29 May 2006

Memorial Day 2006

Memorial Day in the U.S. is supposed to be a day when we pay respect to the soldiers who gave up their lives for the United States of America. I've been in the U.S. more than half of my life but I don't personally know anyone who have died for the U.S., but I do know about someone who died for his country.

On my father's side, I know of an uncle-in-law who was a policeman for the South Vietnam government. Let us call him Uncle F. He was a very honest man, which probably made him stick out like a sore finger, what with all the corruption in the South Vietnam government. According to my mother, he once worked in the Torture Department, but he was the first to faint when a subject was tortured. Then he was transferred to the Fingerprint Department, but there he was kicked out of as well because he was too slow. He was assigned the task of fingerprinting some dead bodies and had to look away while working on them. One time he was just being honest and helped some wrongfully arrested man. The man, a butcher, offered him all kinds of rewards, including a roasted pig, but he refused them all.

According to my youngest uncle, on the day South Vietnam fell, April 30, 1975, Uncle F was told by his superiors to fight to the death, while they themselves ran away. He did and was chased by the victorious Viet Cong through a few houses. He was cornered in some house's restroom and was then shot dead. With him he had two guns, probably handed down by the cowardly superiors.

Everyone in the family think his death was a waste. That he was just being foolish, too honest. Kho+\ (khờ) is the word they would use, in Vietnamese. To me, he's a hero. To die for one's country, what a sacrifice. Of course with all the hindsight of survivors, with all the knowledge of the corrupted Saigon regime, about all the superiors who abandoned their soldiers, of all the other soldiers who simply threw down their guns, took off their helmets and boots, and abandoned their posts to return home to their families, Uncle F's action seems foolish, but how would one know?

23 May 2006

The Nomads, Then and Now

I've just uploaded another design to my CafePress store. Again, it was re-drawn from an earlier Qwerty cartoon, #92 to be exact. In the old days, some farmers would slash and burn forest to use the land for a few years then move on when the soil is no longer suitable for farming. It's a bad practice for the environment, but that's a different issue for a different cartoon. Nowadays, us techies have to put up with spams clogging our Inbox. So what do some of us do when it's too much headache with one particular email address? You go out and open a new one and be more careful with giving out the new address. We have become the nomads of the digital age.

18 May 2006

3R Living

Some time ago I heard about the 3R Living brick-and-mortar store right here in Brooklyn, New York and had wanted to visit it since then. The store supposedly has this recycling area where people can bring in things to recycle - things that normally would be thrown out with the regular trash. Alkaline batteries, CDs, floppy disks, etc. As webmaster for my recycling group, I know from our own referral page that there are services out there that accept such materials for recycling, but either you have to mail them to the places or pay for the service somehow. Once or twice I dropped off at Ikea in Elizabeth, NJ a bunch of blown flourescent and incandescent light bulbs plus loads of used alkaline batteries. Usually the only reason we go there is to go to the nearby shopping mall, Jersey Garden, but that mall gave me a nasty headache last time I went there - maybe it's the stale indoor air.

Today I finally made the trip to 3R Living's Brooklyn store. It's a short walk off the Union Street Station of the M or R train. It was my day off and I have this ambitious plan of taking my son to a different playground every week. This past Sunday I happened to drive by the 3R Living store and also noticed a playground not too far from it. With gasoline so high and parking probably not too easy around the store's area, I decided to take my son there by subway - a new playground to visit for the little one and a resting place for my collection of used batteries. Out of the subway station, we walked uphill, from Fourth Avenue to Fifth Avenue, then headed east toward President Street etc. 3R Living is at 276L, Fifth Avenue between Garfield and First Streets. The store is small, but has a back room for more stuff - it was helpful that there was a sign telling us so, but the people there seemed friendly enough, they probably would have told us about it if we looked lost. I checked out the web site for 3R Living before and really didn't see anything I would need, but I figured maybe I'll buy a pack of recycled paper or some toys for my son. J picked a kit to make chewing gum. There was one for making gummie worms, too. I dropped off my bag of batteries, paid the $12+ for the chewing gum kit, and asked the cashier, maybe the store owner, for permission to take a picture of the recycling area. What a beautiful sight - the crayon collection is on top, batteries below, and GreenDisk's Techotrash Can on the left. Almost out of the picture is some collection box for cell phones and such. I didn't notice the Technotrash Can until I imported this photo from my digital camera into the laptop. I already know about GreenDisk's service, but for an individual, it takes a lot more commitment to part with the money to properly dispose of CDs, floppies, etc. Or even for a small business. Big companies probably can do it for the publicity or tax break. You can tell that I'm a pessimist. But here's a great service 3R Living is doing for the community, faraway or nearby. I will definitely save up my AOL CDs and such to bring them along on my next visit to 3R Living. There are only so many coasters I can make out of them junk CDs or CDs with errors while I tried to burn copies of other CDs. On my next visit, I plan to get the gummie worms kit, although the chewing gum kit didn't work out that well. My wife helped my son make it and didn't use all the confectioner's sugar so the gum is somewhat spicy. The flavors included were tutti-fruity and peppermint. She claimed the sugar was only to be used as a layer between the melted chicle base and the surface from which the dough-like materieal was kneaded, but I would think adding all the sugar gives the gum a better taste. But then again, I never cooked anything in my life, so what do I know?

Please bring stuff to 3R Living to recycle and buy a thing or two from the store. If you are nowhere near the store physically, or for more info, visit http://www.3rliving.com , which is also behind the title of this blog entry. For me, now I'll just have to use Google Map to find another playground near 3R Living.

16 May 2006

Splog or ASCII Art

Further down the road of not provoking management, this "cartoon" is just a nonsensical, artsy type. I have been interested in doing some kind of ASCII art, i.e. "pictures" made up from letters or characters, not drawn in conventional digital way. I also want to bring attention to splogs, or spam blogs, which are fake blogs that invade blogosphere to ruin the fun for everyone. In this case, my "pictures" are simply the five letters that spell out "splog".

I made the ASCII art in NeoOffice, the open source contender to Microsoft Office's throne. For the text, I started by copying from my own blog then use NeoOffice's overwrite feature to add white spaces to the text to create the letters. Then to make the text appears splog-like, I randomly added advertisements words and phrases that are often associated to spams, splogs, or other undesirable facets of the Internet. I also threw in phrases to praise myself or mention The Down Side Of Computing. To make the pictures, I saved the NeoOffice document to PDF then read the PDF into Photoshop. Page by page, I cropped the picture, added a white layer, then flatten the images. Lastly, I set contrast to 50% to make the black text jumps out of the page more.

Using just Blogger's edit mode wasn't enough. It was really difficult to arrange the pictures with the text. I am no expert with coding HTML tables, so I started a new table in Nvu then pasted the code into Blogger's Edit HTML page. In the end, I settled for a table of one row and five columns. The pictures run off the page so please pan over to the right to see the pictures together.

07 May 2006

Tro^\ng ca^y na\o, a(n ca^y na^/y

You reap what you sow, that's the English equivalent of the Vietnamese (in VISCII format) I put in the title of this blog entry. My wife had a performance with her instructor (Changyuan Wang) and classmates at Lincoln Center yesterday. Many people in her family came and my son and I were among the crowd. It turned out J wasn't ready for the serious environment of the concert hall. At first he pretended to be a conductor, using a pencil as the conductor's wand. Cute and harmless, as he was not making any noises. But then he got bored and wanted a snack. I just convinced him that no eating was allowed in the concert hall, when a niece of my wife started eating some snacks. Of course J renewed his whining and I finally gave him a snack after we went outside. The various items in our backpack would rustle and interfere with the show, I was sure. Back with the show not too long, J began playing with a Happy Meal toy that made noises - not loud noises, just one simple sound as the toy lion from the movie The Wild crouches and leaps, but I was sure it would not be long before someone near us would complain. My late father used to teach me and my siblings to be aware of ourselves and do not wait for others to tell us that we are bothering them. So I took J outside for the last time, as we stayed out for the rest of the show. I reprimanded him and he cried. I thought that just because during the hours before the show, we had ice cream, hotdogs, played in Central Park, went to the movie theater's lobby to play on Reactrix screen, etc. that he should behave himself in the concert hall. Who was I kidding? There's no negotiation with five-year-old kids. They just do what they want.

I do recall that when I was a kid, I was like C too. Too impatient for movies, which I thought the main event of was the snack. When snacks were all gone, it was time to leave. I remember making my mother miss the later half of The Chinese Connection, starring Bruce Lee. And some basketball game with my eldest sister. There were probably more. These are the stories that I do remember, not those others accused, uh told, me about without me having any memories of. So I wasn't a good kid and now my son gave me what I deserve.

04 May 2006

New Design Uploaded To CafePress

I've just uploaded a new design to my store at CafePress. Roll Call is all fine and good as my colleagues are concerned, but in order to reach a wider audience I have to use designs that appeal to more than just the people in my office.

This cartoon is a redraw of Qaptain Qwerty cartoon #4. To be exact, it's frame #1 of cartoon #4. To see cartoon #4, and other cartoons, visit homepage.mac.com/linusly/qwerty .

We all hate spams in our email inbox, what possible good is there for spam's existence? Here I am trying to find some humor in spam. I am a history buff and did some homework in preparing this piece.

Legend has it that in 490 B.C., the Greek army defeated the Persian army at the Battle of Marathon. It was supposedly a major battle. Some chap ran all the way from Marathon, all 26 miles or so, to Athens to announce the good news. He then collapsed and died. Imagine how ridiculous it sounds if the important message he delivered had some Viagra ad riding on it.

03 May 2006

Napkin Quotes

I was doing some housekeeping work on my Qwerty qartoons on Flickr when I happened to click on a link that took me to http://www.flickr.com/photos/digioreo/sets/1494002/with/109228152/
Is it a touching story or what?

01 May 2006

Qwerty Merchandise Ordered

I've placed order for a few items from my own store at CafePress.com. It's a necessary first step. A few people in the office are interested in buying and it helps if they can get their hands on the merchandise. I may give out a few things just to get things started, but if anyone insists on paying, I won't refuse the money either. I need all the help to get things started. Let's see how far this thing will go. Who knows, maybe my firm will crack down on it - I'm sure there's a regulation somewhere that prohibits employees from making money off of their job, other than their salaries, there is. With our future so bleak, maybe it doesn't matter. I keep mentioning Tampa and Columbus as cities where jobs are being diverted to, but in reality the list also includes Phoeniz (Arizona), Dallas (Texas), and some place in Delaware.

In other less depressing news, my DirecTV saga has finally come to an acceptable conclusion. On Saturday, they sent yet another technician to fix the problem of one of the receiver not getting any signals. This guy came prepared with a ladder to get to my roof, without bothering my neighbor, and adeptly got to the dish and tightened the loose cable. All in all, it took all but fifteen minutes. Now, why couldn't they do that in the first place? I am still angry at the whole fiasco and will try asking for some kind of credits for all the troubles I experienced.