can also use the 900V as a speaker and display. I already used it as speakers for my iPod. I do have the portable JBL On Tour portable speakers, but it runs only either on DC connection or via four AA batteries. Anything that runs on non-rechargeable batteries displease the recycler in me, so the On Tour lose points for the AA batteries, even if its sound is very good. I am tempted to try to connect my Sony Playstation, the original one or PS/1, to the Sunia 900V, although I know very well the connectors don't match. I am pretty sure I can dig up the proper converter cable/plug.

I didn't know that on the box of the Sunia player there was imprinted the words Made in China. Instead, I searched the web and did come across Sunia.com. The web site made no mention of China and even declared that Sunia the company is based in Seattle, Washington. However, I then notice that under Contact Us the email address was not info@sunia.com, but was something else at malata.com. I went to malata.com and sure enough the site was written in Chinese, with pull-down menu to choose other languages. Seeing the Made in China on the box confirmed my suspicion. I must give them credits for having a properly written English user's manual. Lots of time, manual for things made in China are horrible literal translation from Chinese to English, or with grossly misspelled words through the document. Either Sunia hired native English speakers in the U.S. or they have very good writers in China, the Sunia 900V's manual is very understandable and contains no misspell or awful grammar.

21 November 2006

The One That Got Away

Every now and then, the Wife's zheng musical group is asked to perform at some social function, whether for money or not I don't know. Most recently the group helped provide entertainment for some CUNY Asian group called AAARI at a banquet. Someone close to the group was a student in the music school so she made sure the performers and their entourage had their own table. During the dinner, AAARI sold raffle tickets so I bought three, just to show my support for the group. Later, one of the three tickets was actually picked and I won a $100 gift certificate to some electronic store in Flushing. The top prize was a Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop but before the winning number was called, many people started to leave the banquet already. I suppose most people there already had decent jobs and didn't need yet another computer in their houses. At my table, the performers and their families also started to go home. When I told them the grand prize hadn't been drawn, they even gave me all their raffle tickets. Not long after ward, I myself wanted to go and just left the raffle tickets on the table. Before we got out of the dining area, the winning number was called and some elderly woman in the general direction of our table had the winning ticket. The winning number sounded very much like one of my tickets. Let's say I bought tickets numbered 200119, 200120, and 200121. 200119 was the winner of the $100 gift certificate. I was almost sure 200121 was the number that was called. The winner probably sat next to our table and helped herself to the abandoned tickets. If only I stayed for a few more minutes, I would have won the Dell laptop. While it's not a MacBook Pro, it's still a new, free laptop computer...

I tried to convince myself that it was just fate. Maybe I wasn't meant to own a Dell laptop for free. I already have a PowerBook, the Amiga, plus Dee Dee's Friday XP PC, so it's not like I really need yet another computer. I told myself not to be so materialistic, not to be what's called in Vietnamese a túi tham không đáy, or bottomless greed bag. After all, I already won the $100 gift certificate.

I should be thankful for what I already have. Family, work, and health. Besides, this past weekend I used the $100 gift certificate and the device that I got is pretty good...

19 November 2006

Friday Up To Par

With the addition of a CD-RW burner this weekend, my Friday 'puter is finally up to par. When I found it on the street about a month ago, nestled between a trashcan and a TV, ready for pickup by a Department of Sanitation truck, it had only 256 MB of memory, no network card, and only a DVD reader. I named the computer Friday because I found it, sort of like Robinson Crusoe found his Friday, well, on a Friday. I went through my collection of electronic spare parts and found for Friday a SCSI card, the Jaz 1 GB external SCSI hard drive, a network card, and another hard drive (a puny 4 GB compared to the existing 20 GB). Elsewhere I also found an additional 512 MB of memory to boost its total memory to 768 MB, still not the 1 GB I would like, but memory is so expensive and I wasn't going to spend a few hundred dollars on a machine I found for free on the street. The last piece of the picture is a burner. I try to keep my data backed up but without a burner Friday's data won't have a safety net. I have a friend who is in the computer retail business and asked him if he would have some spare computers lying around. Sure enough he had some spare optical drives, but maybe because he needed the space, he just threw out a bunch of them! If only I asked him a few months earlier. He offered me an external Firewire DVD burner, but Friday isn't equipped with a Firewire card. Adding one will set me back maybe $40, whereas if I cash in the two $5 Best Buy gift cards I got from two past Electronics Recycling events, I could get myself just the internal IDE CD-RW drive I need for about $15. Sure, it doesn't burn DVDs, but all I want is a CD-RW burner. Then this past weekend, I came across an old computer with a burner. Took it home and plugged it into Friday but alas XP didn't detect the new hardware. After checking the IDE cables and power cables, then swapping around the DVD reader and the CD-RW burner in the two drive bays, I managed to accidentally knock loose one of the memory modules. The computer wouldn't boot up at that point and I thought I somehow killed it. All that work in outfitting it with spare parts and getting rid of the viruses and spyware! Finally, after re-seating the loosened memory module, I discovered that one of the pins on the IDE interface was bent all the way down. There was no way to tell if it was like that before I removed it from the host PC, or if I damaged it while freeing it from the host. I managed to pry it into an upright position and amazingly the thing actually worked! I tested the "new" burner by copying a bunch of VCDs and haven't encountered a single error with all the burning. What a relief!

17 November 2006

Tuổi Trẻ

To maintain and encourage the use of Vietnamese literature and culture, VAYO periodically published the magazine Tuổi Trẻ, which means Young Age in Vietnamese. The articles were mostly written by VAYO members and some were translated from English sources. I cannot recall if the children who learned Vietnamese through VAYO contributed or not. What I do remember is the tedious process involved in getting a set of pages that consist of the magazine, usually the Lunar New Year edition, ready for photocopying. Probably all the articles were submitted handwritten so the first thing to do was to type them into the computer. In the beginning, we didn't even have Vietnamese input software and had to add the diacritical marks after printing out the articles. The arrival of VNI Ta^n Ky` was a welcomed relief. Desktop Publishing, or DTP for short, was already well-known back then, the early 1990s, but because we didn't want to make the most of the freely available manual labor, or perhaps we didn't have the DTP software, we produced the magazine one page at a time. I think each page was made from Microsoft Word, with illustrations either pasted on or drawn directly onto the page AFTER the page came out of the laser printing. No fancy online page layout here. Again, because I'm not skilled enough with the Vietnamese language to contribute articles, I helped out with the typing and illustrating. The picture above is from the cover of the 1993 VAYO Tuổi Trẻ magazine, some year of the chicken. When I first saw it again today, I recognized my own drawing style and handwriting, but had no recollection that I drew it. It took me a few additional minutes to locate my signature. The moniker of Qaptain Qwerty hadn't been invented back in 1993, or at least it wasn't used for this particular picture. I think I drew it based on some greeting card or similar source. Likewise, many pictures in the magazine were "borrowed" from other source, usually straight classic cut-and-paste.

So the work was tedious but we had the manpower, or woman-power, in some cases. It's amazing how much could be accomplished when ones didn't have family responsibilities - not that family responsibility is a bad thing! We would stay at H's office late at night, I think one time even overnight, to help ourselves to his office's equipments such as photocopiers, laser printers, and of course computers. From time to time, while rummaging through my worldly possession, I would re-read some of the articles in Tuổi Trẻ and get a smile out of them.

16 November 2006


This past weekend I visited an old friend, H, back in my VAYO days. VAYO stands for Vietnamese-American Youth Organization. Surely we are no longer youths, both "old" men with wife and children. Seriously, the youth in VAYO refers to the people for which the group was founded, not its founders.

It is amazing how time flies. Not too long ago I drove out to South Brunswick to visit H and his wife because they just had a son. This past weekend's visit the son was already three years old, running all over the house! Every time I visited H, I want to move out of New York City, to some place bigger. He has a front yard, a backyard big enough to house a trampoline, guest bedroom, the kids can play on the street, etc. That's H's daughters and son having fun on the trampoline. The older daughter, in pink, is really good at it and can even do forward flip.

I knew H from my college days. I don't remember the exact circumstance, but I do recall he had a limp at the time, probably from some recent accident. I was a bona fide Cooper Union engineering student while he was a in a dual-degree from New York University. Yes, when he graduated, he had a degree from NYU and another, Electrical Engineering, I think, from CU. And I thought Cooper was difficult enough.

H and some friends of his founded VAYO to provide a place for Vietnamese-American kids to hang out, instead of getting into troubles with the law or worse. It was the 1990s with Born To Kill gang giving Vietnamese a bad reputation. I am not sure if Vietnamese gangs still exist today, probably just not as violent as back then. Some things just never go away.

My involvement with VAYO started with its Vietnamese school in the Bronx. I was living in Long Island City and a VAYO member, DD, lived in nearby Astoria. Almost every Saturday he would drive me to St. Nicholas of Tolentine church at University Avenue and Fordham Road in the Bronx. The church provided the space for free or for a nominal contribution. The primary teacher for VAYO was Tr, who lived not far from the church. Together, we taught kids of various ages the Vietnamese language. I only learned Vietnamese up to the fifth grade so I stuck with teaching the little kids the basic stuff. My drawing skill came in handy at times to keep the kids entertained. Some kids were with the program for many years and became teenagers capable of reading and writing Vietnamese. Sadly, when we tried to raise money for VAYO by asking for donation, most parents stopped sending their kids to the Vietnamese school. With almost zero attendance, the VAYO school was closed. Fortunately, I heard from H this past weekend that Tr still teaches Vietnamese at St. Nicholas for some other school programs run by the church. Good for him!

14 November 2006

The Human Touch

How else would you refer to masseurs? How about, "People who knead people" ? Need and knead, capiche?

I work a lot with computers and think I know a lot about them. I frequently use web-based self-service instead of calling some toll-free number and wander through voice mazes to reach a human being. It's all well and good as long as I get the info I need. Yesterday I need to look up info about my company's medical benefits. The web site was simply an amazing web! In the past, we used to get a packet of pamphlets and booklets about the various choices of medical plans to choose from. Nowadays, the info is available online only, but I searched and searched but there was no such thing. I knew the enrollment period was over for me but at least let me know what are the choices that I miss. A call to the benefits center, with a not-too-long wait, and I learned that I was among the first wave of employees to get to select/change benefit plans. Even though the enrollment period ends for everybody on Friday the 17th, on the web, probably based on my login, I couldn't even see the choices of medical plans. Sure I knew that there were United HealthCare, Aetna, maybe some other, and the Oxford HMO, but there was no way for me to see what each of those plans offer - the web site was designed to ensure that to be the case. What a pain! I still can make changes, but it must be done over the phone. I dread poring over the pages and pages of info in medical lingo. Fifteen minutes on the phone with a human being answered all my questions that an hour on the web couldn't. Sometimes there's just no substitute for consulting with a knowledgeable person. In such cases, I know I am among the people who need people.

12 November 2006

Veterans Day 2006

Almost every year the media laments the low turnout of spectators at Veterans Day Parade. Well, at least for this year, they cannot blame me for not being there. My brother-in-law completed his term with the Navy and is in the Navy Reserve as well as some local veteran's group in Chinatown. The group had its own parade along Mott Street in Chinatown yesterday, with colors guards, service guards, marching band, family members, and American Legion Auxiliary (women's group) at the end. I was hoping they would join the big parade on Fifth Avenue, but this would have to do. The timing was perfect, as I had the day off and went to pick up my Kid from Chinese school only a few blocks from the parade route. Next year, I'll keep better track of any re-enactments of the Battle of Brooklyn to take my son there. He likes soldiers and such and it would be good place to teach him a little bit of American history.

09 November 2006

P.M. B.S. ?

At my job, we are required to take x hours of training classes per year. Much as I love the few days out of the office on training, the past few years I've been really busy with all kinds of project works. Only recently that things cool down and I was able to sign up for some courses. I figured since I devote most of my time to project work, I should take a course on project management and see from the project manager's point-of-view.

This week I spent three days in the course called Project Management Fundamentals for I.T. Professionals. While the instructor was quite fun to be with and was knowledgeable on the subject, the course itself was so dry. It was mostly about learning a new lingo, the words and phrases that take on different meanings when applied to the Project Management world. For someone who loves words and their meanings, it was a pain to re-learn many of the words as understood in Project Management. Example: agile means able to move quickly and easily and its noun as agility, as in "He multitasks with the agility of a monkey on branches." In the P.M. world, agile refers to a type of project in which the team is well-formed, everyone knows everyone else, all members are on the same technical skill, minimal amount of documentation is needed. Duh. Then there are also many different phases of the projects or stages of communication that we had to know. When a team is first formed, the members must go through the five stages of Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. There was a short side trip about the stages of various reaction to changes: Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, and Acceptance. Oh, don't forget the five options to conflicts: Forcing, Confronting, Compromising, Avoiding, and Accommodating. I know it's all about options, but it sounds like every problem can be resolved. Oh, yeah, the instructor repeatedly pointed out that multitasking is a no-no. He had us do the following exercise: On a piece of paper, write down the numbers 1 to 26, three numbers at a time, and then also write the English alphabet, A to Z, three letters at a time. Then on a different piece of paper, we wrote the numbers and letters in one shot instead of flipping pages and switching minds. As expected, the time it took to write in "multitasking" mode for some teams was up to 50% longer. Interesting.

The course is a stepping stone toward a certification in Project Management, to become a Project Management Professional. I don't know if my mind will be different in a few months/years, for now I'm glad I'm not managing projects. I do work on a lot of projects but on the execution ends. It's a lot more fun to get into the action and actually doing the work.

07 November 2006

Voter Apathy?

I'm in training in midtown Manhattan this week and theoretically can get home earlier than usual, e.g. 6:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. It's Election Day and last night I mentioned to the Wife that we should go vote, for whatever good it does, if not anything, at least buoy the number of voters turnout. The plan was when I get home we would go vote, eat out, and buy a gift certificate at Babies 'R Us for some colleague of hers. I haven't been in midtown Manhattan for years and couldn't resist the chance to wander around a bit after class dismissal at 4:30. I love walking and feel the best way to know an area is to walk all over. So instead of being home at 5:30 or 6, I got home at 7. Still an hour earlier than my normal 8, no? Not according to the Wife. Whereas we normally eat at 8 or 8:30, tonight she decided we should eat early, instead of dining out. And no voting either, no time for that. Had I known that earlier, I would have gone to vote early in the morning. Not that I closely followed the races. I try to keep better tab of the news by subscribing to 1010 WINS and Yahoo! News, but still I don't feel well-informed to make a decision one way or another. Oh, well, maybe next time...

05 November 2006

26.2 Miles, 74,000+ Feet, 1 Finish Line

It was a beautiful day for the New York City Marathon, now in its 37th year. 26.2 miles, 37,000 pair of feet, but I used 74,000+ feet in the title because some of the runners have only one real leg or some none at all, but they all have the one goal of reaching finish line. For runners/joggers fast or slow, a marathon is the ultimate challenge. The Joy of Victory, the Agony of De Feet. I'm currently in no shape to run the marathon, but twelve years ago I actually finished not one, but two, the 1994 and 1995 races.

Back in those years, the surest way to be in the NYC Marathon was to spend a day in Central Park, some day of the year I cannot remember, waiting in line for an application. After those x thousands of guaranteed runners, the remaining people would have to go through a lottery process. If you don't get picked by the lottery, you go on a waiting list and would be considered when someone cancelled their entries. For the 25th anniversary race, 1994, I was picked via the lottery process. For the training, I got up not too early, definitely not 6 a.m. like I've been doing lately, and jogged to Astoria Park to do laps. I never quite reached the recommended training distance as recommended by the New York Roadrunners Club. I think the longest distance I ever covered during the preparation was ten miles. The toughest part of the race was actually the long wait before the race. I do recall getting up before sunrise to get on the bus outside the New York Public Library's Research Center, for the long ride to Staten Island's Fort Totten (?). The 2006 Marathon's staging area is Fort Wadsworth, but the name sounds very weird to me. Perhaps twelve years ago the fort was called Totten? Anyway, once at the staging area, we had plenty of time to do stretches. There were many people so no number of portable johns would do - instead they had long troughs, similar to those horses drink from, for use as urinals. I think I read somewhere those urinals held the world record for being the longest. One year, it rained the night before the race so the grounds at the fort was mostly muddy. Still, I found some patch that wasn't too wet and took a nap during the wait. There was only so much stretching I could do and I did get up way too early.

Eventually, the time came for the race to start. Slowpokes like me were queued up way behind while pro runners were up in the front. By the time we crossed the Verazano Bridge into Brooklyn's Fourth Avenue, it would be like an hour after the race started. In one race, I needed to relieve myself while crossing the Verazano and just joined the other men right on the bridge. A gust of wind blew our "stuff" all over ourselves!... The run along Fourth Avenue is probably the best part as far as audience was concerned. There were bands playing music, people giving out drinks and food, in addition to the official stands. By the time I got into Queens, the runners have thinned out much. Somewhere on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, some Jewish girls even made fun of me for being so slow. The Pulaski Bridge was known as The Wall, as it was the 13.1-mile marker, where some people simply couldn't go on anymore. From Queens the runners would cross the Queensborough Bridge's southern walkway to get into Manhattan. During my 1995 run, my late father, then a taxi driver, saw me crossing the Queensborough Bridge and we exchanged greetings. The joke of the next few days was that he gave me a lift to the finish line. To make the Bronx happy, because the race was supposed to be a five-borough challenge, after getting into Manhattan we would run uptown to cross the Third Avenue Bridge to get into the Bronx. One year, I got locked in a portable john by some kids. Luckily, other runners heard my banging and opened the door for me. If I hadn't stopped running and started walking before, the second time into Manhattan was definitely the time to walk. The 20-mile mark had been reached, but those last 6.2 miles seemed like forever. Finally, the finish line was in sight but even after we got the medals and blankets, it was another long walk, in the dark, to get out of Central Park. Walking downstairs to the subway station, the pain was excruciating. In five days, I was all good again.

In 1995, I was downsized from my first job out of college and supposedly had more time to prepare for the marathon. I didn't get picked during the first lottery process, but then was selected from the waiting list, so I had to run. Sadly, my time was a bit longer than the first run. Well, there isn't that much of a difference between six hours and 6:32. As long as I finished the race and earn a medal, my goal is reached.

I've been running more regularly, starting from 2K and slowly working up to 2.5K or 3K per run. That translates to a measly 1.5-mile, so I have a long way to go to be in shape for the 26.2 miles of the Marathon, but I'm seriously considering it. I'll join the New York Road Runners Club early next year and participate in the various weekend races, just to keep myself in shape and to be out of the house. I sort of miss working in Manhattan and can use the excuse to walk around the city every now and then. Hopefully this time next year I'll add a third NYC Marathon medal to my collection. Third time's a charm!

02 November 2006

Computing Without Piracy

Because I work with computers, many of the people I know automatically assume they can get "free" software from me. Microsoft Office, Windows XP, Photoshop, etc, they think I have them all. The truth is, ever since becoming a Mac user, I don't have much software, or Windows software to be exact, to "give away" to all these freeloaders. Plus, it's wrong to get software this way. What's more, especially with the Windows world, there are plenty of free substitutes for the popular and popularly-pirated software. As I slowly add software to my Friday PeeCee, I've come up with the following list of totally free and legit programs to have. Some are totally free while others are for non-commercial use only.

  • Google Pack - Google has bundled many of its popular software into this package. I use it solely for Norton Anti-Virus (virus checker) and Ad-Aware SE Personal (spyware remover), although in six months when Norton's free virus updater expires I plan to switch to AVG Anti Virus Free Edition.
  • OpenOffice - Microsoft Excel and Word are not the only spreadsheet and word processor out there. There are many compatible products and even clones, which look and act like MS Word and Excel, and OpenOffice is a good example. For basic number-crunching and writing of term papers, OpenOffice is fine.
  • EditPad Lite - As a power user, the built-in Notepad is too underpowered for my need. Thanks to my colleague CRR, I became aware of EditPad Lite. Line-numbering, recent file list, and tabs are features I use often.
  • CutePDF - While for years users of Mac OS X have had, out of the box, the ability to convert any documents to PDF format, Windoze users still don't have the feature. Buying Adobe Acrobat Pro is overkill if all you want is to be able to save documents in PDF, so the next best thing is to have something like CutePDF printer driver. With the free CutePDF installed, your printer list contains an entry for a virtual printer. Select that instead of a real printer and whatever you tried to print would be saved as a PDF.
  • SuperTux - In the fashion of Super Mario, SuperTux is a side-scrolling game featuring Tux the Penguin. Collect coins, get powerup, stomp on bad guys, dodge falling icicles, etc, all for free.
  • TuxType - Being Qaptain Qwerty, I still think knowing how to type is an important skill to have. TuxType has a small module that allows one to practice typing. The module tells you which finger to use as letters appear on the screen. When you feel ready, try out the game. Fishes fall from the sky and you must move Tux the Penguin by pressing the correct key(s).
  • TuxPaint - Pretty decent painting program for kids.
  • Gimp - Photoshop alternative. As I bought Photoshop Element 2 for my PowerBook, I haven't had a chance to try out Gimp. Maybe I'll play with it more on the Friday PC.
  • IrfanView - Mostly for viewing images of various formats, IrfanView can do some rudimentary image processing, which may be fine for your need.
  • IZArc - Winzip alternative. I don't know if Winzip still allows it, but its trial period is very generous - something like forever. In my firm, we have a licensed version of Winzip, but elsewhere I have seen people who keep using the trial version and never get the real thing. Each time Winzip start, these people would be told that Winzip has been used xxx times, where xxx is some very large number, like 2,143. IZArc is totally free and its main attraction for me is that it can handle the LHA compression format, which most of my Amiga compressed files are in.
  • RealVNC - Lacking some of pcAnywhere's features, RealVNC is otherwise fine as a remote controller. On the Mac, I use Chicken of the VNC (love that name) to control the XP PC.
  • WordWeb - For a wordy person like me, having a dictionary a click away is important. WordWeb fits the bill. It's totally free but should you need even more features, there's WordWeb Pro, which supposedly is a great assistant when you play crossword puzzles.

31 October 2006

No More Candies

Another Halloween has come and gone. Before I had my own Kid, I used to hate Halloween. In high school, Halloween was the time when kids throw eggs and shaving cream at other people or public properties. I am sure they still do. Some people just ruin the fun for everyone. Halloween should be just for the young kids, ten-year-old and younger, to go around asking for candies. I'll stretch it and let the adults dress up. I hate to see the gross masks with fake blood and other disgusting features.

business district of 86This year was my first trick-or-treating with my Kid. Today, I happened to have the day off, but other years I was always working and would come home too late in the day. Along with Kid's cousin Ja and her dad, we went along the Bensonhurstth Street between 25th Avenue and 21st Avenue. In a way, that was a sad fact of living in a big city. Instead of the kids going out on their own to residential houses in the neighborhood, we had to take the safer route and hit the businesses, with the parents trailing the kids. Many kids did come to our doors and we gave out most of the candies set aside for the occasion. We even used some of the treats our own kids collected.

Most of the businesses were nice and had someone at the door or near the entrance doling out candies. Most restaurants gave away mints, probably the same ones they have near the cash register all year long. Chinese takeout places usually gave out fortune cookies, with one place only had a lone worker so he just left a bunch out on the counter for the trick-or-treaters to help themselves to. Deserving special positive recognition is the Italian bakery Angelo's. The nice lady in there gave away cookies with a smile and she even gave them to the chaperones. Citibank was good, too, for hiring a clown to give away twisty balloons and paint faces. The Gap gave stickers instead of candies, which probably went well with the parents who don't want the kids to have too much sweets. A number of businesses put out signs stating that they had no more candies. That was acceptable for those stores that don't sell candies, but for CVS Pharmacy, that was hard to believe. Last but not least, the Do-Not-Do-Business-With-Them Award goes to the local chain haircut store, Supercuts, for giving out business cards instead of anything remotely decent for the kids. The least they could do was put out a No More Candies sign. Lately I've been getting my haircut done at home, so it's not like I can boycott them, but whenever the chance presents itself, I am sure I will let people know about the store's unwise participation in this year's Halloween.

My Kid dressed up as Superman-Batman-Warrior. He had on a Superman cape, with a Superman chest logo supposedly to balance the cape and shoulder pads/speakers. Pressing a button on the left shoulder pad triggers whooshing sound, as if the wearer is flying through the air. Originally, he wanted to be a warrior and used just the cape, a bike helmet, and sword and shield. I even made him a pitiful armor plate using cardboard strips wrapped in aluminum foil. He wore that to school, but when we went out trick-or-treating in the afternoon, he didn't want the armor, and went back to the full Superman kit. He also put on a Batman mask, yet still carried the sword and shield combo. He enjoyed the experience very much, but by the time we got to Commerce Bank, he needed to sit and rest, which was when I snapped this photo.

29 October 2006

All Hands On Deck

I used to volunteer regularly for various organizations. Central Park L.I.V.E., Queens Library, Amiga computer club, etc., but since being married with one Kid, plus longer hours at work and a longer commute, I no longer have time to commit time every week for volunteering work. So when that there was a one-shot volunteering opportunity with ON DEC (Our Neighborhood Digital Education Community), I jumped at the chance. The work was needed over just one weekend, either both days or one day out of the two. The ON DEC program involves a big financial firm donating money for the purchase of Gateway Windoze PCs to give away to students at the target school, with training for the parents to use email (via Yahoo! and MetConnect free ISP). I signed on as an installer and was accompanied by an assistant installer, a teacher at the school. Together we visited the homes of four students, all in the same apartment building. It was an interesting experience, somewhat a glimpse into the lives of people I would otherwise may not know. Two of the families were Hindus and were related. At one of the apartments, there was a small bed in the living room. The arrangement reminded me of my own family shortly after we first came to America. Six people in a two-bedroom apartment, naturally the living room also served as the bedroom for us four kids. To be qualified for the program, the student must have no existing computers in the household, but at one of the family we visited, they already had TWO computers, one heavily modded desktop and a laptop elsewhere - I knew about the laptop because the Linksys router had a long Ethernet cable running off to somewhere else in the apartment. I was supposed to hook up their RJ-11 phone cable to a nearby phone jack, but at that apartment, there was no way to do so. It would be silly to do it, even if it was possible, because they already had broadband Internet access via cable modem. The PeeCee already had a built-in network port, so I sent one of the student's sister out to buy an Ethernet cable and just joined the new PeeCee to the existing network. In another apartment, the family only used cell phone and had no land line so we couldn't do anything about the Internet setup. Supposedly the mother would order phone service from Sprint (!). She probably has Sprint as her cell phone provider so she thought it would provide land line service, too. In that same apartment, the computer at first wouldn't boot up but beeped incessantly, with no video output. We called our tech guru and were told to re-seat the memory module. I asked for a screw driver to open the CPU case, but the family didn't even have that. My partner went next door to borrow one, but by the time she came back I managed to use a quarter coin to open the two large screws. I moved the memory module to another slot and at the next bootup, all was well.

I enjoyed the experience. I usually volunteer for works that involve learning something new, but in this case, my computer expertise was helpful, so I made an exception for that. It was good to be welcomed into the students' homes, some more welcoming than others. With almost everything being done on computers, hopefully these student will make the most of the free computers to keep up with technology.

27 October 2006

Free Compost

If you live in Brooklyn, NY and have a garden, you should know about the City's compost giveaway. The first week of the event, Oct 23 through Oct 28, is almost over, but there is a second week to it - Oct 30 through Nov 4. The location is the Spring Creek Composting Site, near the intersection of Fountain Avenues and Flatlands Avenue, just a bit off the Belt Parkway's Erskine Street exit. Bring your own bags or buckets and load up as much as you can carry! The City also sells empty sacks, two for a dollar. On the way out, you can also pick up a packet of five free paper leaf bag. On November 11 and 25, the City will have leaf collections for composting. Since plastic doesn't decompose with the leaves but paper does, we are asked to put the leaves in paper bags, so those five free bags will come in handy. For more detailed info, visit http://www.nyc.gov/nycwasteless

I myself just went to the Compost Center yesterday. The location is easy to find and maybe because it was a weekday, the line to get inside was short. I went primarily for the free leaf bags, but I also loaded up one black trash bag of compost. The compost will be mostly used by my mother and the small garden we have in the backyard, as well as mother's many container gardens.

Gardening is not my thing. I once owned a free plot from a local Queens recycling group. I helped the group with administrative tasks so when they opened up a garden, I got a plot to raise something. I don't recall whether I actually planted anything there or not, but my plot never thickened, or at least nothing fruitful came out of it. The only thing I can grow or maintain are the indoor plant philodendrons. Four jobs or more than ten years ago, a then colleague, D.Y., just bought a house and found a pot of philodendrons in her backyard. It didn't belong there and wasn't doing well. She brought it into the office for me to take care of. I watered it regularly and eventually it survived. I snipped a piece and took the piece home and it thrived even more, climbing from one side of the window to the other. When I was downsized from that job, I took the pot with me, to almost every job afterward. At each job, I would cut a piece and give it away to anyone who wants one - cleaning ladies, manager-in-training, and colleagues. When I gave the pieces away, I even planted the new pieces in their own pots and soil. At my current job, my philo has three or four descendants elsewhere in the company.

23 October 2006

Key Food - Good; Sun Hing - Good For Nothing

Yesterday I bought snacks and drinks for my Kid and his cousins, from the Key Food Supermarket at 18th Avenue and Bath Avenue. The items were a bag of potato chips, a bag of Cheetoh, a Snapple glass bottle, an orange juice plastic bottle, and two small bottles of Gatorade lemon lime, 355-mL in size. The total came out to about $14 and I was a bit surprised, but with four kids howling to get their snacks and drinks, I paid for the stuff, took the receipt, and headed back to the car. At night, I looked over the receipt and lo and behold, I was charged over four dollars for each of the 355-mL Gatorade! If I bought them at Yankee Stadium, then it would be the norm, but I didn't, so there must be a mistake somewhere. Today, I went back to the store and told the manager about the situation. If he believed me and gave me back the extra amount, that's swell; if not, at least he knows of the problem and can fix it should he chooses to. It turned out he believed me and pointed out that even though they had laser scanner, the computer does not know whether one bottle or one 6-pack was sold. The cashier was supposed to know better to tell the computer it was one bottle, instead, she charged me for six. In the end, I got my $6+ back and an apology from the manager. I walked out of the store feeling good and thought better of the place.

My Mother's experience with the big Chinese market near us, Sun Hing, is a different story altogether. More than a month ago, she bought some grocery and was going to pay for it with food stamps. She knew she had $20.xx in the account but many times when the cashier swiped the card, it kept getting rejected for insufficient fund. She then paid with cash but still was convinced that she had enough money in her account. We contacted the food stamps office to get a copy of the statement and sure enough an amount of $20.xx was deducted from her account that same day. Chances are one of the first swipes did go through and ate up all the money so subsequent swipes failed. When Mother went back to Sun Hing, the manager said he didn't handle such matters, that his bank would handle it. It was also in the way he said it. He just cut her off and went about his business. Some manager, he probably just wants to take our money and don't care about anything else, especially about giving back. Coincidentally, his wife was the very cashier who did the swiping for Mother. She even denied being the one who did it and claimed that she didn't work that day. I wonder what their security camera would show on that day. So we now have taken matters to the food stamps office and hopefully they would resolve it in our favor. Let's also hope food stamp office will watch more closely unfriendly businesses like Sun Hing.

Sun Hing seems to be the typical Asian business that take advantages of bankruptcy laws. Not long ago, it was Big Wong, in Chinese, then changed its name to Viet-Sino. All along, the English name was still T&H. Then one day it suddenly closed and when it re-opened some weeks later, the inside changed somewhat, but the store was then known as Sun Hing, both in English and Chinese. The managers are still the same people throughout all the changes. I suspect they just changed some paperwork and maybe declared the previous store bankrupt, wrote off some bogus losses, and opened a new store. I've heard of such scams made by Korean grocers and my cousin-in-law out in Arizona said he knows Vietnamese people involved in such illegal activities. Maybe because I'm Asian I pay more attention to Asian matters, and sadly most of what I see are dishonorable. Those same unscrupulous people, if caught, would hide behind the weak excuse that they were victims of racial discrimination. It's people like them who bring disrespect and shame to the entire ethnic group.