Monday, April 30, 2007

Reunification Day

Nothing much to write about this day, other than that it's another national holiday, which means no work. Sometimes, it seems that no work gets done 'round here.

The picture above is a free flag we got tonight. A lady rang our doorbell, asked if we had a flag and gave us this thing, telling us to hang it out on the balcony. Dunno if I'm gonna do that, being a southerner and all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech and the Asian Other

I wrote something yesterday and deleted it. But I shouldn't have, so here it is again, with more flesh on the bones.

Here is a decent, but expectedly narrow sighted WP article with the latest updates. (yea, blame it on CounterStrike). Here is an interesting Post opinion piece by Marc Fisher that takes a step back and gives you a better view of the coverage.

It is sad and tragic, but things happens sometimes and you can't do anything about it. Ok, that 2 hour gap between shootings is problematic, but this is not about gun control or a weird Asian presence in our middle American midst.

Gun control: the 2nd amendment is there for a reason and this kid bought the gun legally. The mayor of Nagasaki (Japan, if you're geographically illiterate) got shot the other day. A mayor. In Japan. They have strict gun laws. Also, have you noticed how communist countries don't allow its people to have guns? What would Tiananmen Square have looked like if the students were armed?

Weird Asian Foreigner angle: you heard this with the initial reports. (CNN: 'Gunman: What Nationality?'). You're hearing more of this now (see: WP article above). But this kid wasn't some non-integrated recent immigrant.

He was a senior English major. He went to Westfields HS and lived in Centreville - in our home county in the States. He got his green card renewed in 2003. If you don't know, they have 10 year expiration terms; so that would place him in the States in 1993, if not earlier. The kid was 9 years old in 1993.

He's basically an American without the passport. If you carry a South Korean passport, perhaps you don't really need an American passport.

This is an American tragedy created by a kid who grew up as an American. To spin it otherwise, to hang it on those Asians Others is a sham and a shame.

A friend of mine was murdered in a shooting rampage on my college campus a long time ago, nearly a decade before even Columbine. I even met the shooter months before it happened and I didn't like the guy then. Yes, that kid was Asian American too. Our alumni association even sent an email the other day to recognize our schools' painful shared experience and our association's support of Tech.

There is no sense in the senseless and sometimes there is nothing one can do. You move on by bonding over gallows humor:

White kids shoot people in high school.
Asian kids shoot people in college.
That's cause we believe in higher education.

[Addendum: the Post reports that he came to the States when he was 8. Notice in that report how the writing marginalizes this kid as an exotic other by writing his name per conventional East Coast (of Asia) style, that is Last Name - First Name. Compare this to how they reference Paul Kim and even the kid's sister, as Sun Cho, in the same piece.]

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Martini Review: Pane E Vino

* Location: Pane e Vino - (nearby) Hanoi Opera House.
* Size: small cocktail glass, and not to the brim.
* Olives: one, green.
* Taste: after navigating through a bit of floating ice (Pane e Vino, meet strainer, strainer, Pane), it tasted like a lemon drop. This country has heard of a martini, right?
* Price: 3.5 USD. This is Vietnam. Why is the menu priced in a foreign currency? And besides, isn't trading in US dollars illegal or something?
* Synopsis: 0 of 5 stars, because I think it was vodka and not gin in this lemon drop.

Martini Review: Mediterraneo

* Location: Mediterraneo - Old Quarter, Nha Tho Street
* Size: small cocktail glass, and a short pour at that. Even VA wondered what was up with the shortage.
* Olives: two green ones. No pits, as I recall.
* Taste: watered down to heck. Is there gin in this thing? Tasted like La Vie; easily emptied before the bread basket arrived.
* Price: 60k or so.
* Synopsis: 0 of 5 stars, because I was drinking mostly water.

Martini Review: KOTO

It's difficult to find a nice martini around town. Here's my little search for one.

  • Location: KOTO (Know One, Teach One) - 59 Van Mieu
  • Size: a jigger short in a full sized cocktail glass
  • Olives: three black canned olives. WTF?
  • Extraneous: a twist of lime zest. Did I order a gin and tonic or something?
  • Temp: adequately cool.
  • Taste: ok, but odd. Missed the brine of green olives and got the cardboard/tin of black olives instead.
  • Price: 55k or so.
  • Synopsis: 1 of 5 stars, the minimal rating for something with gin in it.

The Economic Engine Needs Workers

Folks love to talk about the oncoming freight train (or a mini-freight train, if you're familiar with China and India) that is the Vietnam economy.

That's all nice and good, except that, from the inside looking out - not too far inside, mind you - things are a bit less rosy than they appear.

An economy needs workers, not just consumers, and so far I'm not very impressed. In fact, I'm down right frustrated on some days. It is really difficult to find good people. Complacency is rife in the workforce, skill levels are, frankly, low, and people aren't self motivated.

So, basically, everyone is an American cubicle drone, except that you can't hope to catch up if you don't outwork the competition.

I know all of this is nebulous gobbley-gook, but here is a concrete vignette, or as firm as an anedote can be:

Late Friday night. I needed some processing on a business card graphic before sending it to the printers. Can't find any open advertising shops, so I ducked into a photography studio. After explaining things, I ask if they can do it. They say they can, but it will be expensive - 200k. They tell me I should do it, as it shouldn't be that difficult for me because the file is already on my computer. I insist that I don't know how, that I am ready to pay their quote and that I would like them to do it. They keep on insisting that 200k is really expensive, that it is easy and I should do it.

Mind you, this store is owner-operated, so the profits would go to the persons I was speaking with, there was no other work to be done in the store, and a male friend of the owner was hanging out, playing Counter-Strike on the high res computers.

We go back and forth for nearly 5 minutes until they finally had enough of me and proceed to do the work. They do a credible job in about 5 minutes. I go to pay the bill, and they tell me 'ah, make it 120k.' I'm thankful for the help, thankful for the lowered tally, so I pay and leave.

Moral: while these folks are fine and good, and rather nice, I wouldn't want them to be my employees. Friends, yes, probably. Helping me to make money, um, no.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hatching Chickens

KFC came to Vietnam a few years ago and opened a location in Hanoi a year or so ago, near the Vincom Towers. Recently, driving around town I noticed a second location, in the first floor of the VMQ hotel.

Not only are there two KFCs in town now, there's also a new local competitor - BBQ Chicken. Perhaps they can pull a Jollibee's and be a credible competitor (to McDs, in that case).

Oh, btw, is a pretty nice resource. Got informed of it via Thirsty's link. With more user comments it'll really take off.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tight Threads

Because we moved here with all of our essential possessions in checked baggage, our wardrobe is rather limited. Early on, after suffering through futilely line drying our clothes in these damp environs, we broke down and bought an electric dryer.

If you're looking for white goods, TodiMax is the place to shop in Hanoi. Yes, we bought a major appliance in this brief sojourn to Vietnam. The first load of laundry, in all its familiar static-ky warmth, out of the dryer, quickly confirmed that this was the best way for us to spend 6 million VND (or $400 if you're counting at home).

Even with a dryer though, I was still short of dress pants. I brought along only a few suits so I needed fortification. Locals tend to wear the same clothes a few times a week.. I just couldn't do that, in part 'cause I sweat early and often.

So off to the tailors I went, with reminders that HCMC tailors are much better than their northern brethren. I should've heeded the warnings, and booked a flight to Saigon instead.

People here, be they a 50 year old grandmother, a 40 year old xe om driver, or, more appropriately, a 20something lass, wear some tight arsed clothes. Particularly pants. Nearly everyone's thigh looks like a xu xich (nee sausage).

With all the squatting on little plastic stools, the wrangling over motos, the incessant heat, one would figure a looser cut is preferred. Nope, and I dunno why.

Long story short, I paid a healthy sum for some pants that illustrate the difference between local tastes and my own. Sucks to be me, but at least my boys can breathe. Anyone want some pants?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Daily Read

Being in Vietnam has made me read a lot more than I used to. After all, there is hardly any decent tv on (about 6 channels of English language tv - mainly Star World stuff, CNN World, Discovery and ESPN - they killed off our feed of Bloomberg for another channel of CCTV!).

We haven't really done the whole pirated DVD scene, 'cause the crappy copies don't play so well on our computers. We've been to Megastar Cinema probably once a week since being here - this week is out though, as the new film opening is Cedric the Entertainer's cop flick. No thanks.

So what am I reading? Not books, for one thing. Mainly news accounts, such as this NYT piece about the Korematsu kids defending against the current day legal internment policies of the US government. While I've always heard that Justice Douglas "regretted" his decision in Korematsu, this interview transcript goes into more detail about his regret.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Gates In The House

Unlike Gmail Paper, Bill and Melinda Gates did actually arrive in Hanoi on April 1st, according to this Vietnam Net Bridge news account.

This little piece (almost) covers the entire panoply of Vietnam today: world interest by multinational conglomerates in its labor force (and their attendant growing purchasing power); the still present need for NGO/foundation help with respect to basic health needs; the sometime poor quality of work product in this country - hasn't the reporter heard of Gardasil? It's worth a mention if one is talking about R&D for a cervical cancer vaccine.. 'cause like, that's been done already!