April 30, 2003

Congrats to my cousin!

TGCFSC - News. Congratulations to my cousin, Stephanie Tran, for becoming the Intermediate Ladies Final Round Champion at Skate Dallas 2003. Way to go Steph! Please don't forget us when you're famous.

My cousin sent me a link to a funny Eminem parody about Saddam Insane. It's indescribable -- you must see for yourself.

I'm sitting here watching Extreme Makeovers on ABC, wishing I could get the Lasik surgery sooner than later. Glasses are no fun when you're trying to improve your ballgame! Can't tell you how many times I had my glasses knocked off when playing ball.

Posted by johnvu at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2003

Some Great Deals This Week for Students

BESTBUY.COM. Sotec has changed its name and product line and if you follow the above link, you'll find a great notebook system for $549 after rebate ($599 online). You have to get the system at retail stores and not online to get $250 in rebate. This is the same notebook that I've blogged about previously as my new workhorse--except the hard drive is larger (30 GB), processor is a little faster, and there is no CD-RW drive, only a DVD-ROM drive. However, at that price and being such a light system, I have no hesitation recommending it to any student looking for a lightweight system. As I've mentioned before, be sure to buy a case at the same time to protect this beauty. I knew that my system would be cheaper sooner or later, but hoping it would be later than sooner! Oh well, this is good for those of you who are getting this great deal.

Checking the mailing list for rockbox, I also found out about a great deal for a very useful MP3 player. It's at Circuit City for $199 after rebate. Why am I recommending it to you? Instead of clumsily recording lecture audio on tape, you can use this device to record directly to MP3 and download to your computer to write to CD or manipulate however you want. You can have an archive of all your lectures on disk and access at any time without the hassle of searching through mountains of tape. Collect them, share with your classmates, do whatever you want with them. Don't forget you're also getting an excellent MP3 player (once you upgrade the firmware from rockbox, which is an open source project!) and you're getting an external 20GB drive to cart around or to backup your important computer files! And for the geek in you, it's fully upgradeable with just about any 2.5" IDE hard drive--in fact, some have upgraded with a 60GB drive. These features make this device way better than the iPod for you students! I really think these are two devices that all students should have in his or her repertoire of tools. Check them out.

Posted by johnvu at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2003

Quick Online Expansion of a Scientific Paper's Discussion

HubLog: TrackBack. For those of you who are absolutely confused about blogging and trackback, take heed, I will try to discuss what they are here (at least what I understand of it). I will then move onto why these tools are great vehicles for scientific discussion online.

Blogging is simply an online diary. What you are reading is my blog, my online diary. The topic of discussion in this blog is solely under my own discretion. In my case, I blog about my trials and tribulations as a grad student. Currently there are just about all types of blogs that discuss just about anything you'd imagine out there in the Internet. Finding these blogs is as simple as doing searches at www.feedster.com, www.weblogs.com, or www.blo.gs, which are just a few sites available.

So what is TrackBack? For many of you who don't blog, TrackBack is like riding a bike. It's easier just to do it, than to try to explain how to do it. Here goes: TrackBack is the ability for me (as an example) to comment on another person's blog entry on my own blog, rather than commenting on that other person's blog. However, for me to have an entry in my blog to refer to another's blog entry, the original author of the first entry must enable that particular entry to record TrackBack links. In this way, for those visiting the original article, just following the "TrackBack" link will list all the other blogs in the Internet that refer back to the original--hence, you see why it's termed "TrackBack," i.e. it tracks all the blog entries that refer back to the original blogger.

Scientists, for some odd reason, are slow adopters of certain technologies, such as this--this is particularly because the usefulness of this technology has not been tested too well. How can blogging and trackback be useful in science publishing? First off, imagine the ability to provide critical comments about published papers on your own blog. Now, imagine hundreds of scientists in your field doing the same after undergoing their own independent analysis of the same paper. Lastly, imagine you (say as the budding scientist or student) were able to easily find all these blogs and read each individual analysis. Your potential for developing this critical thinking has at least grown additively with each entry (the power of hundreds vs. the power of one)!

To cut to the chase, there is now one place where you can "TrackBack" to published biomedical papers. I've provided a link to this search engine above and here: http://www.pmbrowser.info. Simply, if you have a blog already running (oh, you don't? then try MovableType, the link is to the left) you merely need to search for the paper you want to "TrackBack" at pmbrowser.info, and then when you're at the abstract view of the paper that you would like to comment on, go ahead and blog that particular page. In MovableType's blog engine, it automatically knows that the page/article is "TrackBack"-able. Blog as usual, and from this point on, whenever a person goes through pmbrowser.info to search for articles, s/he will be able to find your blog entry commenting on that particular paper. Now if only more scientists knew about this feature--with this new budding technology, there needs to be a critical mass of users for this service to be worthwhile and useful. Please consider doing so and the world would be a better place. Confused? Would like to know more about MovableType? Comment here and we can continue on with the discussion.

Posted by johnvu at 12:48 AM | Comments (1)

April 23, 2003

Rosalind Franklin Shafted from the Nobel Prize

Washingtonpost.com: Live Online. Discussion of Rosalind Franklin. I caught bits of this documentary last night on NOVA. Watson's book, in the meat of its story, had rather scathing remarks about Dr. Franklin's science AND even her looks. He makes a 180° turn at the end of it, however. Maurice Wilkins, James Watson, and Francis Crick all received the Nobel Prize for their work and contribution to the unraveling of DNA's structure, except for Rosalind Franklin, whose photographs were crucial to the validation of Watson and Crick's discovery. Franklin, by that time of the award, had died of cancer; and Nobel's aren't given posthumously. Anyway, to learn more about the NOVA documentary and about Rosalind Franklin, join the discussion at the Washington Post today at 1 pm ET. Just follow the link I provide above.

Lastly, do you like the new layout of my blog? Is it hard to read? I'd like to receive your comments.

Posted by johnvu at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2003

Ramblings for the day

50th Anniversary of the Discovery of DNA's Structure. Strange how I picked up a copy of "The Double Helix" just weeks ago to read out of curiosity and it just so happens that this week marks the 50th anniversary of the paper's publication in Nature. Must have been some supernatural force leading me to the book. It's tough not to present a scientific talk nowadays without even a mention of the acronym DNA--which tells you how much of an impact this discovery has made. The link above provides access to a free copy of the original paper. Get it, read it, ponder about its history.

Turns out today is also Earth Day 2003 (the only reason I know this is because Google's front page has a nice cartoon commemorating this day). Ahhh, Mother Earth, how beautiful you could be, if only there were no damn humans to mess you up!

Lastly, I would like to close with a strange thought. I went to the local Korean supermarket by my place last night to get a few things for dinner, and for some strange reason (I guess the sight of all the Asian people), I thought about how the Chinatowns in Toronto and NY are suffering from a slowdown in patrons. Then a "what if" hit me. What if one of these persons was infected with SARS? Suddenly, it felt dangerous for me to be there--I mean, after all, if I get sick, who's going to take care of my son, or worse, what if I pass it on to him? Quickly I passed it off as hysteria. But then, I thought, wouldn't it be funny, if there was a mass email spread around among Asian people, to buy and use those filter masks from Home Depot? Every non-Asian would think they're out of the loop! It'll scare the bejeezus out of everyone but us Asians! LOL! Just a strange thought.

Posted by johnvu at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2003

Simply Amazing

The Seattle Times: Education: Issaquah 11-year-old wows state science fair. Just stumbled across this article about a child prodigy--I had to blog about it. His high school science project puts my thesis to shame! Amazing what he's learning and soaking in. Makes me wonder how my son will be. Just astounding how the capacity and the pace of the human brain's learning process runs the gamut in the population. I wonder if humans will ever learn how to tap into this accelerated mode of learning and retention.

Posted by johnvu at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

Another packed weekend

Two spots of congestion on my way to work today--that was a rarity. Got a meeting with the big cheese tomorrow, hopefully it's good news, grad students can't get fired can they? Just another busy weekend for me. Worked a full day Saturday to keep my Sunday free with my son--Easter you know. Man, this skin problem of his is not letting up. I have to try to get him some good ointment. Reminds me, gotta head to the pharmacy. I re-edited some content on my blog, you probably won't notice the change as of yet. Added another newsfeed to the left side panel and will continue to edit the CSS file to get a more consistent look with the rest of my website.

When will this housing market die down? I'm too afraid to buy in at this price, even though I'm getting the spousal pressure to do so (if only she'd see how bad things will get). Some housing areas that my wife and tracked have seen their market value raise a whopping 50% in a matter of 3 years! This is crazy people! Don't you know that this is a bubble?!? Don't buy into the hype--my prediction is that when the Fed raises the interest rate (right now Greenspan's scared to touch it, since the economy right now is teeter tottering) things will at least start to plateau. Some of you who are lucky enough to buy in the right areas, won't get hit much at all, but for the rest of us average joes, we'll see our real estate value plummet! After the war is over, after North Korea is in check, and after Bin Laden is accounted for (well, that's a big if), defense spending will also slow down and the DC area job market will follow as well as the other half of the economy. Hard times to come with this real estate market my friends, can't count on a good thing for long, look at what happened to the stock market 3 years ago. Alas, just my luck, I will probably give into buying a place at these prices and will be hit hard.

Posted by johnvu at 01:18 PM | Comments (2)

April 18, 2003

You Southern Thai?

Asian American Empowerment: ModelMinority.com - Better Luck Tomorrow? It Depends On You. Here's a passionate piece about why Asian Americans should go and see the upcoming "Better Luck Tomorrow" flick from MTV films. Stuart Leung puts too much pressure on the needed success of this film, but I'll leave that up to you to make up your mind on whether to see it or not. The blog also includes two pieces from reviewers who've seen the film. Apparently, there's a mass email floating around, passed from one Asian American to another to go see this movie--what a grassroots effort! BTW, if you get one of those emails, don't send to me, I hate chain mails and I already got the message.

On a more important note, my son has just been able to roll over from his back to his tummy--did it yesterday morning, figured it was worth coming into work late for. Got it on film too--I may have a clip uploaded, once I figure out how this firewire thing works, and mpeg encoding works.

Posted by johnvu at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2003

Victims of the System

Asian American Empowerment: ModelMinority.com - The Quiet Americans. Quite an interesting article purporting that the victims of welfare reform may not be those who you may automatically assume. This is an old article written in January 8, 2003, but still an interesting read. Looking at a distinct region in America, Chris Thompson writes about the minorities who have fallen by the wayside in Alameda County, CA. Asian refugees top the list of racial groups losing their welfare benefits. Writing about three anecdotal stories of Vietnamese-Americans, Chris writes a passionate piece about how the American system has: 1) allowed these refugees to come to our shores, while 2) neglecting the true investments required to make these refugees strong contributing members of society.

What the article fails to investigate, is the true influence that of years living in Vietnam has contributed to these individuals' situations. Certainly, the idleness experienced by many in Vietnam, due to the lack of jobs, is a large contributing factor in the work ethic of new American immigrants. The individuals profiled in this story gives new meaning to the saying, "can't teach an old dog new tricks." While not as dire as the cliche states, these individuals are clearly older, and will require much more time to assimilate into US society, and will need much more time to learn the new language and to learn new skills. But, nonetheless, they must keep at it and practice their new skills. If it means situating themselves in communities where the dominant language is not Vietnamese, then so be it.

Many new refugees suffer in the current welfare system because of abuses made by refugees and welfare clients in the past--this fact cannot be ignored, and was in the article. Just because we can find some individuals who are "victims" of our neglect in the welfare system, does not mean that the entire reform is a failure--eventually, something had to be done to address the years of abuses. Lastly, I will end with this one question: is it better to be struggling to make ends meet here in the U.S. or to be destined for nothingness in the old country? You always have the opportunity to go back, I know many who wish it so.

Posted by johnvu at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

More meaningful content

News Is Free: News Is Free. Yes, news as it should be--FREE! Now that I have MagpieRSS installed, I've been scouring the web now and then for good news feeds to provide more meaty content to my site. Found just the service from NewsIsFree.com. Check it out on the left. I just have Washington Post headlines at the moment, but if I find better content, then I will add it as I go along. Actually, I wanted to syndicate the entries over at ModelMinority.com, but its RSS/XML feed is not correctly formatted for MagpieRSS to parse it. Oh well, their problem, not mine. Like to see better content that just headline news? Let me know of better news feeds and I will consider adding it.

Posted by johnvu at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2003

Get this laptop!

Walmart.com - Sotec 3120X Ultra Thin Notebook With 1.2 GHz Celeron & CD-RW/DVD. Having used this laptop for almost a month now, I been so satisfied with it's overall fit and function that I have to recommend everyone looking for a laptop to take a serious look at this one. Walmart is selling it at such a bargain basement price of $798 (without rebates required!) that it seriously competes with lots of notebooks out there, as well as PDA's like the PocketPC. Forget about cheap alternatives like the Lindows Mobile PC, that doesn't even include a CDROM Drive nor a floppy drive! Moreover, there are many reports that Linux works well on this system anyway (like Knoppix). The size of this thing is incredibly small and light and the screen is very crisp. The keys need getting used to, but just like everything else, the best things come to those who are patient. The $100 markup for just another measly 10GB of disk space is not worth buying from Samsclub.com. Just get it from Walmart.com. Relying on shady rebate deals from places like BestBuy.com (like I am), is not worth the headache and heartache. I do just about everything on this laptop nowadays. Which reminds me, I ought to back up my workfiles now. Later.

Posted by johnvu at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

Stop the Violence

FOXNews.com: N.Y. Bouncer Stabbed to Death; Asked Patron to Stop Smoking. Johnathan and Ching Chan taken into custody. Damn Asians! Don't they measure up to any else other than gangsta' violence? All kidding aside, sounds like they're completely screwed. The problem is not the smoking ban law as some New Yorkers may argue--it's the whole New York attitude (what happened to all the love after 9-11?). Ok ok, my bad, I shouldn't poke at New Yorkers like that, no more kidding from this point on.

Well, finally did it, filed my taxes at the last minute late last night. Hope everything was correctly stated. Had TurboTax check all the sections for errors, and audit flags--passed with flying colors. Man I'm tired. Worked both Saturday and Sunday and did taxes last night. It was such a nice weekend too and I was inside most of the time. I need a break. Gonna look into a summer house for rent somewhere down the shore for the fam.

For those of you who use MovableType blog engine, try out the TrackBack function. I've enabled most of my blogs for pings so that TrackBack can work. For those of you using online blog engines, consider looking into TrackBack functionality if it's implemented--if not, try to lobby them to enable or implement it, it's worth it.

Connor is starting to be able to recognize faces. Just the other day we went to dinner with some of my fam and he started crying when my uncle held him. He's also starting to smile back at me when I smile--what a cutie. If only I could figure out how to get his atopic dermatitis in check. Any one out there have a good remedy for pediatric eczema?

Posted by johnvu at 05:27 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2003

NIH is not for Americans

I was browsing through Feedster.com and did a search for "HIV" hoping to find interesting (maybe esoteric) news or blogs from those doing HIV research. I happened to stumble upon this blog: Joshua Claybourn's Domain: HIV/AIDS vs. Cancer. His blog gives me the opportunity to provide a perspective into this debate that some of you might not have--seeing that HIV research is a field in which I am studying; it also gives me an opportunity to test this TrackBack feature that MovableType developed. Let me get straight to the point--I support the amount of HIV research spending that the NIH invests. I do not support it because of selfish reasons like the survival of my career, but if you give me a chance, I'll present other (hopefully convincing) reasons why I support it. If you look through my CV, you'll see that I've worked at the NIH as an undergraduate. Having worked on the NIH campus it became quickly apparent that many of the scientists themselves were NOT Americans. Many post-docs come to the US to train in the American scientific process euphemistically speaking; in actuality, they and their American counterparts are cheap labor and a large mine of intellectual property, but this is another topic itself that I will not get into in this blog. The same proportion of non-American scientists can be found in just about all academic institutions that acquire funds from the NIH. Why do I mention this (I admit yes, it's anecdotal) observation, when the topic of discussion is HIV vs. cancer spending? Hear me out and I'll clear everything up for you.
HIV is a GLOBAL threat. It is not much of a devastating disease in the US because, for the most part, it is manageable due to the ability of patients to afford the cocktail of medications required to keep it in check.
Those who divvy out US taxpayers' dollars to research certain diseases have changed their mode of thought from "diseases that devastate Americans" to "diseases that devastate everyone." Although many taxpayers are oblivious to this fact. Being the only superpower left in this world, the US has not only political responsibilities (witness the current situation in Iraq), but responsibilities for world health--this is the primary reason why US tax dollars must be spent in this manner. So throw out all the statistics of dollars spent per American per disease! Look at the statistics published by the UN and the WHO. HIV is ravishing Africa, Asia, and South America. I don't have the statistics on hand, but look at the numbers released by UNAIDS. It's also a fact that the number of HIV infections are on the rise in the US in certain cities--mind you, this is at a time when education spending is high; I highlight infections because although the number of individuals in the US dying of AIDS has dropped, the infection rate is rising--these two markers are not correlative. So the argument that HIV is a preventable disease through education is weak.
It is also apparent that education spending in places like Africa, although it will yield benefits, will not be enough to keep the spread of the disease in check. Couple this issue with the fact that many Africans cannot afford the drugs to manage the disease, and you have a crisis in your hands. I can guarantee you that HIV (and probably malaria as well) is killing more people in Africa than cancer. Again, the same can be said in parts of Asia and Central/South America. Hence, my argument is that more research must be done to find cheaper, better ways to keep HIV in check--hopefully, a vaccine one day.
No longer must we, Americans, believe that NIH should spend research money according to US needs. Our responsibilities are much more vast than just the 50 States. NIH spends research dollars for diseases that are global, and spends it by paying the salaries of not just Americans, but scientists from other countries as well. This is the new American way--teaching foreigners our way of science. When we see our neighbors in other countries sick, dying, and imprisoned we need to remember the story of Christ who will ask us at the gates of heaven: "when I was sick and in prison--where were you? Did you visit me?" The NIH spends the money for diseases that afflicts all humans because it represents us, each US citizen, and allows us to answer God back with a resounding YES.

Posted by johnvu at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2003

Miscellaneous tasks this weekend

Magpie RSS - PHP RSS Parser. Been up to a few things this past weekend. Worked about 6 hours Saturday, setting up some assays. But for downtime that night, I looked into syndicating news sites for my "Interests / Links" page. Let me tell you, it was not fun trying to find a PHP script to parse RSS files. First of all, there are three main versions people are using now, I believe--version 0.91, 1.0, and the new 2.0. The script had to be able to read all three formats. Finally, I stumbled upon MagpieRSS on Sourceforge (the link above), after going through a few pages in a google search. It's just what I wanted, and the functions are very easy to use and intuitive. Installation was a snap. I'm glad someone out there wrote this, saves me lots of time trying to reproduce it. Check out my results in my Links page. Hopefully in the future, I can use the functions to develop a more informative blog.

I also ended up upgrading version 2.51 of MovableType to 2.63. Followed the directions on their website and upgrading was a breeze.

MovableType has an automatic script that writes xml files for RSS in versions 0.91 and 1.0. It's nice to have that function--with the link to my xml file, I went to Feedster and submitted my site to their search engine of blogs and syndicated news channels. Hopefully providing some more traffic to my site. I wish my friends blogs had RSS files for me syndicate their sites--much better way of directing traffic to their sites, rather than a plain-ol' link.

Thought about completing my taxes and sending it out this weekend, got tied up with other things--huge birthday party for friends' children. Oh well, I'm a procrastinator, I'll have my taxes out the last day. Also thought about finishing up the last touches of my paper, waiting on one last experiment (I hope) to finish it.

Just got an email from Computer Geeks, they have Dell Axim PDA's for sale at very reasonable prices. The 300MHz version is running for around $150 and the 400MHz version is around $200. These prices are much better compared to the Audiovox Maestro. The processor is much faster. I still don't see why people are getting the iPaq's when these run at such discounted prices in comparison. Someone please tell me? Is it the integrated wifi? Bigger screen?

Posted by johnvu at 11:14 AM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2003

Foreign Language Proficiency

Language Exchange Community - Learn English, French, Spanish - practice foreign languages. As a new parent, I've come to the quick realization that my son should be afforded the same opportunities that I had growing up (and more if possible). One particular area of identity of my history is in the language. Although English is the language of choice for me, I am becoming increasingly cognizant of the fact that my ability to speak to my parents and relatives in Vietnamese is a cultural aspect that must not be lost in the following generations. I've realized that my proficiency in Vietnamese is far from the level required to teach my son how to speak, read, and write basic Vietnamese. Moreover, as a physician-to-be, I will inevitably encounter patients who will choose to come to me by the mere fact that my name is Vietnamese. Lest I sound like a mute Vietnamese idiot, it's time for me to learn how to at least read and write so that I can look up the medical terms in Vietnamese. To this end, I sought tools on the web that could augment my skills and happened to stumble upon the website above for MyLanguageExchange.com. The service pairs me up with an individual whose native tongue is that of the language that I requested to practice. In exchange for allowing me to write this person in Vietnamese and to practice my Vietnamese, I offer to critique their English--fostering a more meaningful practice session between the two of us. Most Americans already know that their foreign language skills most likely requires practice and this is a great way of doing it without breaking the bank. Cheers.

Posted by johnvu at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)