23 February 2007

Knock Knock

My son J recently became interested in telling knock-knock jokes. He might have been exposed to this joke genre from one of those tiny joke books that sometimes come with some kids' meal - I think Wendy's had them for a week a long time ago. What's interesting is J get s the concept of the joke, even if he probably doesn't know what a punch line is. He knows that you always start by saying "Knock knock" then the other party would say "Who's there?" He would next say a word to which the other person repeats the word, attaches "who" to it, and inflect the tone to make a question. J would then throw out the punch line. For example:

J: Knock knock
Other Kid: Who's there?
J: Anita
OK: Anita who?
J: Anita go to the bathroom bad, hurry up and open the door.

Most of J's cousins, a year or more older than him, don't grasp the concept and would make up nonsensical punch lines, much to J's frustration.

I try to help J along with his new-founded interest. I'm much of a punster myself so I am very happy to see J being interested in the English language from this fun-filled angle. Sometimes I have to teach J new phrases so he can better appreciate the pun. Below is just a short table I compiled for J.

Knocker Sounds Like Four Eggsample
Anita I
need to
need to go to the bathroom...
Boohoo Boo
Who?/Boohoo, stop crying!
Doris Door
is locked...
Dozen Doesn't Dozen/Doesn't
anyone want to...?
Jose Oh
Say Can You See?
Orange Aren't Orange/Aren't
you supposed to...?
Owen Open Owen/Open
the door!
Police Please Police/Please
do this or that...
Radio Ready Radio/Ready
or not, here I come!
Sharon Sharing Sharon/Sharing
is caring.

As a bonus, check out an old cartoon from way back in the year 2004. I had much help from my colleagues. Canoe/Can you and Venice/Where is are not hard to figure out, but 'SHowie and So How We is a rather contrived pair, but we all had fun putting the 'toon together.

19 February 2007

SANE Saves The Day

One disadvantage in my computing life, up to now, has been having to resort, for scanning purpose, to Mac OS 9.22, the Classic operating system as compared to the modern Mac OS X (pronounced "ten", not X as in Malcolm X). I have an old USB flatbed scanner, a Umax Astra 1220U, something that I picked up at some show at the Javits Convention Center for $40. It is bulky but still works so, much as I drool over the slim design of some new scanner, I have no excuse to get a new one. That's one problem with trying to be environmental, not to discard perfectly usable devices just to get new ones. I still use a 10-GB iPod (no color, no photo, no video, just sounds) and a Handspring Deluxe PDA (8 MB of RAM, again no color) only because they still work. Unfortunately, OS X has no software driver for the Astra 1200U scanner. Each time I need to scan something in I would have to go into Classic mode and launch Photoshop 6. It's quite a step backward to have to use the OS 9 user interface, but it had to do. Luckily, I was able to download the OS 9 driver from Umax's web site. I have to give them credits for that, as nowadays many web sites want a little something in exchange for even something as simple as drivers. So, as long as I can tolerate OS 9, I can continue making use of my flatbed scanner.

One time I even ventured to check into VueScan software. It's a comprehensive list of drivers for many old scanners and other input devices, including even SCSI scanners! Alas, the list isn't comprehensive enough to include my Astra 1220U, only 1220S. It might work or it might not, at $40 for VueScan, I didn't feel like gambling.

One day I happened to notice that GraphicConverter's Acquire menu option has something about Twain Open Source. GraphicConverter is the granddaddy of image conversion program for the Mac and has since branched out to do other things, such as scanning and basic-to-intermedia image processing. Twain has something to do with scanning, that's all I know. Open Source is the whole movement of free software for the taking, even with source code included should you fancy making the program better. So it sounded like GraphicConverter can scan in using free software driver. A quick search in Google and I arrived at the Mattias Ellert site, http://www.ellert.se/twain-sane/ . SANE stands for Scanner Access Now Easy and is some kind of open source format for making computers see scanners. I quickly downloaded the TWAIN-SANE Interface package but... the disk image wouldn't mount. I downloaded again and yet the disk image still wouldn't mount. No disk image mounted = no installer to run from. Just by luck, I decided to upgrade StuffIt Expander to the latest version, 11. That did it! One rule of thumb with dealing with computers - always make sure you have the latest upgrade for your software. Remember when I couldn't get the WiFi card in my old iMac to work? Since my iMac was right next to the DSL router, I figured there was no need to ever worry about the WiFi software. I disabled checking for updates of WiFi-related software. Then when I gave the iMac to my niece and she needed to use her uncle's wireless access, I got her a WiFi card and try to make it work in my house first. With the outdated software, nothing worked, but a post on a MacAddict forum and I was reminded to make sure all the software is up-to-date. Sure enough, once patched with the latest software update, the iMac was surfing the web wirelessly.

With StuffIt Expander 11 installed, the last hurdle was to make sure all the necessary software packages were downloaded and installed. One annoying thing with open source software is the developers like to make available all the various options. For me, I just want to download one file and run with it, but in this case it was necessary to have three different packages installed. First and foremost, I had to install from the SANE Backends package. Next was the SANE Preference Panes, which is only required if you want to tweak your scanning settings via a graphical user interface. Yup, should you want to you can drop into a Terminal box and do all the tweaking from the command line. I use DOS a lot in the office and like to type my commands, sometimes, but at home I don't want to mess around with Unix commands. Lastly, I had to install the TWAIN-SANE Interface package and everything finally worked. GraphicConverter was able to detect the Astra 1220U right away as soon as I told it to use Twain open source. Now the only times I need Classic is for my son to play some of the older I Spy games...

18 February 2007


I first heard of the Chinese art of mask changing from the movie King of Masks. It seems impossible how anyone can remove a mask that fast. Recently I went to a Chinese New Year performance hosted at the Central Library of the Brooklyn Public Library. One of the performer, a Mr. Wang something, was a mask changer. It was amazing! He may have black strings hidden on his cape's shoulder, but whatever the trick, it was great to witness. Enjoy!

17 February 2007

Art Text

I've been busy with writing a software review for ATPM.org, the online magazine mostly devoted to the Macintosh personal computer. The software is called Art Text. Think of it as somewhat of a Photoshop for text. You can do many things to plain-looking text to spice them up. In the accompanying image, I used Art Text to adjust various parameters of text objects. Each letter is a different picture exported from Art Text. A through D are actually pretty plain, only the typeface and shading were changed. A's shading is green glass, C is metallic, D is orange plastic, and I can't remember what B's material is. For E, I employed the Stroke effect to give the letter an outline. G reverts back to simple shading, but it's such a good one - it's called Egg. Sure looks egg-like, no? With F, I used a yellow gradient and since flower starts with F, I threw in a daisy field in the background. Lastly, for H as in HOT, I used a fire texture. It helps that the font I used for H, papyrus, is somewhat squiggly, like the tongue of a flame.

I've proofread many articles for ATPM and for my first review, I consulted their guidelines. I worried too much about adhering to the guideline, such as what info to include in the review heading and how to rate the software, and as a result had quite a stumbling block to get up and running. I think I finally got something going now, but just to get started was painful. Sometimes it's just easier to jump in and fix things up later.

13 February 2007

Remembering Dad 2007

Six years ago today, my Dad passed away, after about two years of fighting liver cancer. The cancer started out in the colon, but by the time he had surgery to remove the affected tissues, the cancer already spread to his liver. Dad obligingly went to all the chemotherapy sessions. He cooperated at all the various medical exams he had to go through. Mom kept recalling the time when Dad went for some scan whereby he had to drink lots of some medicine fluid provided by the hospital. The drink came with choices of artificial flavors such as banana, strawberry, mango, etc. Of course, they all tasted equally horrible. Dad didn't complain at all and quietly drank it all down. He said that the doctors were trying to help him so he should be a good patient. On the other hand, in the same waiting room, there was an old Korean man accompanied by his son. The old man was making a big fuss of it and kept shouting and yelling at his son. None of us know the Korean language, but Mom could tell from the loudness and gestures that the old man blamed his son for his troubles. Not my Dad. He didn't want to be a burden to his children and just kept at taking the pills, exams, etc. just so he would hopefully get better.

The one thing that I remember about Dad's passing was how quiet and empty the hospice room was. At the time he had been in the hospice for maybe a week already. The end was near, there was nothing more the doctors and nurses could have done other than dulling the pain through injections and such. The family took turn being with him and Mom was with him all the time. But it was getting late so I drove my sister V back to her apartment. As I was heading toward the Grand Army Plaza traffic circle, my cell phone rang. It was Mom and she said simply that "He was gone." We all knew it was just a matter of time, but when the moment come, it was hard to acknowledge it. I calmly made a few right turns and headed away from the traffic circle to return to the hospice. Dad was still there, in the same position he had been for the past few days, as he was under the influence of all the painkillers and was not awake. But the oxygen machine had been turned off and other than Mom's quiet sob, the room was totally quiet. It was the oxygen machine that was making all the hissing noises, but its service was no longer required. Sitting down in some armchair, my tears just flowed freely. "Che^'t la` he^'t", the Vietnamese phrase meaning "Death is the end of it all", but I just couldn't hold the tears back.

One consolation for Dad was my son. It was unfortunate that he couldn't live long enough to walk J to school, to see him become so articulate, still he had about six months of time with his grandson. He was there in the hospital on the same day J came into this world, and Dad was present at the banquet to celebrate J's first month of life. In the photo above, we celebrated the three generations that we briefly had. Dad had a beautiful head of hair but lost it all due to the chemotherapy treatment. I remember shortly after he became bald, I got a bald haircut, too, to show my support for him. I don't think my parents got it, even after I told them so.