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Vietnamese Vegetables

I just started gardening two years ago and it’s been so much fun. I’m trying to grow more food that my family eat, which are Vietnamese dishes. Being in California makes it a bit easier, although it could be cold for some of these tender plants.

These are some vegetable plants eaten in popular Vietnamese dishes:

  1. Bo ngot, or rau ngot (katuk): soup
  2. Dau rong (winged bean): fresh or quick stir-fry
  3. Bac ha (Alocasia odora, Night-scented Lily or giant upright elephant ear): soup
  4. Dau bap (okra)
  5. Mong toi (malabar spinach)
  6. Ngo om:
  7. Ngo gai (culantro)
  8. Tia to
  9. Rau que (basil, thai basil)
  10. Tan o (edible chrysanthemum, garland chrysanthemum)
  11. Bi dao
  12. Muop dang, kho qua (bitter gourd, bitter melon)

Will WolframAlpha make the lazy lazier?

WolframAlpha is launching right now. I just tried a few and see the cheat sheet. The interface is nice and the results were presented beautifully and logically. I’ll definitely use it for its designed purposes and Yahoo for the rest of search queries.

If this type of computational search engine were widely available like it is now when I was in school, I probably would not spend any time trying to solve the problem manually and just punching numbers instead. For example, why should I know one gallon is 128 ounces, 1 acre = 43560 sqft? I suspect the same question can be asked for other search engines, including generic engines like Google and Yahoo. Stupid people will become stupider because of the vast amount of information that is available to consume without any thoughtful digestion.

However, on the other side, the argument can be made to reduce the time we spend on low-end or fundamental computations and focus our effort into solving a bigger problem. This is true when you have a good foundation and already been trained or knew how to get the information. Knowing what is possible is more important than the steps to implement it.

In summary, each generation has a new set of tools that help (or prevent, depending on who you talk to) them to solve problems. My suggestion to kids, students in highschool and university undergraduates is to learn the formulas, the theories and practice them manually with pencil and paper. Then once you really understand them, you can use tools, software to solve them for you. Conversely, if you depends on the tools too early, you will never bother to understand the basics and when a more challenging problem that is beyond the scope of these tools, you’d be screwed and at lost for any direction toward a solution.

Updating fields in Microsoft Word

To update a cross-reference field, click it and press F9. If you want to update all of the fields in your document, press Ctrl+A to select the entire document before pressing F9.

Understand a person from his/her blog comments

What if there exists a system that goes out to all blogs, reads the comments, aggregates them into individual profiles. Each comment often has the name and website. A person shares her opinion at this blog, another one at another blog. Soon enough, you will be able to understand her thoughts. It’s a behavioral data mining operation.

Even more powerful, enhancing this with user-provided personal profiles (like from Yahoo, Google, Facebook, or something with individual data). At the end, you get a very powerful and invasive system. This idea would immediately raise a red flag for privacy advocates. Actually, I can’t think of any good application beside monitoring “suspicious” people, which already has a vague definition that could be, very well, anyone. Some big organizations, government or commercial, might already be doing this sort of analysis. Google is the prime candidate with sufficient technical capacity to perform such operations.

Cache Control – Server vs. Client

The server can set Cache-Control as far as it wants but if the client browser (Firefox, IE, etc.) says something else, the client rules. For example: an image with proper server’s Cache-control and Expires headers. If the client says “Cache-control: max-age=0” in its request, a conditional GET request will send and HTTP 304 code would return from the server. The expected and best behavior would be no request at all.

It’s not the server’s fault, it’s done its part correctly. The client is now in control and it seems Firefox and IE on my machine don’t like caching that much. So 304’s instead of zero request for now.

Update: Firefox actually is pretty smart on this. If you click F5, Refresh or a direct reload, it will send cache-control: max-age=0. It means the server will return 304’s. But if you move from one page to the next and the page reuse other cached component, Firefox won’t make any request at all, which is the expected behavior. Now I can sleep tight knowing that our pages are faster as fewer conditional GET requests are made.

Packet loss – mismatch switch speed

Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:16:76:E1:A2:F8
inet addr:xx.xx.xx.51  Bcast:xx.xx.xx.63  Mask:255.255.255.192
inet6 addr: fe80::216:76ff:fee1:a2f8/64 Scope:Link
UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1
RX packets:11098 errors:2178 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:1098
TX packets:1493 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:100
RX bytes:751041 (733.4 KiB)  TX bytes:171501 (167.4 KiB)
Base address:0x2020 Memory:e0200000-e0220000

If you have packet loss and see RX errors/frame, there could be a problem with the interface settings. In this case, a mismatch speed with the switch (100mbps vs. 10mbps). Solution: correct the speed setting so they match. Command: “ethtool -s eth0 autoneg off duplex full speed 10” (immediate effect but will not remember after reboot) or put into config file for permanency:

## /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0 
ETHTOOL_OPTS="autoneg off speed 10 duplex full"

Virtual world vs. the real world

A ship drops an anchor and boom, Internet down! Everything is in chaos and the trend is only get worse as we depend more on the Internet for our every day activities. The following diagram shows just how connected and yet vulnerable the whole system is.
Optical Cable Undersea

Social networking

Just playing with different social network (Facebook, LinkedIn) even I signed up for them a long time to see what I’ve been missing. And I see a reason for using them. Keeping connected with friends is definitely not new, by email, phone, meeting, etc. But it’s time consuming, especially with your larger network. This is where these networks come in and make simple social interactions simpler and quicker. But ideally, you wish all your friends/contacts were on the same network and one network has all the features.

Challenges in hiring

Managing human resource is difficult, very difficult. I believe anyone runs a business would look at job hunting, resumes, cover letter, and everything about working for someone differently. For starter, determine which channels would be the best to announce your job posting, some costs nothing yet very effective, some are expensive yet yield little. Then, determine if the person is right for the job is also hard, but more fun nevertheless, knowing a new person at both professional and personal level. Next, motivate people and retain them at your company is the hardest part. Everything changes and people change, their needs, situation change and the company has to deal with it. However, a small team of highly motivated employees can do wonders, 10 work as effective as 50. Small and productive is always better than large yet inefficient. Company at any level, small startup or large corporation, has its own set of problems. Isn’t business all about solving problems and exploits the opportunity?

YouTube video uploader

YouTube with that many videos uploaded and yet they have a pretty bad interface for upload (comparing to flickr). The newer Multi-Uploader needs to install into your computer and yet still provide a broken web interface (TRANSIENT_ERROR) and would not upload but keep trying (keep cycling through the process), I tried it in different browsers and the result is still the same. The Single video upload is just so plain and so tedious. Bravo to the Flickr team for doing a much better job at this GUI. I’m still trying to find a Flickr for video.