31 December 2008

Resolutions 2009

I just reviewed the resolutions I made for 2008 and not surprisingly, I did not stick to any of them. I might have had a short period when I actually went to bed at 11 PM and got up 6 AM the next day to go jogging, but alas it did not last that long. I did not get any handier around the house. I drew a whopping handful number of cartoons, not the twelve I should have done for the months of the year. And so on. What can I say, resolutions, rules, promises... they all are made to be broken. But what the hey, I'll make another list for 2009, a shorter list, with preferences for things I want to do and things that I need to do.

  1. Health is a popular topic for resolutions, so here again I would like to make it the top of the list. Yes, I will try again to have better sleep hours. On those mornings that I stayed up til 1 AM the previous nights, I felt really crappy. Why I kept doing it to myself I don't know. Early to bed, early to rise, let's hope it will come true in 2009.
  2. I hate my job so much more lately I really need to change career. Again working with the slippery concept that I can succeed in the cartooning world, I will again try to put more effort into it. It is no longer true that I don't have any ideas of what to draw. I actually have two right now, one with the punchline "I want to make my numbers look good", as in when managers make their underlings do ridiculous things just to arrive at some numbers on their dang reports, regardless how wasteful of the underlings' talents. The other has the punchline, "If you do not stick your head in, you won't get whacked." Like those times when you are supposed to be off from work. As long as you don't appear on Instant Messaging, nobody will ping you. Whatever, here's hoping for twelve cartoons for January through December of 2009.
  3. Learn a new technical skill. My job has gotten so tiresome there is no time to learn anything new. It always is sink-or-swim. Work just piles on and on and mistakes will be made. Or poor maintenance will occur. Working in parallel with my cartooning path, I want to pick up some new technical know-how. There are many free computer-based training courses on the corporate network. I will just need to invest some of my own time to take them. Maybe some of those courses will even help me earn a few points in Yahoo!Answers.
  4. Be more organized in meatspace. Spend at least a day each month de-cluttering my room. My house does not get any bigger with time, so the stuff in the house must be cleaned up more frequently. There is only so much room for so much stuff.
That is all. Instead of ten things that I cannot fulfill, for 2009 I am less ambitious and have just four things to not fulfill. What are your resolutions?

29 December 2008


Have you noticed the new addition to my sidebar? Yup, I'm a Yahoo!Answers junkie. I cannot recall how I got into it as I haven't used any Yahoo! service for a while. I didn't touch my Yahoo!Mail for a while until I got Mail for the iPod touch, and even then I rarely bother to check it. Yahoo!Groups is somewhat clumsy compared to the more robust groups in Facebook. My GeoCities web site, if it still exists, is probably under a ton of cobweb, but I don't care about it while I have Blogger. But when it comes to Yahoo!Answers, the service has no competitor, AFAIK. I would much prefer something that I can login with my Google account, but Google's equivalent of Yahoo!Answers died some time ago.

For those who don't know, with Yahoo!Answers, people can post questions for others to answer. Just for joining you get 100 points. Asking questions costs you 5 points, while answering one earns you 2. Chances are your answer isn't the only one provided but if it is selected as Best Answer, you get an extra 10 points. Just logging in for the day gets you a measly one point.

Like all things that is widely available to the public, inevitably there are stupid "answers". While some people like to say there is no stupid questions, there certainly are stupid answers in Yahoo!Answers. Like when someone "answers" a question by saying idk, short for "I don't know". If you don't know, just don't "answer", doh! I guess those "answerers" are just out to "earn" their 2 points. Then there were those who don't answers the questions but plays interrogator or psychiatrist, asking the asker why he/she would want to do that...

What was even more irksome was that as you need to have a Level 2 account, i.e. have 250 points, to be able to vote on answers. Only recently did I get to Level 2 - I play nice and don't make up fake or stupid answers just to climb the chart. I sure gave those stupid answers some good whacking!

There is so much knowledge out there and mine seems to be limited to Computer & Internet, occasionally in Words & Wordplay. Occasionally I would go outside of my comfort zone and research a bit on the topic. It's a good way to learn new things.

21 December 2008

Fruits from the Tree

What happens if you throw a party and no one came? That's how I feel with regards to the extended family tree I've been building. I don't know how some people decided to do it, but there are family trees out there on the web with personal info like birth dates and names for the world to see.

After about a month seriously collecting info and photos, I now have over 400 people in the tree. It is time to pick the fruits off the family tree, which in this case means printing out some charts. Not everyone is completely accounted for, as I have people I only know exists/existed and a factoid or two about them but nothing else, not even a name. So I have cousins simply referred to as Twin #1 and Twin #2, who are children of a certain aunt on the father's side, plus one of the twin, don't know which one, died of drowning. Still, the tree is very usable and I would love to post it up some web site so people I know can easily access the info, but that is not possible. Too much information for all the cyber bad guys out there.

The most I could do was to print out certain branches of the tree and either showed them in person or send the chart via conventional mail. So far I printed one for my in-laws - just the Wife's paternal grandfather plus his descendants. It was not so bad assembling nine pages of paper. Actually, I made it a game for some nieces to put together and she even taped the pages for me. The bigger challenge was when I printed for my far, far away sister all her relatives. On my mother's side, one uncle had 13 children and another has 10. On my father's side, the grandfather had two wives, one wife produced seven children while the other gave birth to three. I know, that uncle on the mother side beat my paternal grandpa even with just one wife. Imagine how many he could have sired if he had two wives!

If the relatives were limited to just the immediate uncles, aunts, etc. the chart would not be so bad. However, the chart also included people who were related to me going back a few generations. On my mother's side, in Bà Lan, we are close, in terms of relationship, to a family who is related to us via my grandpa. Not even blood brothers, more like cousins. The chart came out to 54 pages long, 6 pages wide by 9 pages high, and was really unwieldy to put together. Fortunately, Reunion 9 wisely supports printing of page numbers. The relationship lines also helped a lot.

Next I plan to send a simpler chart to an uncle living in Queens, New York. He helped me get started with father's side so it's time to show him some appreciation. I didn't even get to the cousin level on my father side, as I was not close to them, but hopefully this uncle in Queens can add provide more info.

13 December 2008

A Blast From The Past

Years before I took on the QaptainQwerty moniker, I was known in some small circle as Chesse. Chesse came from the English name Jesse, which I at time thought of using as my English name, and the game chess, which I like to play. It is pronounced like Chess-see, but naturally many people spelled it as cheese. Me no mouse!

In my college years, as Chesse I drew a bunch of op-ed cartoons for the school newspaper on whatever topic on my mind at the moment. I never got any feedback if people understood them but as long as the newspaper kept publishing them I kept drawing them every month.

This particular cartoon was about my feeling toward the U.S. education system. At that time I probably just read in some survey how pathetic the typical U.S. student performed against the world in math and science. At the time, the late 80s, multimedia CD-ROMs were all the rage. The 20-MB floppy diskette was also pretty hot, for a while anyway. I never own such a drive and totally forgot to even mention in the Memory Lane entry. The 5.25" floppy diskette was still in limited use even if it was on the way out.

The amazing thing with this cartoon is that I drew it all on the computer, probably a lowly 16-MHz Amiga 3000, using, gasp, the mouse. The Wife got me a stylus and tablet some years ago as a Xmas present but I never got used to it. Yet years earlier I was comfortable enough with the mouse to draw an entire cartoon. It was done in Deluxe Paint, no fancy layers whatsoever like today's Photoshop. Amazing how much one can accomplish given lots of time.

11 December 2008

I Spy A... Ton of Floppies!

You've had the walk down memory lane, how about playing a little HideNSeek game, too?

As both frequent visitors to this site know, I've created ViquaGames HideNSeek games before. Up to now they had been rated very low, if at all, by ViquaGames players. I really don't like to blend objects into the background completely so most of my creation so far are pretty easy to play, not challenging at all. I think the trick to the game genre is to have lots and lots of things in the photo to start with then throw in the hidden objects. The photo for the Memory Lane blog entry makes a perfect backdrop. So far the new puzzle has been received very well. I plan to make more along the same line. The nice thing is because I use the same puzzle as a cover for my Qaptain Qwerty 2009 Qalendar, I couldn't cover any objects with another.

Most likely I'll make more HideNSeek puzzles using my Son's massive toy collection. There will be puzzles titled "How Happy Was Your Meal?", "Wheally Hot Wheels," and "Lights! Camera! Action Figures!" It will be fun!

10 December 2008

Memory Lane

Aaaah, removable media. Is it not the ultimate storage device? Fill up one unit, pop it out and pop a new unit into the drive, then keep collecting more stuff. When I started computing in the early 1980s, 5.25" floppy diskettes, like that black one on the foreground, were still in use. They may have been 360K in size, but with some mutilation can go up to 720K. High density version was available, too, with a whopping size of 1.2 MB! Still the HD 5.25" couldn't fight off the rising star of the time, the 3.5" diskette, with a top size of 1.4 MB. Soon 1.4 MB was not enough and we saw the arrival of the Iomega Bernoulli and SyQuest cartridges. One regret I have about cleaning up my junk collection is a 10-MB Bernoulli cartridge. It was the size of a college notebook! I threw it out when I moved from one house to another years ago. I cannot remember the size of the Bernoulli that was battling with the SyQuest. Knowing it that competing products usually outdo their competitor just slightly, I am sure it was probably somewhere less than 88 MB. I know for a fact Bernoulli came out with a 150-MB 3.5" cartridge at one point in time.

Almost out of nowhere, Iomega upped the ante with the Zip drive, at 100 MB and in the 3.5" form factor. It was wildly successful and rang the death knell for SyQuest. In the picture, laying atop a SyQuest 88 case and in front of the Jaz cartridge is a 135-MB 3.5" SyQuest cartridge. It's a case of being late to the market. Iomega even has the 1-GB Jaz, later upgraded to 2 GB. For my Wall Street PowerBook, I got an Imation SuperDisk with capacity of 120 MB. Remember what I said about edging out the competition just a little? 120 MB, just 20 MB over the popular Zip 100. The SuperDisk drive could also read 3.5" floppy disk, but again Imation was late to the booming removable hard drive scene and joined other companies as losers to Iomega.

The problem with removable hard drive is that you need the drives to use them. You need some other physical device that has to be hooked up to the computer(s) in order to use the cartridges/disc/disk. I used to have to carry an Iomega USB drive back and forth between the office and home. Some time I would remember to bring everything, other times I would forget the power cable for the drive, or the USB cable for the device. Too much hassle!

Nowadays, the de facto removable media is the flash drive. Some are shown in the picture: the blue Fuji 128 MB thumb drive in the upper right corner; the white Kingston 2-GB drive on the left (on top of the Zip 250), and some black x-MB drive that someone gave my wife a bunch of songs on. Yup, the price has come down so much, people treat these things as disposable. I probably paid $50 for the 128-MB thumb drive way back when. These days you can buy a spindle of blank DVDs and get a 512-MB flash drive for free!

Also included in the photos, all atop the 3M box, are a bunch of memory cards. From my older Kodak camera we have the 128-MB SanDisk CompactFlash. Lying in its white plastic case is the 2-GB SD card for my newer Kodak camera. Last but not least, is the tiny 2-GB Kingston microSD card for my son's Nintendo DS.

Money probably cannot buy you happiness, but it sure can get you lots of removable storage.

09 December 2008

Y Obama? I am a boy!

In case you are wondering, "What the hey was that about?", as you looked over the Am A Boy cartoon, here is the answer. Nothing much, really, the sole purpose of the cartoon is to support the palindrome, which is also the punch line in the joke. The phrase "Y Obama? I am a boy!" spells the same from left to right and right to left, with punctuations and spaces removed, of course. In this age of text-messaging and instant messaging, we all know that y can be interpreted as why, yes? That's all, just to whip out a palindrome, no political statement, really. Palindromes are like that, they are usually contrived and need the situation built around them.

I did get a little inspiration from an article in The Onion (that good satirical weekly magazine!) some time ago about Bill Clinton looking forward to being First Husband. That was when Hilary Clinton was competing with Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. The article featured a doctored picture of Bill Clinton eying himself in the mirror, trying to decide if the dress would look good on him. With all the news about how Mr. Bill sometimes like to steal the spotlight from his now more famous wife, it can be easy to see that he may some day even dresses up as her to steal power from her. Of course, in the end, Obama got the nomination and went on to win the Presidency. Alas, my little palindrome and its companion cartoon would never the light of day. Luckily, Hilary is in the news again, this time as a Secretary of State. So, enjoy the cartoon/palindrome while it is still relevant. I know, the likeness is not very strong, but it has to do for now.

04 December 2008

Genealogy = Hard Work

There are different kinds of genealogy works. One kind involves tracing your root all the way back to the beginning, like what our friend The Lone Gunman did with 23andme etc. You would learn that your ancestors came from certain region of the world, maybe that you are remotely related to some famous/infamous historical figure. I am not into that kind of genealogy work at all. What I am after is to be prepared to answer some kid's question, "How am I related to Person X?"

You would think in this Information Age, researching about your relatives is a piece of cake. But that is not the case when most of your relatives are in Viet Nam. While I am ambitious in that I want to establish a placeholder for every person I know about, all I need for those holders are birth year, death year (if applicable), a name, a Chinese or Vietnamese name, or both, and a face. I take photos often so my iPhoto library is a good place to start. I am also lucky that my mother brought from Viet Nam a few really old photos. I am equipped with the speedy and very portable Fujitsu ScanSnap S300M, so photo positives faze me not. One cousin has a large photo collection with KodakGallery as well as in Facebook, so her side of the family is well-covered. This time around I'm also reaching out to cousins, distant and close, via email, although so far my success rate is zero.

Still, it is hard work to go through all the info I have at my disposal. Unlike my mother with her neatly organized photo albums, most of my photos are in those small albums that the photo shop gave us. At least back when we used to develop films. Nowadays, they are in iPhoto amd most are named like 100_2497.JPG or DCP_2997.JPG, totally useless for iPhoto's Search function. I've been going through the physical photos and scan people in whenever I find someone I need to add to the extended tree. Of course iPhoto's digital takes preferences, but there are some people who were never captured on digital "film", so the ScanSnap has been busy. As I add or go through iPhoto, I also rename the files or add names to the Description field. I also borrowed a few photos from my mother's collection. I even scanned the back of some photos as they contain invaluable info about the people in the photos. I plan to ask my mother lots of questions, about the people in the photos and the relationship. It is a lot of hard work but I also enjoy the detective work very much.