Saturday, December 30, 2006

Blogroll - In With The Old

When I first starting thinking about relocating to VN, I read a bunch of blogs on the subject. Some of them seemed so popular that I didn't think about sticking them on the blogroll. But posting about them will help me find the blogs when I become forgetful again.

Dreaming of Hanoi: by Preya, a third culture kid (TCK) who grew up in Hanoi. Currently snowed in around Denver, CO somewhere. Her recent post, The Many Faces of Hanoi Ex-Pats, is a funny read.

Teresa and the Kids: single mother and her two tweenagers packing things up to head to Vietnam on a two month volunteer stint. They just landed in Hanoi. The main site gives you more info nad the chance to donate towards their efforts.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Cut-and-Paste Better

If you often appropriate words off the web, then you've undoubtedly encountered the issue of extra carriage returns in your Word files upon your cut-n-paste-special manuverings.

After a few too many minutes spenting wearing down the lettering on my delete key, The Google was fired up and the results were these: Delete Carriage Returns and its related script, Clear The Find Box. They're courtesy of a great resource, The Word MVP Site.

Incorporating best practice in one's work becomes so much easier after installing these macros.

[backslash-n is the Word:Mac equivalent of ^13 when using Wildcards]

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Are You A Communist Sympathizer?

As with a lot of folks in this political town, I volunteer my time and services to non-profit organizations. One position deals intimately with the Vietnamese American community. Upon disclosure that I would head to Vietnam to pursue some business interests, there was quite a blowback, with the main concern being whether my personal, for-profit activites overseas would reflect poorly upon the organization.

In not so many words, the concern was whether working in Vietnam makes me some sort of Communist sympathizer. A uniquely Viet Kieu issue, to be sure, and definitely a generational issue.

Older folks were more adamant in their concerns, or at least their concern that other people in the community would object to my overseas activities. The generational gap is not defined so much by age, as by when one became a Viet Kieu.

Those who settled here recently, if a decade plus can be considered recent, such as immigrants from the HO (Humanitarian Operation) program, have little concern with the politics of the past. This sector of the community, who had lived longer under Communist rule than their earlier VK brethren, are more concerned with bilateral friendship and economic progress.

The Domino Theory generation wants nothing to do with modern day Vietnam on a macro-, organizational level. But they have no qualms in fueling the remittance stream or occupying those jumbo jet seats over the Tet holiday. Irony is lost on the old.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How to Shoot Food Porn

No travel blog would be complete without some pictures of food porn. Here's a general guide on how to shoot food pictures, and more in-depth, but understandable, tips on the iso - aperture - shutter speed triumvirate of photography.

One thing about packing up and leaving is that we won't have the luxury of hanging out in our kitchen and making food. I'm sure we'll still make things on occasion, but as any home cook knows, everything is off when one does not have the knife, pan or heat source one is used to. The product turns out below your standards and the enjoyment of production is greatly diminished. Yeah, that's my (future) rationale for eating out all the time.

These are some pictures taken with a newer, but low-end camera. Minimal post-processing with Picasa, a photo organizational tool from Google that has basic, and easy to use, editing functions.

Easy Ceviche

Spicy flounder someone else made

Butter = flavor

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fly Over of Tam Dao Golf Course


Flyover vid courtesy of YouTuber FlycamVietnam.

The Tam Dao Golf and Resort is about 45kms from Hanoi. Looks nice enough, and they seem to be really smitten by that large clubhouse, but its kinda flat and open. I'm used to losing balls in the underbrush and woods. It looks like I can attempt an approach from a fairway over at this place. Nice way to lower one's score.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Just The Facts, Ma'am

Prodded by a persistent inquisitor, I went looking for some facts about Vietnam. Lots of resources out there, but whom to trust? Wikis are all nice and good when you're trying to find the front man of Information Society, but for facts, where else better than the CIA World Factbook?

The Vietnam page gives you a nice rundown. If you're curious, the VN GNP-PPP (purchasing power parity) is approximately 235 billion, and as I've read elsewhere, on par with a place like Greece. If instead one looks at GNP-OER (official exchange rate), VN is only 44 billion, while Greece's is still 210 billion. Wha?!

That's PPP for ya - some economists prefer PPP as it allows one to compare living standards across countries. PPP, in part, equalizes the fact that when one is enjoying a cuppa joe in HCMC vs. Athens, one attains comparable lifestyles but pay differing prices at OER. I'm not an economist, but I play one on this blog.

The U.S. checks in at over 12 trillion. Because the dollar is close to being almighty, there isn't much of a difference between PPP and OER numbers.

Another fun fact relates to population density. According to the, Vietnam is 30th in density, less so than the Philippines (26th), Israel (24th) or the Netherlands (14th) and just slightly ahead of the UK (32nd). The US is pretty sparse (142nd), but so too are places like the Congo (147th) and Somalia (169th). The density we feel is on a city level however, it's not how many folks a country has, but where they congregate.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Blog Designs On Crack

Pittstop Works recently talked about a 'blog war' where a south Vietnamese trash talked about her Hanoi vacation. It apparently caused northern Vietnamese to come to their fair city's defense. Pittstop cited this article which discussed it, and which also demonstrates the low barrier to entry for journalism these days.

How could one write a piece talking about a blog posting and the response it produced without providing information about the source material? What's the blog address, so folks can see what the fuss is all about themselves? That's as useful as writing a book review and failing to tell me the author, much less the title of the book. Ridiculous.

A quick Google suggested that the seminal post (and the comments attached thereto) was removed by the author. HanoiMark, in a comment on Noodlepie, said that he couldn't really find anything of the original text causing the hubbub.

While the original blog may be down, this blog post, on Yahoo 360 in Vietnamese, titled (translated) "An Article about Fucking Ha Loi" seems to quote the original and provides a retort.

Of course, I could be wrong about that because at this point I don't read Vietnamese all that well and the god awful page design does not help. I'm not trying to pick on this girl, because a whole lot of Yahoo 360 blogs are downright unreadable due to design issues.

And this isn't some sort of Yahoo 360, 'dem darn furriners' thing either - Myspace is equally a painful visual experience. What's with these kids and their layout choices? Who sets black text on a black background, or light pastel text on a white background?

Is this the visual equivalent to those high pitched teenaged ring tones - only kids can divine the textual info from that morass? With the advent of click-and-drag layout designs, there seems to be more unusable site out there than when folks coded HTML by hand. Progress, indeed.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

You Down With O.P.P. ?

I know I'm getting old 'cause golf now is a sport and I revel in hypocrisy - Chain Hang Low is obnoxious and uncouth while O.P.P. is somehow still fun and light (video here).

Because I'm not in VN yet, you know I'm down with Other Peoples'... Pictures. The first just seems like how a vietnamese sandwich would be interpreted in the Windy City, 'cept they forgot the celery salt. It's from a travel blog by AdamandEva.

This second one is just a great shot - unfortunately, I forgot the source, so no attribution for now.

Got our tickets - Part 2

We recently just bought our tickets to Vietnam, again. Once the tickets are purchased, the official countdown clock can begin in earnest. Approximately 45 days or so, which upon further thought, makes me go 'whoa.'

It's also a bit odd to buy a one-way ticket. If Vietnam has an equivalent DHS, then we would be placed on some watchlist for sure. But they're a practical lot, not likely to waste money on bogus data-mining and profling measures that amount to nothing... but I digress.

Anyhow, we purchased our tickets thru - they seem to have good deals for international travel to Asia, better than Travelocity or Orbitz and their brethren. The website is not great for online purchases; best bet is to use them for research and call for more definitive info and purchasing.

Because I hate it when folks say they got a 'decent deal' and do not reveal how much they paid, fyi, the one -way ticket cost (including airport, 9/11 and all other surcharges) a bit under $650. We don't fly a bunch and therefore do not comparison shop all that much, but for a flight from the East Coast of the US to Vietnam, arriving a few weeks before Tết 2007 (Feb. 18th), that fee is not so bad.

When I called, I thought they were using an outsourced data center for a second, before I realized the woman was actually sitting in L.A. and just knew Japanese also. It's odd how one's mind works in a "Flat World." ;)

I don't know where I picked up the info of GatewayLAX, but it may have come from, a travel portal blog by an expat there. I'm not sure if that was the source, but thanks if it was.

[edit: another place to check out for tickets is Himalayan Tours.]

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Clean up with Clouds

Here's a blogger widget to clean up the real estate taken up by labels.

Label Clouds in Beta Blogger.

Typhoons Stink

Maybe that's why it's named "Durian." After crossing the Phillipines (and Luzon island in particular) and causing substantial death and destruction, it's now on track across the South China Sea for Vietnam, possibly. I didn't know that hurricanes (American-speak for typhoons) are so destructive in SE Asia till I started to pay attention to the region these past six months. Xangsane and now this.

Maybe everyone will luck out and the worse that Durian will do henceforth is to sprinkle the VN coast in manna from cargo ships, like these Doritios landing in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. One should be so lucky.