31 December 2009

Let's Get Physical - Plan B

I thought with my exercise program my weight would drop below 200 pounds but alas here I am on the last day of the year and I am still right on 200 pounds. It does not help that as of last Saturday the arch on my right foot got really hurt. The left foot got some boil but that's skin level. For the right foot, I think some muscle or tendon, or whatever, is really banged up from all that pounding of the pavement. I also need a new pair of sneakers, as the one I'm using really wore away much at the heels. This Saturday will be exactly one week of rest, I cannot rest any more. Time for Plan B.

With the injured foot, I think I still can pedal. No pounding of the pavement there, so hopefully it should be OK. Of course, bicycling goes against my idea of simplicity in execution. Whereas with jogging I just need to put on some clothes, extra layers for the cold weather, a pair of shoes, perhaps even an iPod, bicycling will be more involved. Getting the bike out the door is one extra step. Helmet is needed - Step #2 right there. Air does leak from time to time, so I may lose some more time pumping the tires.

I actually spent some time this evening getting the bicycle into usable shape. The last time I used it was to attend my son's Field Day, back in May. On the way back, the left pedal fell off and I had to push the thing back. Even since then the bike just stood in the vestibule, taking up space and collecting dust. With Plan B in motion, I managed to put the pedal back on - the task is so much easier with the wrench of the proper width. Next I tried to pump the tires but I think I actually let the air out. The foot- and hand-pumps I have didn't work. Some Mechanical Engineer I am, cannot even get the tires of the bicycle pumped. Maybe the pumps are defective. I'll splurge tomorrow morning and spend the 75¢ at my local gas station. Rain or shine, I will be biking tomorrow!

30 December 2009

New Year Resolutions

Here are two of my New Year Resolutions, without words, can you guess what they are?

20 December 2009

Guess the Famous Movie Scene

Growing up in Viet Nam, even though my family was considered middle-class, I was taught to be frugal and make the most of what we had. I had enough toys to play with but I also made use of found objects. A neighbor gave me some wood blocks, probably leftover pieces from a carpentry task, and I played with them for so long the blocks became smooth. I also had small paper boxes for use as furniture and buildings. I don't recall ever throwing away toys or ignoring them after a few days of playing.

It pains me these days to see my son lose interest in his playthings so quickly. One week it is little green plastic soldiers, the next week it is building paper structures like Capitol Hill and Statue of Liberty. This week it's Thumb Wrestling Federation and its associated papery toys - masks, decals, belts, even a wrestling ring - but who knows what next week's favorite toy be. What to do with all the forgotten toys?

I don't watch too many movies but I try to catch a classic one every now and then. Or at least those that are cultural phenomenon or cult classic. In the photo above, I tried to re-create a famous ending scene. A shirtless man on his hands and knees pounding the floor. A woman sit on an animal that can pass for a horse. (I am not sure if the actual scene has the woman sitting on the "horse" or standing near the animal.) In the background, we have a famous statue somewhat titled to one side, somewhat hidden behind a mountain. Name the movie!

15 December 2009


Besides the idea of recycling, my other reason to like the High Line Park is that it is basically a footbridge. One can walk on the High Line from around 14th Street up to 20th Street totally unobstructed by traffic lights and vehicles. Footbridges are perfect for separating pedestrians and vehicular traffic. You go your way, drivers, and I will just go right over you. The above photograph is from my trip to Hong Kong in 2007. On a small island like Hong Kong, it is necessary to have footbridges otherwise traffic would be even worse. What I love about the Hong Kong footbridges is that they do not just cross over highways and roads, but connects to pedestrian plazas that extend from the buildings. You can walk a long distance on these pedestrian plazas, going from building to building and not having no chance of being run over by a car. The closest I see to these footbridge and ped plaza combo was the Winter Garden in Battery Park City and the former World Trade Center Plaza. The footbridge in that case would be the bridge crossing over the West Side Highway. With the bad traffic condition that New York City has, I think we can use many more footbridges, even pedestrian plazas, too.

13 December 2009

High Line Park

The High Line. An abandoned elevated railway converted to an elevated garden. It is a great example of recycling. When the High Line was first opened in June 2009, I wanted to visit it but the plan simply did not work out. The first time, as I walked west along 14th Street toward the park, I got a call from home about some fuse blow-out. I had to rush home to flip the switch back. The second time I had this idea that if the High Line intersects 14th Street then if I go west along 11th Street I would bump into the structure eventually. Not so. I hit the West Side Highway instead and walking east along some street north of 11th Street, a Bank Street, I believe, which eventually connected to 12th Street, did not do the job either. The sun already went down by the time I made the trip back so even though I was mere blocks from the High Line I could not see it. Unlike the rectangular grids of Midtown Manhattan, the streets of the Greenwich Villages do not necessarily run parallel to each other. Instead, they just turn and twist to fit into the triangular shape of the tip of Manhattan Island. For example, instead of running east-west, 4th Street at one point run north and intersect West 12th Street and others.

Finally, on a windy and cold day, -5 °C to be exact, I made it. Certainly not a day to be high up above the street. Thanks to the cold weather though, there were few people on the High Line. There was a wedding party, not surprisingly. Supposedly a few publicized proposal happened on the Line, so why not get photographed there too in wedding gown and all. I love the large benches but it was too cold to lay down on them. I especially love the supposedly movable benches. They have wheels that run on the remaining exposed tracks. For safety, they were immovable. I can easily envision a couple of friends clowning around these benches and eventually one get his fingers crushed between two benches.

The Line only goes up to 20th Street. There is much more to do, but funding is always in question, especially in a down economy like now. Do go check out the High Line and if you like it please donate money to the cause. It is easiest to go along 14th Street toward the West Side Highway. You can even stop by the Apple Store at 9th Avenue to check your email or update your status in your social network, free of charge.

The "poster" above was made with Posterino. Click on it to see the bigger version. I just threw the photos together randomly. Enjoy!

28 November 2009

Let's Get Physical

It is a beautiful day in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, New York. About 55° F (or 12°C), us New Yorkers don't complain and try to have some outdoor activities. I started the day with a jog along the Belt Parkway totaling about 5K, with Leo Laporte of This Week In Tech pitching $3 toasters via the ear buds. Foot muscles a bit sore, but I feel good and alert since the exercise. I've been exercising regularly since September, mere months ago. Checking back through old Blogger posts, the last time I tried to exercise regularly was in late 2006. Wow, three years ago! The arrangement was similar to what I do now - get up early in the morning, go jogging, come home, take son to school then shower and off to work. That time, however, at some point the weather got too cold and I stopped jogging altogether. Then spring rolled around but I didn't resume, until three years later. This time I have a GoogleDoc spreadsheet to keep track of the progress as well as social networks like Facebook to post news about the endeavor. It really helps to hear encouraging words from my Facebookies (that's my way of referring to Facebook friends.) Besides support from friends, what does it take to keep the momentum going? Here's how I do it, in no particular order.

Keep it simple. I used to have the need to change into "jogging clothes". Sweatpants, sweatshirt, headband, music player, etc. Too much work! As I usually jog in the morning, I wear the same clothes I l slept in - it'll get all sweaty so it cannot be any worse. I do have to change the pants to something that have pockets to hold house keys, some money, and a piece of ID. I do have music to listen to along the way but I use my cell phone for that. Just listening via the phone's speaker saves me the time to find a headphone. I jog in the morning before going to work so there is a very small window of opportunity to get ready and be out of the house. The longer I linger in the house the more likelihood I will change my mind. On weekends, when things are less hectic, I do use an iPod with earbuds.

Keep it short, "it" being the distance between your house and the place you want to around. I usually run around some playground/park and usually go to the one that is closest to my house. The sooner you can start the exercise the better.

Keep track of the effort. I use a GoogleDoc spreadsheet, but anything would do, really. Perhaps you are a pen-and-paper person - then just dedicate a notebook, sort like a diary, to record the date you made the run, the distance covered, perhaps location if you want to exercise at different places for changes of scenery. I am sure there are some iPhone apps to help record the info.

Keep track of the kilograms. If your goal is to shred some weight, in the same tracking document, record your weight periodically. It may be disheartening to learn that you only lose 2 kg after 2 months of exercise, but deal with it. No pain no gain, really.

Keep track of the distance. I would love to run around a sports track but there are none around where I live. The typical track length is 1/4 of a mile or 400m. A pedometer is probably the best way to record your effort, but that means one more thing to remember to bring and goes against my idea of keeping things simple. For me, Google Earth works fine. The software is free from Google and is available for both Mac and Windows.

Keep it up! Getting up at 5:30 AM is a big challenge for me but I managed to pull it off most of the times. There was days when I got pulled back by the warm bed and blanket. It really helps to have friends, physical of Facesical (that's another word I conjured up to mean someone you know not in real life but via Facebook only), to encourage you to continue. Share your daily or bi-daily exploits, perhaps even get others to join in your effort.

Good luck with your exercise program! We have only one body to live in, let's take good care of it!

26 November 2009

Childhood Innocence

A few years ago, probably when my son was in first grade, I took a little time off from the work day to attend a book fair at his school. Scholastic brought in a bunch of books and toys to the school and the classes got to spend some time browsing the merchandise. The fair was a small area of the school so any kids who did not have money would sit to the side while others walk about the fair. My son was among the kids sitting on the side. I deemed him too young to carry money, that was why I showed up at the school to pay for the books. He greeted me but stayed with his classmates to the side. I asked him if he wanted to buy books and he truthfully answered "But I don't have any money" and that was it. I had to point out to him that was why I visited the school at the time of the book fair, that I would pay for the books. Only then did he get up, all excited, and picked some books.

Fast forward to 2009. This past week there was another book fair - it is probably a good fund-raiser as the school seems to have them regularly. Weeks before the event son would ask for money to buy books. When I gave him $10 he even brought along $5 of his own.I was hoping he would buy some chapter books to help maintain his reading skill. He ended up buying some papery castle construction kit for $13. He even boasted that he saved me $2 by not spending the whole $15. Alas, the lost of childhood innocence.

15 November 2009

Heartbreak Hardware - My First Mac, A Picture Gallery

My first Mac, a PowerBook G3 "Wall Street", shown with a CD for size comparison. When closed and facing the user, the Apple logo on the case is right-side up, but when the user opens it up for use, the logo is upside down. Later generations of the PB and MacBooks have the logo upside down when not in use but right-side up when in use.

The many ports available for the Mac back then - audio, ADB, Ethernet, SCSI, VGA, S-Video. I remember buying a $100 specialized printer cable so I could use the PB G3 with an HP LaserJet 4L, which back then only had parallel port.

Side view of the PB G3 opened at about 45 degrees.
The PB G3 opened at past 90 degrees.
The PB G3 can lie flat on its back. I remember laying in bed using the computer in this position. It was not comfortable.
The PB G3 up close. "Macintosh PowerBook G3", with the rainbow Apple logo, too.
Compared to today's unibody Macbook, the touchpad is so tiny. A U.S. penny takes up most of the center of the pad!

Like a first child, the PB G3 was showered with expansions. Shown here are USB and FireWire expansion PCMIA cards plus the VST Superdrive, which can read both its own 120-MB disks and standard floppy disks. Slow, but usable.

For nostalgia purpose, the phone jack is also shown. How did I get anything done back then without broadband access?

The PowerBook G3 still boots up as long as it is connected to AC power. The original battery then the replacement one both died.
It was able to run OS X but it was painful. I didn't upgrade it much.

14 November 2009

The End of the Romance

What do you think the blog post is about? Worry not, there is no real romance involved here. The Romance I referred to is that in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a series of books in old Chinese literature. In Chinese it is known as 三国演义 (sān guó yǎn yì )My Chinese is never good enough to read anything more than comic book so I read the Vietnamese version years ago, in Viet Nam, when I was in my early teen. In Vietnamese, the title of the book is known as Tam Quốc Chí.

A long time ago when Oriental Culture Enterprise was still on Pell Street, I bought from it a 9-book set of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, quasi comic book version, in Chinese. Sure every page has two frames of pictures, but it is definitely not a comic book. I thought by reading it I would reinforce what little Chinese I know and perhaps learn some new characters. Already knowing the story in Vietnamese should help, right?

It turned out years later, as Oriental Culture moved to Elizabeth Street and I moved to a few different homes, the books just got moved along without ever being read. As I set the set of books aside to be photographed for this blog before I took it to the library for donation, I discovered a makeshift bookmark in it, so perhaps I did read a little bit. A very little bit. In the spirit of ridding myself of things I don't need, the set of books went to Ulmer Park Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. I know that branch has a set, or at least a few books from a set, of The Journey to the West. Or maybe even Water Margin. It would be only appropriate that the branch also has my Romance.

31 October 2009

PowerBook G3 "Wall Street"

As a Mac geek, it makes perfect sense for me to write about my first Mac computer as the first entry in the Heartbreak Hardware series. It was 1997 or 1998, I was recently married and living with the in-laws in Brooklyn, space was tight. I had a 486 Packard Bell running on Windoze 95, but I had no place in my room to keep it so it was put in the basement. It was accessible but I just had to make the trip from my room from the second floor to the basement. It did not help that the PeeCee, like the typical machine back then, and even now, took forever to boot up. I am sure there were instances when just as the PeeCee was ready for use, it was dinner time and I had to turn off the computer then made the trip back upstair. I also had an Amiga 3000 but without the ability to get online I left it at my parents' home in Queens. Perhaps the A3000 can be written about in a future Heartbreak Hardware article.

Twelve years ago, I had no problem recalling the specs on the PowerBook G3. These days, I only remember that it is a Wall Street model. It still works so I now know that it runs at 266 MHz. It has 530 MB of RAM but I know that is not the original. I do remember dropping it off at Tekserv to have the memory upgraded. When the hard drive died, I got a 12-GB replacement drive from Other World Computing and did the change myself. I love how the keyboard comes off easily to grant access to the hard drive. Hot-swapping was, and still is, a great feature on the PB G3. The default hot-swappable items are the battery on the left and the CD-ROM drive on the right. The Removable Media War at the time involved everyone trying to unseat Iomega's Zip drive. I sided with "everyone" and bought the hot-swappable 120-MB SuperDisk from Imation. (On the drive itself, the maker is identified as VST Technologies). One major selling point for the SuperDisk was the it could do double duty as a floppy disk drive. It was a slooow disk drive but it got the job done. Eventually, I ended up with a Zip 250 USB external drive.

Like having a first child, I bought many extra hardware for the PB G3. In no particular order, they included: a PC Card USB adapter; a PC Card Firewire adapter; a Firewire CD-RW burner that was half the size of the PB G3 itself; a $99 special cable to connect the PB G3's ADB printer port to the parallel port on an HP LJ 4L; a $50 SCSI cable, bought from DataVision (Fifth Ave. and 39th Street) so I could use the 1-GB Jaz drive I originally bought for use with the 486 Packard Bell PeeCee. The battery had to be replaced then even the second battery died.

On the software front, I upgraded the OS once to 9.2.2 and a few times in OS X. Eudora Light was my email client, Roxio burnt backup CDs or CD-RWs for me, and I tried out many web browsers, including Netscape Navigator and Camino.

Some time in 2001, possibly with great influence by OS X's ever-greater demands, I got a domed iMac and the PowerBook G3 finally got retired. Four years of life is a long duration in computer time.

29 October 2009

Heartbreak Hardware

What is worse than a ranting and raving computer geek? A nostalgic, ranting and raving computer geek, of course! I have thought about writing a series called "Heartbreak Hardware" but got distracted by things like work, family, and Facebook.

Unlike software, hardware, or physical components, are not easily upgraded or improved. Sure, for a computer you can add some extra RAM and put in a larger hard drive and get a few more years of useful life out of it. But there are other hardware pieces that simply become so outdated there is nothing you can do about them. Many people buy new computers every few years and toss the old ones out. It is heartbreaking, to some geeky people like me, to think about these hardware pieces. In the next few posts, I'll interlace my usual, infrequent rants with trips down hardware memory lane...

28 October 2009

Return To JHS 73

After about 27 years I re-visited JHS 73, just the outside, of course. It was a rainy Saturday, the morning of which I spent at my high school. I was disappointed to find the school covered by scaffolds but the school yard sure looked nice. After such a long time, I can only recall the time spent waiting for the Q-58 bus and sometimes going upstream, as far as past the LIE to catch the bus. Other times I just made the long walk home, all the way back to Elmhurst Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue.

21 October 2009

Meet My Philo

Much as I think of myself as a green person, I am no gardener. I cannot easily identify plants like some real gardeners and the only garden plot I ever had was overrun by weeds because I wasn't around often enough. I do have one plant that, sort of, has been around almost twenty years.

At my first job out of college, an engineering consulting firm, I volunteered to water the plants in my area. There was a tall cactus and a few others that I don't remember now. A co-worker bought a house and there was this plant sitting in the backyard. It wasn't well-tended so she brought it into the office for me to take care of. Sitting by the window, the plant grew healthy and started to climb its way around. Exposed to plenty of sun, the plant's leaves can become really big. Cut a piece and you can grow a new plant from the dismembered piece. As I changed job over the years, I brought the plant, or a descendant of it, with me. A few people liked it and I would cut a piece, put the piece in the pot and gave the pot and plant away. I can recall at least three people I met at the jobs I had who received a piece of the plant from me.

All along I didn't even know what type of plant I had. I told you I am not a good gardener, right? It was not until the year 2000 that I finally did a little research and arrived at the now-defunct web site www.vg.com. It was supposedly something related to Time-Life books. Good thing I have a printed page telling me the plant is a philodendron, of the burgundy variety. The plant shown here is now in my home office, although there may not be enough light, sun-provided or otherwise, so I may have to move it elsewhere later on.

Here's to a few more years of growth, my Philo!

08 October 2009

Facebook - Share Photos With Groups

I've been active in helping run my high school reunion scheduled for next year. We have a Facebook group, naturally, and found a few hundred people already. It is great to see the old photos when someone managed to dig them up and share them. Most of the time though, the owners of the photos only share them via their personal albums. One would have to be friends with the owners to know about the photos. I suggested that the owners share the photos with the group but most of them don't know how. So here it is, the step-by-step process of sharing a photo, which was already uploaded to one's personal album, with a group.

For this example, I will post a photo that I already put into my personal album called "Recycling". The group that I will post the photo, that of a recycling bin under the sink, to the group called "I Love Recycling".

First I went to my list of groups. There are many ways to get there. You can go to lower corner of any Facebook screen to click on the Groups icon, which is a picture of 2 people, blue one on the left and a black one on the right. The way FB present the groups can be annoying. It defaults to show only those with recent activities on the right, plus groups that your friends have activities in on the left, so that the group that you want to get to may not be visible right away. If that's the case, you would need to click the See All but on the right side to see all your groups. Even then your groups list will not be in alphabetical order but rather in order of activities. Find the group you want to add the photo and click it. (I'll assume everyone uses a Mac and there is only one button to click. I sure wish life is really that simple, but I digress...)

Once in the group, scroll down to below the Wall Posts and above the Link List to find the Photos section. Click Add Photos.
As shown in the screenshot below, you want to have the tab called Add From My Photos selected. You can upload photos from scratch but why repeat the work? In my mind, the only time you want to do that is if you don't want to share certain comments people already added to the photos that were already uploaded into your album.
You may have many albums and again FB annoyingly doesn't list things alphabetical by default but rather by creation date, or some other way. Find your album and click it.
To add just the photo of the bin under the sink, I clicked its checkbox. Note that the photo of the standing bin in the dark is already selected. I added that photo earlier so it remains selected. To finalize this part of the process, I clicked Add Selected Photos.

If I have many photos to add, there is a Select All button on the right, but my screenshot doesn't show it.
Back in the "I Love Recycling" group, my new photo is now shown as the latest addition to the group's photos album. Done!

07 October 2009

Tiger, Snow Leopard, Oh My!

This cartoon reflects my recent experience of going from Mac OS X 10.4 to 10.6. You sure save some money by not upgrading whenever a new OS comes out, but the bigger leap, when you do upgrade, takes more time to adjust to. Especially when the new OS is really new. Some software simply stop working, as is the case with NeoOffice. There was a fix, but you had to donate some minimum dollar amount to have access to it. I donated some amount before and didn't mind meeting the higher, minimum amount but it was something I'd rather not have to deal with.

04 October 2009

The Strangers We Meet Everyday

One of my favorite songs by Cantopop singer Sam Hui is 天才與白痴 . It can be loosely translated as Geniuses and Idiots, although the movie by the same name is called The Last Message. Such is the usual case with movie titles translated from Chinese to English, or vice versa - the original meaning does not necessarily stick. But I digress.

A great play on words, the song is mostly about the many types of people in this world. You can not always tell who is dumb or who is smart. The first two lines of the song go

呢個世界上 有精仔 有懵仔 有叻仔 散仔 賭仔 重有戇居仔

有衰仔 有好仔 反骨仔 癲仔 蠢仔 重弊過敗家仔

Still, this past Friday I came across two different people and I am pretty sure which one is an ignoramus.

After picking up my son, niece, and nephew from school, I treated them to Italian ices at the store near the school. Nephew got his treat first then my son accidentally knocked the cup onto the ground. Nephew was very upset and started to cry, even though I told him I would buy him another one. The Ice Cream Man noticed the commotion and told Nephew that he would scoop him another one. When it was time to pay, I was ready to pay for the extra scoop but the Ice Cream Man didn't charge me for it. Maybe he was the owner and was business-savvy enough to know not to nickel-and-dime every customer. Maybe he just knows it's good business to give back a little some time to build loyalty. Whatever the case, he won my approval and although with the cool weather fast approaching he may close down for the season soon, I will no doubt patronize the place again and again in the future.

At dinner time, I had a much less pleasant experience. I went to dinner at Popeye's Fried Chicken with a big group, something like eleven people. The place was crowded and we only had a 4-people table to squeeze 6 kids in. The adults had to stand or sit at some other tables. Right next to our kids table there was a man, all by himself at a 4-people table. He even had a plastic bag on the seat next to him so he actually took up 2 seats out of 4. We were right in front of him and he could not have possibly not seen us. He made no attempt at moving a table back to the 2-people table. One of the adults in my group eventually asked him if she could sit opposite him and he didn't object. Yet he still made no effort to move. Maybe in his culture, wherever he was from, sharing tables at restaurant is to be expected. But if he was a considerate person, he would have moved away and let us have his table. Some people are just plain clueless.

09 September 2009

When I Was In Fourth Grade

My son started fourth grade this week. New home room, new teachers, new requirements of school supplies, etc. It got me thinking about my own fourth grade experience... and I came up with nothing. Not just fourth grade, but fifth and third as well. Actually, anything older than sixth grade. Mind you, it's not like I don't remember anything at all, just that I couldn't place the few memories I have at an exact grade.

I am actually a fifth grade dropout. It was some time in April or maybe March 1979. My family and I were a few months away from our scheduled departure from Viet Nam as boat people. The arrangement were made with the Vietnamese government that on some day in May 1979 we would leave Viet Nam forever with a bunch of other people. By boat, of course, thus the moniker "boat people." So some time early May 1979 I simply decided I shouldn't bother going to school any more. Perhaps someone with better memory can correct me, I think in Viet Nam, at least back then, summer vacation had 90 days, from June through August, inclusively. There is a line from a popular song that mentioned "chín mươi ngày hè", or "90 days of summer". Of course, I cannot recall the name of the song either. Whatever the case, I know I didn't finish fifth grade. Nobody from the school got in touch with my parents. Maybe many Chinese were leaving Viet Nam and the school already many similar cases like mine so the school didn't care less. That's all I remember of my fifth grade experience.

One other thing I remember about my school experience in Viet Nam was that, along with my second elder sister, I spent time after school to collect paper for recycling. I can confidently place the activity as after 1975, the year the country became unified under the Communists. I was a "red neckerchief" scout, sort of a Boy Scout thing but it was a government program to get kids involved in government activities. I guess we didn't have much homework to do, if any, because after school we, just me and my second sister, be allowed to visit the classrooms and go through all the drawers and trash bins looking for paper left behind by the students. Kids back then in Viet Nam, and now in the U.S., are equally wasteful. We always collect stacks of paper for recycling. I have zero recollection of where we turned in the paper or whether we got any recognition for doing it. I just know that we did it.

It was some time in those early school days post-1975 that I learned of the idea of a public library. A male teacher told a class I was in that the school was going to build a library from donations by the students' families. Each family would bring in a book for the school to collect then in turn the students could borrow from the library. All for free, what a wonderful idea! Back then, my only exposure to books, outside of the classroom, was to rent them by the days or even for the minutes. My sister would rent books from some place, we read them at home then bring them back a few days later. Kinda like Blockbusters or NetFlix except we were dealing with physical books. The practice is still in effect at certain stores in Manhattan's Chinatown. I myself, when I somehow had money, would rent graphic novels and read them right there and then. When I was done, I would return them, mere minutes later, or however long it took me to read them. The idea of a free, public library was very appealing to me. I don't recall the school's library ever took off, but ever since then I love the whole concept very much. I am a regular library patron these days, all thanks to the idea I learned of from about 30 years ago.

07 September 2009

Parlez Vous Francais?

About 500 miles and many hours from Moncton, New Brunswick, we found ourselves in Quebec City in Quebec Province. I remember how French the area is but still found it somewhat amusing as the road signs started to show only French words and abbreviations. No more RD for "road" but instead we have CH for "chemin."

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my three years of high school French, from 24+ years ago, somewhat useful. Even though my spoken French is limited to "bon jour" and "merci", know the days of the week helped greatly with parking. Like any big cities, Quebec City has traffic regulation to keep the flow going. I sure wish I made more use of conversational French, but it's not like every year that I would visit Quebec.

From the few photos I've shared you would think there are not that many of them. On the contrary, among our group 4 minivans, 16 people, 6 or so cameras, we amassed over 20 GB of photos and movies. The group leader probably accounted for half of the number, since he snapped almost everything in sight everywhere he went. Always the techie, I already shared the photos as simple pictures and as a Flash slideshow. For this post, I'm sharing some photos taken in Old Quebec section of Quebec City. The photos are arranged in a neat collage using the program Posterino. The particular template I used only shows photos in landscape mode so for some pictures in portrait orientation I used the photos twice.

Being tourists, we were limited to Rue De Buade, Rue St-Louis, the promenade that leads to the Quebec Citadel, and of course the Citadel itself. Do click on the picture to zoom in a bit.

04 September 2009

Hopewell Rocks

For me, Hopewell Rocks was probably the best leg of the multi-destination vacation. Formed by eons of tide water slowly eroding the shoreline, the Hopewell Rocks are beautiful to see. I cannot remember the special names associated to the many rocks other than the many flower pots. Supposedly there were some resembling Homer Simpson and E.T. Of course, the Lover's Arch is easy to recognize. It was a bit of a stretch to advertise the experience as "walking the ocean floor" as it's basically walking the shoreline at low tide. A twitterer pointed out to me that in other parts of Bay of Fundy one can walk miles out into the ocean, but definitely not at Hopewell Rocks. It is still a good experience to have.

01 September 2009

Maine Event

Wikipedia, FiOS, and free MP3 tour guide. All the convenience of the modern life, yet the one rare commodity called TIME is what I don't have. I went on vacation to Maine, mostly for Acadia National Park, and much as I wanted to research about it prior to the trip, by the time we got there, all I knew about the place was that it had some great places for rock-climbing. An ex-colleague told me that some years ago.

I do know now that Acardia National Park is on Mount Desert Island, usually referred to as MDI by signs around the island and nearby area. The park does not take up the entire island, but rather is made up of donated land, so there are parts of the island where people have their normal lives. We visited Mount Cadillac, the highest point on the East Coast of the U.S. Along the way there were many scenic outlooks but our caravan of 4 mini-vans had to find one that was big enough to accommodate us. The picture above of my son enjoying a nice breeze is at one such place. The mountaintops may look barren from far above but up close there is plenty of vegetation.

We next visited Jordan Pond then Sand Beach. On the way out, we passed through Bar Harbor but I didn't realize it. At first glance, Bar Harbor is just another touristy town, with artsy shops and sidewalk cafes. However, not greatly highlighted is the fact that it has a natural bridge to nearby Bar Island. At low tide, you can walk from MDI to Bar Island over a sandbar. The sandbar is so wide the photo doesn't do it justice - only one side shows water. Another view of the sandbar from shore shows it as if it did not extend all the way to the island.

The reason the sandbar at Bar Harbor is important to me is that it reminds me of the Berhala Island in Indonesia. I spent a month or two there as a refugee, after a trip as a boat person from Viet Nam. Near the northern part of the island there was a sandbar that connects the island to its neighbor, larger island of Laytung (?). As a tall kid at the age of 12, I was able to use the sandbar, with water at the highest point reaching up to my chest. I still remember the story of someone, possibly my youngest uncle on my father's side, leaving a pack of cigarette in his shirt's pocket while using the sandbar and ruining the pack in the process.

11 August 2009

Save More Time With Facebook - Open in Tab

One of my Facebook activities is checking out the other groups for Newtown High School. I would search for the phrase "Newtown High School" and end up with a long list. It turns out the Newtown H.S. in Elmhurst, NY is not the only Newtown H.S. out there. There's one in Sydney, Australia, then one somewhere in Pennsylvania, and one in the New York metro area, up north in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. From the list the search return, I would go to those groups and see if there's anything good to learn about my old school. Some groups have pictures of articles from the school newspapers, others pictures of the school or the surrounding area. I sure regret throwing away my little collection of the school newspapers when I moved back in 1999. How would I know then that 10 years later I would scramble through my worldly possession looking for anything Newtown-related?

Back with the search list. If I simply click on a link to a group, the group page would open up in the same browser window. I may wander from there and before I realized it, I would be far from the lsearch list. I can use the browser's Back button to trace my way back, or the History list in the browser, but both methods are tedious. The better way would be to use the browser's support of tabs. Instead of just clicking a link, on my Mac, I would first hold down the ctrl key. As I click the link, I have the option to open the link in a new tab or new window, along with other options irrelevant to this post. In the new tab, I can wander on and on and when done I can just close that tab and return to the search list and explore the next group. For the Windows crowd, I think the right mouse button does the job of showing "open in new tab".

There you have it. With all that time saved, you can spend more time in Mafia Wars or whatever silly Facebook game you are addicted to.

03 August 2009

Save Time With Facebook

"Save time with Facebook", is that not an oxymoron? Facebook is a time sink, you don't save any time when you log into it. A more apt title would be "Waste less time with Facebook" but there is no joy in uttering that.

One thing that Facebook users do is to join groups. There is probably a group for everything imaginable. I had my own share of going wild with Facebook groups. Before I knew it, I belong to a few too many.

Navigating FB can be an inefficient use of time. Even with the Groups app already bookmarked within the FB environment, i.e. sitting on the Applications bar in the lower left corner, getting to a group you belong to can take too many clicks. You use one click to open thee Groups application. Instead of seeing only the groups you belong to, the screen is divided into two columns, the left column showing groups your friends joined or had activities in then some groups you belong to on the right. FB sorts groups by level of activities instead of alphabetical, so unless the group you want to get to has some recent activities it will take more than one click to get to it. You may end up needing to click See All to list all your groups. Again, the list is sorted by recent updates, so knowing the name of your group will not help you too much. You may need to go to page two, or to order the list by names - more mouse clicks.

The best way to get to groups quickly, AFAIK, is to bookmark them with your browser. Not just any plain bookmark, but bookmarks on the bookmark bar. As shown in the screenshot, I have many groups related to Newtown High School in Elmhurst neatly group into the Newtown folder on the bookmark bar. I have to invest a little time organizing the list, but now I can quickly jump to a class year with just two clicks - one to pull down the list then the second one to select the year. I am not even a member of most of those groups, so this is something you cannot even do with the Groups application. As exotic as FB may appear, what with the many apps and notifications, in the end you still use FB mostly via a web browser. Web browsers and bookmarks go hand in hand way back and bookmarks are still very useful today.

24 July 2009

Crossing Williamsburg Bridge

I love walking and especially walking over long bridges. It helps to live in a city like New York. Years ago, when I was done with jury duty early I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to eventually catch the L train to get back home in northern area of Brooklyn. It took me 40 minutes. I was not married and life was simpler. When the Manhattan Bridge was opened to pedestrian traffic, I no longer had the spare time to walk across it just for the heck of it. Same thing for the Williamsburg Bridge. Recently, I had the rare opportunity of killing a few hours while my son and his cousins take their swimming lesson. The pool building is in the shadow of the Williamsbug Bridge and the Bridge called my name so off I went. It took half an hour each way. With its protective fence, the Williamsburg Bridge is certainly not a photographer's dream. With the simple camera in my cell phone, I couldn't snap anything better than the ones shown below.

12 July 2009

Computing Life, Simplified

I have a long road to travel to attain a simpler life. My home office is a mess, I started to upload to the attic, the backyard shack is more manageable but can use some more cleaning, the list goes on. But when it comes to a simpler computing life, I recently achieved one point.

For some years now I've been writing software review for ATPM magazine. I would use a template in NeoOffice so that once it's opened I already have a few lines of text entered, like so


Rating: OK/Good/Very Nice/Excellent
Web: http://www.blah.com/bleah
Price: $
Requirements: Mac OS X v. 10.n Universal.

A true template file when launched would have a name like Untitled, not the template name. You do not run the risk of overwriting the template with data. All I would need to do, supposedly, is sort of fill in the blanks and choose one of the rating. The trouble was that there is a noticeable delay between the time NeoOffice is launched and the template is ready for use. NeoOffice, as great as it is, free competitor to M$ Office and all, is no speed king at startup. Writing is a strange process, a few minutes delay can make the difference between non-stop ranting and raving and having writer's block.

I recently discovered that the system built-in TextEdit works just fine for my need. I would create sort of a template file and open that, whether directly or via Open Recent. I would need to name the file properly lest I lose my "template" because TextEdit opens the file as is. Small price to pay for the instantaneous access to the tool. Besides, when using NeoOffice, the final product would need to be saved in RTF anyway, something that TextEdit already does automatically. NeoOffice is definitely useful for typing combined with graphics and tables etc, but for my simple need, less is more and TextEdit suits me perfectly.

09 July 2009

Meet Sharky

My sister made a scrapbook showing the stuffed toy "Benjamin" my son gave her visiting various places. It's a variation on the Flat Stanley Project. My son liked the scrapbook and wanted to make his own, but he is too easily distracted and never got around to putting together the scrapbook. It is up to me to introduce the world to... Sharky!

Sharky was picked up at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island on a school field trip. Here we see him inside the big box that came with the massage chair. Kids throughout the ages love to play in empty big boxes. Son called it his art club, thus he and a cousin drew all over the box. I provide some whiteboard and markers for them to draw while sitting inside.

06 July 2009

The Angst of Internet Oh-Nine

What do you do when you realize you spent hours wasted on Facebook and other social networks? You make the most of the experience by drawing a cartoon about it, of course!

I must say I am not that much into Twitter. While I did start out on Twitter I found the "conversations" there too messy. I don't see how people follow hundreds of people with Twitter. I only followed a handful and had to drop some people who tweeted too often. I still use the web browser instead of some fancy Twitter client so I don't see threaded messages. I prefer to see a variety of tweets, so if one person monopolizes my Twitter page, off he goes.

Plurk, on the other hand, keeps messages threaded so that you see both the original posts and replies to them. How logical! And no need to do @ and #, just address the person's name and it's automatically highlighted. I even use Plurk to update my FB and Twitter status now. You just have to watch your karma, a point system that probably doesn't mean anything, but fun to maintain. Don't plurk for a day or two and it drops fast, whereas climbing back up is measured in units of .01.

I also spent a lot of time on the reunion for my high school class, Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens, New York, Class of 1985. I had to sneak the school reference into the cartoon. Hopefully I'll snare a few more alumni.

13 June 2009

JHS Graduation Day

I wrote about my JHS 73 experience as an afterthought after I started looking for high school classmates. Interesting enough, I got a few feedbacks about the JHS 73 entry but nothing on the high school one. Here are some photos in case anyone know the teachers. This was 1982 so it's been almost 30 years, who know what happened to them after all that time.

I had Dr. Michael for some English class. I remember reading The Hobbits although I hardly knew what was going on. There was no DVD back then, but I might have read some Cliff Notes or Monarch Notes.

I cannot recall what class I had Ms. Cuffs but somehow I remember her name. In New York City, at one time there were these ads for teachers. It touts that people don't remember their managers' names etc. but teachers are remembered well. It is true.

I had Ms. Butler for English As A Second Language class. I had a great time when we had a school trip to Rye Playland.

07 June 2009

Greetings from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn - NOT!

For years, I've been living in this area of Brooklyn that up to recently I believe to be called Bensonhurst. Perhaps when I first moved in my wife told me so and whenever I told people where I lived no one ever corrected me, so far. Recently I saw an article in AM New York about the neighborhood and it had a small blurb about Bensonhurst's border. Lo and behold, I realized that all these years I really lived in the neighboring area called Bath Beach. Even when I was staying with the in-laws over near Scarangella Parks, that was not Bensonhurst either.

In the map above, courtesy of Google Earth, I've outlined in Green the streets that form Bensonhurst's border. You may want to click on the picture to zoom in for a better view of the street names. Start from the southern point at the intersection of Stillwell Avenue and 86th Street, it goes north to Kings Highway, then east to MacDonald Avenue. From there, it goes up to 60th Street, then West-ish to New Utrecht Avenue then go back southeast to 86th Street, and finally along 86th Street back to the starting point of 86 and Stillwell.

It is neither bad nor good to live in Bensonhurst. I don't have any special attachments to it that would now shatter because I don't live there. Maybe some years, if I ever move again, I will look back with fond memories, like how I look back at my high school years in Elmhust, Queens. It is just surprising how things in life can go by undisturbed if no one looks at it. Wikipedia does state that it is a common mistake many people make in thinking Bensonhurst to include neighboring streets. I will have to ask my neighbors to find out how many know what area of Brooklyn they really live.

05 June 2009

Rain. Shower. Drizzle.

I bought TypeDrawing last night from the App Store. Today, it rained pretty much all day, so what did I end up drawing? Something to do with umbrella and rain, of course!

The software is quite interesting. You type a sentence, choose a font, and a background, then as you draw with your finger on the iPhone/iTouch, the text is drawn out. In my case, the face was drawn from the phrase "Qaptain Qwerty" - if you don't know who that is, Google it. The umbrella of course is made from the word "umbrella". Lastly, the rain drops etc. came from the 3-word nonsensical sentence "rain shower drizzle", which almost accurately reflects the weather today. Well, at certain time of the day, we actually had downpour or torrent.

I've discovered that if you draw slowly, the types are small. Likewise, if you draw fast, the types are large. Not an easy thing to adjust to, but it is fun to play with. Perhaps because of the vector graphic nature of the program, there is no eraser tool, you just use the Undo button to work your way back, one line at a time.

02 June 2009


Click on the picture to see a bigger version with the text more readable.

30 May 2009

Ode To A Wild Flower - NOT!

I fancy myself a good photographer and usually have a camera with me most places I go. Take enough pictures and some fantastic photos ought to come about. Such as this photo of my son seven years ago at a bench near Plumb Beach in Brooklyn's Sheepshead area. I used a rather simple 2.2-megapixel Kodak digital camera, my first one ever. The result is quite good - you see the ocean in the back, there's sand, and the innocence of a child hold some wildflower.

Fast-forward to 2009 and I was equipped with a fancier camera. Still a Kodak, but now the camera has video capability, many modes, timer, 10x zoom, etc. Yet the photo came out not as good. Somehow I totally replaced the ocean on the left side with a washout white area. Probably too much sunlight. And the child, same one as before, is now one active 9-year-old who would not sit quietly to pose for the camera.

13 May 2009


Days before my office moved from Downtown Brooklyn to Newport, Jersey City, I went around the area to snap a few photos for memories. Apologies to the sculptors but I don't have any names to associate them to.

03 May 2009

Reading Not Done

After joyfully completing a book on clutter control, I thought I would give David Allen's famous book Get Things Done book a try. I regularly proofread articles for ATPM magazine and GTD appears in almost every issue. My life is so busy and my work is so depressing I thought I can use some help in organizing the two.

I couldn't finish the book. Despite Allen's attempt to be abstract so that his ideas can be applied to any situation, not just in cubicleville, I am so entrenched in the idea that my work stinks. Cutbacks, even before the economy was declared in a recession, resulted in the remaining bodies taking on more work. There may be new bodies to help out, but they are on the other side of the globe working at a cheaper rate, always a menace to some day taking over our jobs. Not just them, mind you, as there are others in U.S. cities where the living standard, thus salaries, is lower than the Northeast. Even if you overcome all the obstacles and clean your plate, you just end up getting more. We all are supposed to lend out some free cycles whenever we have them. There is only so much efficiency the poor corporate grunt can do.

In drawing this cartoon, I got a kick out of applying cartoon physics. With real-world physics, as we know, gravity pulls everything down to earth. In the world of cartoon, it is possible to be in midair for a few seconds before actually dropping.

14 April 2009

Reasons To Hate Windows - First of Many

I don't know how the smart technical people out there stand Windows, but I am so glad I don't have to put up with it at home. The latest injury I got from Windows was the following weird scenario:

Excel files in a folder many levels down from the drive letter, like Top_Secret_Financial_Data_2009-04-14.xls in Z:\Blah\Bleah\Bloop\Bah-Humbug, couldn't be copied or changed. Copying any such files to C: drive or some other locations would yield the error message

Cannot copy: File.xls . Not enough server storage is available to process this command.

My C: drive had 30+ GB free, the source where I was copying from had 60+ GB, so why not enough server storage? The "helpful" Microsoft Knowledgebase mention making some changes in the registry because the error could be related to Norton Anti-Virus. I did it anyway, even though I didn't see any logic in the "fix". "Abandon all logic, all ye who enters this world" would be the proper statement at the Bill Gate of Windows Hell. Naturally, the fix did not do jack. In the end, it was a reboot of the server that did the job. No wonder we use filers, some Unix OS to contend with, but no stupid Windows to run upon to worry about misleading error messages and patching.

02 April 2009


Without realizing it, thanks to ATPM, I've been drawing one cartoon per month so far this year. You may recall about a year ago I changed department and my cartoon production pretty came to a halt. Having no access to a whiteboard, my medium of choice at the time, was one surmountable problem, but lacking an appreciative audience was a bigger problem. I was physically separated from my fan base and in the end they were terminated altogether. I tried to get back to cartooning and thought making a New Year resolution to draw a 'toon every month would help.

What really helped was that ATPM's long-time regular cartoonist, Matt Johnson, needed a break. I stepped in to fill the void, in addition to my regular software review "job". Usually I try to make the cartoon go along with my review. Still, it was not easy coming up with ideas as I really have to have my heart in it to do the 'toon. This latest one I only came up with the idea on Sunday March 29 then finally actually drew it on March 31 - during lunch break at work. I brought a drawing pad, pencils, and an eraser to work and did the pencil sketch in the cafeteria - no interruptions from Plurk, Facebook, or email. It is good to be disconnected sometimes. Inking, scanning, and adding speech bubble (via Comic Life) was done at home in the evening.

Enjoy! If all goes well, I'll have 12 new 'toons added to my portfolio for 2009!

28 March 2009

Newtown High School Elmhurst 1985

My reunion committee has been relying mostly on Facebook, Classmates, and MyLife to find our long lost high school classmates. Well, really the ones with names that are not too common. Still, even though it is the year 2009 with the Internet being a part of many, if not all, people's lives, many people manage not to show up anywhere. Whenever possible, I asked people to use the personal connections they have with the old friends to make the connection. It's been over 20 years and while some people moved out of the area, their parents or other family members stay.

We are now making use of Internet telephone directories to find people. We do get lucky sometimes and some unique names would translate into a phone and an address. As I prepare to tell people over the phone where to go to join our Facebook group, I thought it may be easier to have them go to


instead of the longer FB address with all those numbers. If you know any Newtown '85 people, please send them there! Newtown H.S. in Elmhurst, NY, that is, not the one in Connecticut or in Australia.

23 March 2009

Not THAT Newtown

My high school friend Maria P. has been doing a swell job of looking up people all over the Internet to invite to the 25-year reunion next year. Naturally, for a task that big, problems were encountered. Not just from people having the same first name and same last name, like "George Lopez", but even the school name is not that unique. The Newtown Maria and I went to is Newtown High School of Elmhurst, Queens, New York. It is a landmark building with soaring towers. Then there is this other Newtown in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Lots of time THAT Newtown's location is simply referred to as Newtown, CT. I imagine a few of these email exchanges happened:

Maria: I see you graduated from Newtown High School.
Person X: Yes, in 1985.
M: Great, please join our FB Newtown '85 group.
X: Sure... Uh, I don't know any of those people.
M: Huh?
X: Hey, wait a minute, this is the group for the Newtown High in Elmhurst, New York. I went to Newtown in Sandy Hook, Connecticut!.

I enjoy writing a line or two of poetry sometimes and here's one I conjure up for the topic. It is a haiku, a short form of poetry, with just three lines, five syllables in the first and third lines and seven in the second line. That is a loose definition of haiku, the way my son's third grade teacher defines it.

I went to Newtown
Of Elmhurst, soaring tower
Connecticut? No!

13 March 2009

What Is Your GoogliverseID?

One line in the theme song for Secret Agent Man TV show goes

They've given you a number and taken away your name

Sounds harsh, doesn't it? So dehumanizing? While I am all for treating people as flesh-and-blood beings with feelings, I support assigning numbers to people when it comes to keeping track of these sentient beings in the computer.

I spent many years doing network account administration and know first-hand how frustrating it is to deal with account names created from last names and such. It may be fine for a while to assign Joe Block the name blockj but it won't stay unique long. It is a small world and eventually some other Joe Block will join the company. So what do you do? blockj2 ! Even if the name seems unique, it only takes a big merger to introduce another person with the same "unique" name, perhaps in another country or another U.S. state. Best to go with some sort of numbering system.

Would it be nice if someday when Google takes over the world, we all can be assigned some unique Google Universe ID, or GoogliverseID for short. Perhaps the ID can be made up from the time and date that we were born plus latitude and longitude info, something that cannot be duplicated.

I am doing research for my high school reunion next year and it is a pain not knowing if the John Smith I found is the same John Smith from my year. Some names may appear unique to me but turns out to be popular in that person's culture. With GoogliverseID, that problem will be gone forever. Go ahead, Google, just take over the world already!

11 March 2009

Good News in Recycling

I have some good news from the world of recycling. My brother once told me that Whole Food supermarket takes all kinds of batteries for recycling. I visited the relatively new Whole Food on Houston Street and Bowery but alas it did not have any such collection. The pastry shop inside looked great, even had benches for people with sweet teeth to rest and enjoy their decadence, but I digress. This past Sunday I visited the Whole Food on Seventh Avenue and 24th Street. Bro said it was the first Whole Food in NYC. I thought the one in Union Square is but he is probably right. He has more time to wander around. Me, nowadays I just go to work and come home. Anyway, right there in the entrance/exit area was a container in the shape of a Duracell Coppertop. I suppose Duracell is the sponsor for the service. A security guard was standing in front of the box and I had to ask him to let me take a look inside to make sure it was what I thought. So now in case I want to stop sneakily recycle batteries in my sister's co-op - they have a TechnoTrash collection box - I can make the trip to Whole Food. A bit out of the way for my routine, but Tekserve is just a few feet away. On second thought, maybe it is not such a great idea. I may end up at Tekserver and succumb to all those tempting external 1-TB hard drives...

The other good news is that I just noticed on a recent Staples monthly statement that since Feb 2009 they accept all kinds of ink cartridges for reward money. It used to be just HP, Epson, and Lexmark, then Epson got replaced by Dell, or something along those lines. Now any manufacturers' cartridges can be traded in for $3 apiece. I'll be working harder to "rescue" those old printers that people throw out every now and then. It seems some people know about the program already though. A few weeks ago I picked up a multi-function device and its two cartridges were already gone. I still took it to my backyard to wait for a trip to some electronic recycling event. A suggestion if you take the cartridges to Staples: The cashiers usually don't want to touch the cartridges, for fear of getting ink stain and all. They would simply waste a brand new plastic bag to use as a glove then to contain the cartridges. Better to bring the stuff in an old paper or plastic and give the cashier the whole thing, show them the items of course.

There, I think that's enough recycling rant to certify the Environmentalist tag in my Blogger description.

07 March 2009


The Clutter Monster reared its ugly head again in my world. My brother's iBook no longer shows the screen. It has a video out port but for the life of me I cannot find the adapter. The adapters I have are for PowerBooks. I would like to hook the iBook to an external monitor and see if it works that way. Strangely, I can connect to the hard drive via FireWire and target mode, but displaying his home folder always ends in a freezing of Finder.

While I couldn't find the iBook adapter, I did come across something that I totally had zero recollection of. It's sort of an acrostic poem that spells the word CAPSTAN, which perhaps some old Vietnamese person out there would recognize as a popular cigarette brand. For whatever reason, I always have the following one-liner in my head:

Con Anh Phá Sản Tại Anh Ngu

It translates to Your Son Ruins Your Fortune Because You Are Stupid. From time to time, I blame myself for pampering my son too much, perhaps that's why the phrase sticks. There is another poem that spells CAPSTAN in each line, either forward and backward. I came across it in a tiny notebook I had during my stay in the Indonesian refugee camp. It was some farewell book my eldest sister didn't need at the time, or maybe she thought I could make better use of it. My Chinese is pretty spotty but I can understand that most of the pages mentioned Best Wishes and such. Anyway, here's the acrostic poem that I find interesting:

Chiếc Áo Phong Sương Tình Ân Nghĩa
Nghĩa Ân Tình Sao Phụ Anh Chi
Cho Anh Phát Súng Tim Anh Nát
Còn Ai Phải Si Tình Anh Nữa

Too many words to translate into English. You are on your own, for now.

01 March 2009

William Cowper JHS 73, Maspeth, Queens, NY

I hope it is not a sign of encroaching old age, but these days I find myself longing more for the past. First I joined the Facebook group for my high school year. When I came across my junior high group, I joined without a second thought.

When I graduated in 1982 it was called William Cowper JHS 73 but now it is known as Frank Sansivieri Intermediate School 73 or I.S. 73. Wonder how Mr. Cowper feels about it? It was not the first school I attended but it was the one that I actually graduated from. I was fresh off the boat, so to speak, when I spent one day at some school in Brooklyn near the Sheepshead Bay area, which was where my family's sponsor, Uncle P., lived. I think the next day it was decided that we would move to the Bronx soon so there was no point for me to go to school just yet. Even the stay at the Bronx school did not last that long, as by summer we moved to Elmhurst for my father to be close to his job. JHS 73 was a long way from where we lived and I had to go there by public bus, although I remember some days I walked home, either to save the nickel or because the bus was too crowded. Along Grand Avenue I would go, pass some supermarket with a large parking lot where sometimes kids would arrange fights, pass the two Elmhurst tanks that are now gone, I think, pass Robert's house - Robert would later be a best friend at Newtown but I didn't know him then, even though we were at JHS 73 together - over some LIRR tracks, on to Seaman at the corner of Queens Boulevard and Grand, where Grand becomes Broadway. Soldiering on, I would pass Elmhurst Library, turn at Corona Avenue, pass Newtown, then turned left to go over some other LIRR tracks. I think I would keep going straight to Elmhurst Avenue then turned right and go for a few more blocks to get home. The whole trip had to take at least an hour, but back in those days I think life was simpler and I had a lot of time to waste.

Having arrived in the U.S. just half a year earlier, naturally I got put into ESL and that was where I met Ms. Madeline Butler. I cannot recall much details but I know she was nice to me, maybe because I tried hard to learn the language and showed improvements. She was very supportive of my efforts. I know one time we went to Rye Playland and I had so much fun playing bumper car - it was my first. The ESL class was next to the gym, on some floor. Good grief, it is almost 30 years ago, I cannot recall much.

Eventually my hard work paid off and I left ESL. I even went on to be admitted to Arista, the honor society, although I don't recall knowing what it meant to be in Arista. I do know we performed Somewhere Over the Rainbow at some ceremony. I did not know about the dress code for the evening and did not arrive with a jacket, not that I had one to bring. Mr. Gotkin let me wear his jacket to get on the stage to receive my Arista certificate. Some memory!

I belong to two Facebook groups related to the school. It is so nice to see all the young faces. After all, these are kids in the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grades, in their teens. If there is a reunion, I don't think I will go. I didn't know enough people back then and it's been so long. I make exception for those who went on to Newtown High School and kept in touch with me. Still, I look forward to hearing about the teachers.

21 February 2009

Waste Less

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? But too much Facebook time and Plurking sure waste a lot of Jack's time, too. Here's how to waste less with all these social networking activities. Especially applicable if you find yourself constantly checking email, Twitter updates, new Wall writings, or blog comments...

  • Gmail's Select Unread followed by Mark Read is a good thing to use. Nowadays a lot of my mail is not personal stuff, but not spam either, like announcement for new games from distributors that I like to know about, newsletters, news alerts, etc. When time is tight, just make them all Read and move on.
  • In Plurk, Mark All As Read is my friend. I don't follow that many people but some days there are still 20 or more new entries. Mark All As Read is what I do, then if I have time I go back to read some entries. BTW, I never understand how people follow 100s or 1000s of people. You lose that personal connections at that high number.
  • Also in Plurk, how about check up on things only if there are x updates? I use 5, but feel free to bump that number up. Then resist the urge to check Plurk when there are fewer than that figure. Likewise, you can do the same with email, unless you have some really urgent email expected.
  • In Facebook, if you play some word games in which each game has x matches, pay attention to what score your opponent has at the end. If he already played all his matches and has a total of 100, no need to earn 1000 points, just 101 is enough to win.
  • Also in Facebook, visit your groups only if there are new activities. Or maybe just once a week will do. Some groups either have too much activities or too little, so once a week is a good schedule.
  • Buying bones for your neighbor's dog so he can leave your Lil Green Patch alone? Like how Costco and BJ's work, buy in bulk so you don't have to buy so often. Better yet, scrap the app altogether. It is OK to ignore these inane back-and-forth giving.
There, with all the time you save, you can go join some more back-and-forth giving schemes...