25 August 2006

The Not So Mobile Laptop

With much consideration, I'll be going on vacation without my PowerBook laptop. Sure it'll be nice to surf wirelessly in the hotel, for free, but the cons outweighs the pros. Where will the laptop stay when we go sightseeing? Is it safe to leave it in the hotel? My wife said one of the hotels that we will stay at have a safe large enough for a laptop, but what will we do at the other two hotels? In the large group that I'll travel with, there are five kids with age ranging from six (my own beloved "Jason") to nine. The computer and I are like magnets to them. At home, I only work on the computer when my son is either sleeping or on another floor of the house. Add those other kids, I doubt I'll have much unpestered computer time. To top it off, my PowerBook G4's battery is among those to be recalled by Apple Computer. I'm using the machine via AC power, sans battery. The exchange program is really easy, as long as the Apple web site didn't mistakenly identify my battery as not qualified. I kept trying over and over and at last it was accepted. One day during my vacation, the new battery should arrive. When I get back, I'll pop in the new battery and send the bad, fire-prone one back in the same pre-paid envelope.

24 August 2006

O Canada!

In a few days, I'll go on a four-city tour of Canada - Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa, and Toronto. Much driving, so I don't much look forward to it. I read in a survey that some LAN admins actually put down "re-wiring network closet" as one of the things they would like to do on vacation. I am not that extreme, but I sure can use a vacation whereby I just do nothing. No worry about car rental, getting lost in a new city, currency exchange, or the obligatory shopping spree. Only after getting married that I learn that every vacation should include a day of shopping. Sheesh. To me when you go on vacation, you should visit some historic places, natural wonders, or seeing relatives.

I visited Montreal or Quebec years ago to attend a wedding for a friend in the Vietnamese American group. It wasn't much of a vacation. Rushed up there, slept in a packed hotel room because the group wanted to cheat the hotel, then a long wait for the banquet dinner the next day. I think it was just a weekend trip - left NYC Saturday morning and back by Monday morning or something like that. I just visited Toronto a few years ago, not the first time, mind you, but the rules regarding those #@$!* streetcar didn't sink into me. I once ran past the open doors of one of those dang thing. The streetcar had its own street-level track but when it stops, there's no visual signal to know that it's discharging passengers or taking on new ones. If they really don't want cars to run over their passengers, they should swing out a boom or a gate so that us tourists know when not to pass them. My cousin in Toronto, Tho+, told me that it was equivalent to running a red light. I was lucky to get away, but I am afraid my luck may run out on this trip. Perhaps writing about it will reinforce the rule in my head.

20 August 2006

Block Party

I recently read somewhere about what someone from Brooklyn miss about the borough. One of things the writer mentioned was block party. I lived many years in Queens and almost ten years in Brooklyn, but I don't recall Queens not having block parties. I am almost sure I must have had bumped into these things some time in the past. Maybe the writer was wrong about block parties being unique to Brooklyn, but block parties are sure fun to have. In case you don't live in a big city like New York, a block party is a party taking place on the street. The streets in big cities are normally lined with parked cars because not everyone has a garage for their automobiles. A few years ago when I visited some suburb of Toronto, Canada and was told that it was illegal to park on the street overnight, I found it very weird. Likewise, when the people I visited in Toronto came to New York, they gawked at the sight of the street lined with cars. Anyway, as shown in the photo, for the block party, all cars were moved off the block's street. It's an unusual sight indeed. It was the only day so far when I could safely let my son run in the street. There was an inflatable bounce, snow-cones, a water-dunking game, and Mister Softee ice cream. The families with kids probably made the most out of it, but many families just brought out tables and chairs and had nice outdoor meals/snacks. The neighbors also took out balls, balloons, bubble blowers, etc. I first took out a wagon and a handtruck for the kids to play with, then I also brought out my bike and trailer. I have wanted one ever since I first saw some Teletubbies episode showing a father towing his son in a bike trailer. I got one some years back and the trailer has been a hit with my son, nieces, and nephew. For the block party, I gave rides to all the kids who asked for it. At first I stayed on the block, going from one end to the other, but later I even circled around the block to the right. One of the kids was so thrilled with the ride that she loudly declared if I was her dad, she would be so happy. I suspect her father was the typical unenlightened Chinese man who doesn't spend enough time with their kids.

17 August 2006

167 - Dolly et al

As LAN Account Admins, the job we do is easiest when we can clone existing new users to make new users. The feature is built into Windows NT's User Manager to Active Directory's NetIQ DRA (or other AD tools). Alas, we are not supposed to clone users because auditors don't allow it. Requesters are supposed to specify exactly what groups new users are to be added to. Yeah, right. Recently, the firm came up with a web database that list user info such as group membership, so for a while this db was supposed to be the solution to the age-old problem: how the heck would requesters know what to ask for? Requesters normally just put down something like, "Give this new chap whatever this existing chap has." With the new db, requesters would look up the so-called model user and export his group membership to Excel, then attach the xls to the request. End of story. Not so fast, because it was recently decided by the power that be that this wonderful db gives out too much info and access to it had to be clamped down. In the mean time, we are not supposed to clone users. It's a lose-lose situation. Requesters would have to find out, somehow, the groups to request for. Most of the time they would list the folders the new users need access to. We Account Admins in turn have to go to the folders and look up its Access Control List (ACL or "ackel"), sometimes even having to run DumpSec to get the ACLs for all the subfolders below the ones listed. In the end, it's more work for everybody.

BTW, in researching for this cartoon, I learned that the sheep name Dolly was in honor of Dolly Parton. The cell that was used to make Dolly was extracted from some mammary part of the "mother" sheep. Those scientists sure have a sense of humor, eh?

The faces accompanying the note about the cloning work done in Korea, or South Korea to be exact, is that of Dr. Hwang Hoo-Suk. He was a great pioneer on cloning but was later found to have faked his findings.

13 August 2006


My son J has a new friend. "Ann2", pronounced like "ann two", is the closest I can think to match her real Vietnamese name. J is fat so I take him outside to play with the neighborhood kids whenever possible, to cut back the amount of time he spends in front of the TV, munching on snacks, most likely. Of course, in these times of Megan's Law and Amber Alert, I always stay outside with J, usually a few houses away when J "hangs out" with his friends. Ann2 lives a few block down. I haven't seen her mother and I would assume the man she's with is her father. Ann2 isn't allowed to go beyond her front gate. The poor girl always stay inside her front yard and talks to the other kids that way. We would hand her toys and she takes part in whatever game the kids are playing, all the time kept in the yard by some invisible leash. The other day, J drove by Ann2's house on his bike and wanted to play with her. I took his bike home and came back with some of his new toys. First, J and Ann2 played in the front yard's narrow walkway, then later they moved into her house. J just squatted on the tiled floor near the door, I was able to see him all the time. I stayed outside, sat on the frontyard of a vacant house. I could hear J laughed and sang, so I knew he had a good time. Later, he told me Ann2 had some girl toys and also Leggo Thomas the Tank Engine. A neighbor's kid was playing with another kid upstair of where Ann2 lived. This neighbor's daughter normally roams the block at almost any time of the day with no adult supervision. The neighbor even asked me how long I would wait, "two hours?" Eventually, J wanted to go home. When he shouted for me, I was right there to take him home.

It's sad that life in the big city can be so unpleasant. I would love to live someplace where my son can run free in the neighborhood, where the other kids don't have to be tethered to their front yard. I want to have my front door locked only at nights, not having to make sure it's locked every time I run back and forth between my house and some neighbor's home where my kid is playing at. One of these days, I'll move out of New York City.

09 August 2006


In writing the blog entries on Childhood Memories From D Block, I sprinkled Vietnamese in VIQR format. VIQR stands for Vietnamese Quoted-Readable and was developed by the Viet-Std Group. The Vietnamese language uses ABC letters just like English and other roman languages, but it makes much use of diacritical marks to denotes the various sounds and intonations. The grave (`) and acute ( ' ) diacritics may be familiar to those who know French, as in voilà and touché. Spanish-speaking folks may recognize the tilde ( ~ ), as in mañana. In the phrase above, which means Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom, every single word has at least one diacritical mark, except just the last word. To show the a with the grave accent, the e with the acute accent, and the n with the tilde, I had to use numeric entities in the HTML language. For example, à is composed of an ampersand (&), a pound (#), the number 224, and finally a semicolon. That's way too much work if one is to try to type a lot of Vietnamese text. These days many computers may be equipped with some fonts compatible with Vietnamese, but back in the early days when the Internet became widely available for the public, that wasn't the case. VIQR allows the representation of Vietnamese with nothing more than the standard ASCII characters, which is somewhat equivalent to whatever you see on your standard keyboard. No need for special software, Vietnamese fonts, keyboard driver, or input method. In VIQR format, my sample phrase would be

Kho^ng co' gi` quy' ho+n dd0^.c la^.p va` tu+. do

It takes a little time to get used to VIQR, but it's simple to learn and that's the beauty of it. I'm writing this on a PowerBook running Mac OS X Tiger (10.4). It comes with Vietnamese input method so I can easily enter

Không có gì quý hơn độc lập và tự do.

I can see the phrase correctly in Firefox, on my own computer, but there is no guarantee it will not appear gibberish to someone out there on the Internet. Thus VIQR is the way to go when you want to ensure your Vietnamese message reaches the widest possible audience.

06 August 2006

Salute To Ms. Victor

My eldest sister is in town the past few days. Naturally, as it usually happens when old-timers get together, we talked about events and people we knew in the past. While my older brother remembered lots of things, some names drew a blank on me. I wish I still keep a diary - I remember things better when they are written down.

Back in high school, one year, I think it was the junior year (eleventh grade), I had a Ms. Victor for English class. She introduced to the class the idea of a diary. Write down the thought of the day, write about what transpired that day, or whatever you felt worthwhile to remember about on that particular day. I don't know if anyone else in the class gave the idea a second thought, but I do know that shortly afterward I started to keep a diary. This was the early 1980's when home computing first became popular and I wasn't in on the craze, so my diary was all handwritten. I made use of lots of shorthand to keep the writing process flowing at a fast pace. I must have a few years' worth of diary in a ring binder somewhere in the house. I stopped for a while, then when I started to own a PDA, I resumed keeping a diary on it. The PDA helped a lot for my busy life - I could write while commuting on the subway, while waiting for the ladies doing their everlasting shopping, etc. But eventually, even the omnipresence of the PDA didn't help. Other interests cut in and I stopped again. Having the chat with my siblings recently reinforced in me the idea of keeping a diary. I'll try to go back to the PDA for another round.

Having a blog isn't quite the same as having one's own diary, hidden somewhere out of the public eye. With all the cases of identity theft and such on the Internet, who nowadays would want to pour their hearts out for the public to view. With the diary, with the concept that no one but you get to read it, you can use real names or at least something closer to the real thing. For instance, I would never write in a blog entry about my infatuation, in high school, with a Korean girl named Kyung. OK, that wasn't supposed to come out ;--) . I am rather a private person, I usually don't poke into others' private life and expect the same. If someone bursts out emotionally, I can be a good listener, but I won't press for more information, like how a gossipy person may react.

Anyway, here's to Ms. Victor and for more diary entries to come!