June 30, 2003

One step closer to an HIV mouse model

Mice succumb to HIV at last. A group at UCSF have been able to make murine cells replicate HIV. Quote from the news brief: Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco added a human protein called hp32 to mouse cells to help HIV properly assemble its genome into viral particles. The team is now creating whole mice with the hp32 gene, and looking for other factors that enhance viral infection.

Posted by johnvu at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2003

Telemarketers - Buh bye!

I rarely give telemarketers 5 seconds of my time, let alone think of how they could have sold me. But if you think you need the skills to sell more as a telemarketer, read SucceedingInBusiness.com: Getting Better Results On The Phone. However, if you think you're time is much more precious than that and would like to tell these phone spammers to take a hike, try opting-out at the National Do Not Call Registry which just opened two days ago -- exciting news for all of us who feel that 10 seconds here and 20 seconds there with telemarketers just means 30 seconds of our time wasted.

Posted by johnvu at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2003

Mosquitoes, what are they good for?

WAMU : The Diane Rehm Show. I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show today during my commute and the topic of discussion was West Nile Virus and the mosquitoes that carry it. One interesting point of discussion during the show was the environmental/ecological benefit of mosquitoes. Can anyone think of any good reasons in having mosquitoes around? Sure, birds feed on the larvae, but birds can eat larvae of other insects. Food for thought.

Posted by johnvu at 12:09 AM | Comments (5)

June 26, 2003

What to do when the power goes out

Funny. We've been having thunderstorms and rainstorms all of the last 2 months, with not a hint of any power outages, and on the first day of reallly hot and sunny weather (93° F), the power for the entire block went out. My wife said she heard a really loud pop outside -- I attribute it to a blown transformer (those sneaky squirrels!), but could very well be a result of high power usage by the air conditioning systems in the neighborhood. Must have had loss of power for a good 6 hours. I'll tell you, it's no fun trying to do some reading in the dark by candelight. In just 6 hours time, I now know a little of how those in the developing and Third World countries feel. Can't read at night. No TV entertainment. What's a child supposed to do, but lie there thinking about what s/he could be doing, if there was light. I can't say enough about how much I'm grateful to live the life I am living now. If only we could share the wealth -- I guarantee you there'd be less wars.

Posted by johnvu at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2003

Check me out in IE

Ok, just a quick test to see whether or not it was possible to create fonts, and embeddable fonts, using free software. I was able to create fonts in Linux using The Gimp and pfaedit. The tutorial at pfaedit's website pretty much explains the entire process. It was extremely easy to use once I got autotrace installed in my Linux box as well. I then used Microshaft's free tool called WEFT to create the embeddable font that you see here in this blog (that is, if you are viewing this page in IE). Follow MS's instructions on how to add the embeddable font in your CSS of your webpage/blog and you're set. Mind you, I did this all using open-source or FREE software (well, almost free, you have to have a Windows install to run WEFT, but at least WEFT is free). Nice isn't it? Well, ok, I agree, the fonts needs more work, but it's readable right? I hope so. Anyway, again, this is just a first run to see if creating fonts with free tools was possible. I don't really like the way it looks, but had to show it off anyway. I'm probably going to change it back to the way it was soon.

Update: The font is quite ugly! Hinting (quality of the font at small point sizes) for the font is very bad. But here's a screenshot of what it would have looked like:


Posted by johnvu at 01:02 AM | Comments (1)

June 20, 2003

Kimchi prevents SARS

sunspot.net - nation/world. A coworker of mine mentioned this rather interesting article. Koreans are quietly believing that their food staple, kimchi, is the reason behind the fact that few Koreans have been hit hard with SARS, despite its close geographical proximity to China. Either the Koreans are extremely brilliant in their branding (to get us to buy more kimchi) or this is actually true -- most likely, though, its highly coincidental. Apparently, this "news" of the medicinal value of kimchi has caused quite a stir in the media.

Posted by johnvu at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

Creating your own fonts

Font creation programs. Ever wanted to create your own fonts? Maybe fonts in your own handwriting? I do, so I ran a Google query for "font creation linux," (since we all know Linux is a true man's OS). And the first link was jam packed with info (link provided above). I guess just going out and buying Macromedia Fontographer is the easiest thing to do, but what fun is that? Really, I was just envious of Chris Pirillo's handwriting font (can only be seen in Internet Exploder) and just had to find out how he did it -- of course I could have shelled out the money to buy his tutorial at Lockergnome, but decided against it, since I could probably get the info free after searching Google. There are plenty of services out there that will take your handwriting (after you scan it in and send it to them) and create custom fonts for you, but again, what fun is in that? Now, it's time for me to learn more about this process.

Posted by johnvu at 12:57 AM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2003

Can the Matrix help HIV patients?

Betterhumans > News > Artificial Intelligence Could Reverse HIV Treatment Failure. Imagine being able to mathematically model an HIV-infected patient's "viral indicators" long-term. According to the above article, a group headed by Julio Montaner at the University of British Columbia has developed a neural network to create a dynamic model (using artificial intelligence) that predicts a person's projected viral load and matches the numbers with a particular drug regimen. This neural network, according to the group, was able to predict with 87% accuracy (within the narrowest time frame of 8 weeks prior to the treatment change) which drug regimen could have been used to reduce viral load. Of course, the study was performed using data from a treatment cohort and the neural network was not at all implicated in decision making for drug therapy. However, if the model holds true, perhaps it can be used in future decision-making processes to evaluate drug therapy changes. Imagine that, in the future, you sit in the doctor's office and s/he punches in your numbers and the computer spits out what drugs you should be taking and when you should be taking them. I'm sure it's probably already done to a certain degree in the clinic.

Posted by johnvu at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2003

Emerging Infections

Beyond Cute: Exotic Pets Come Bearing Exotic Germs. As the human population continues to grow and as we start to encroach on areas that had little human contact prior, you can be sure that new microbes will find their way to us. This New York Times article makes mention of the new monkeypox cases that have been hyped recently. Personally, I think that monkeypox is not as problematic as that of SARS, but with it the scientific community can definitely learn a lot about how new emerging infections can take a foothold early in a population. The article even talks about poxvirus. An interesting quote from the article: The most familiar member of the pox virus family is in some ways the most mysterious. Many people assume that vaccinia, the virus used to make smallpox vaccine, is the same virus that causes cowpox and that was first used by Dr. Edward Jenner in 1796 to vaccinate people against smallpox. In fact, vaccinia is not the cowpox virus. It is a distinct species, and scientists do not know where it came from. But in the early days of vaccination, there was no way to store a vaccine, so people were usually vaccinated with secretions taken from other people or animals. Scientists have speculated that such arm-to-arm passage may have created a hybrid of smallpox and cowpox, or perhaps even brought in a type of horsepox that no longer exists in nature.

Posted by johnvu at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2003

Condoms for Asians

Now, durian condoms - smh.com.au. This article was too funny to pass up. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure (or displeasure) of eating durian, you can at least read about it -- check under the heading "Sau Rieng." I still don't understand how people can stand the smell, taste and texture of durian -- I guess I'm not Asian enough. Those of you who agree with me that Sau Rieng stinks -- speak up! I don't let my wife eat the stuff when I'm around! I could be downstairs sitting on the crapper, and would know when she's upstairs opening the container to eat the nasty stuff -- the smell even overwhelms that of my crap! No joke. LOL.

Posted by johnvu at 01:16 AM | Comments (0)

HBO series looks into the faces of AIDS

Boston Globe Online / Living | Arts / HBO series looks into the faces of AIDS. For the next few Sundays (starting tonight at 7 and 7:30 -- whoops, missed it), HBO is presenting a series of 5 films produced by Robert Kennedy's youngest daughter, Rory Kennedy. The series, entitled "Pandemic: Facing AIDS," presents anecdotal snapshots of individuals suffering with HIV/AIDS in 5 different countries throughout the world. For those of you who are convinced that HIV/AIDS is "not my problem," please take the time to watch the films and reevaluate afterwards whether or not you still think HIV is not a problem. The films attempt to show how heavily HIV has imposed huge social and economic burdens on today's populations. You can learn more by perusing the film's website.

Posted by johnvu at 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2003

26th Asian American International Film Festival

Asian CineVision. FRIDAY, JUNE 20 - SUNDAY, JUNE 29, 2003! It's the 26th Asian American International Film Festival held in New York City. Get your tickets online now. Read more about it by following the link above. Should be an entertaining week, wish I had the time (and money) to go.

Posted by johnvu at 06:39 PM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2003

Make your life simple

Xanga << got kickz? >> Xanga. Got a little time to kill before I go out and play ball. I've been following the lead of my friend and have been trying to stay healthy. In fact, I did it as a New Year's resolution and have been surprisingly able to stick with it for all these months -- it helps to have a co-worker who goes to the gym the same time. Anyway, since I just had some time to kill, I read my friends' blog too. He wants to make his life simpler. He is on the right track. I remembered an episode on MPT a few months back -- some self-help episode -- about how to make your life simpler. Specifically, if you have projects that are "dangling," you have to decide on what to do with these projects -- remember, be proactive with your life regarding these matters (according to Anthony Robbins). Specifically, there are 3 ways to handle these projects: 1) finish it, 2) throw it away, or 3) hire it out. The simplest of these 3 is to throw it away. In fact, this pertains not only to projects, but also material possessions. If you threw away all the things that you barely use day-to-day, your life will be simpler. Imagine if you threw away all the clothes that you barely wore, your life would be simpler. Why? Because then you'd have less to worry about in terms of wardrobe choices, and you'd be pickier about the clothes that you do buy. Moreover, the clothes that you buy will be of better quality (and last longer). And because you're not buying quantity, you can use the money you save by buying quality products.

One of these days, try throwing away items of little use in your life as an experiment. See how much simpler your life gets. Funny, I used to be one of those guys who was notoriously messy in the car. I had my books all over the place. Sneakers, shoes, gym shorts, you name it. When I finally decided to get rid of all that stuff in the car (by force, not by choice, since I now live in Baltimore city where even a few pennies in open view will lead to your car being broken into), I swear my car runs better. Anyone else care to share how your lives have been made simpler by merely throwing away s**t?

Posted by johnvu at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2003

Paradigm shifts (continued)

Daily affirmations are a good way to get you to live within your new "paradigm." In fact, of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits, habit number 4 is in essence a habit of daily affirmations, just reworded. However, just don't get carried away like this person did.

I'll end this blog with a happy thought: you know you're in the throngs of parenthood when you don't need to peek into the diaper to know if your child did a number 1 or a number 2. Just the look, feel and smell of the diaper tells you everything. I never thought I'd be able to pick up this talent -- let alone be proud of it.

Posted by johnvu at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2003

Paradigm shifts

I was listening to Stephen Covey describe the fundamentals of his "7 Habits of Highly Successful People" and in one section of the talk, he describes how easy it is to change oneself's thinking -- he uses the term paradigm shift to define it. The common misconception, as he continues to explain, is that change is difficult, unbearable even. But he goes on to say that change is NOT difficult, because when one changes, it's often instant, there is no gradual motion toward it -- once it happens, it happens. For example, he anecdotally describes an incident that occurred to him in the subway, on a way to a meeting. As he was sitting in his seat, a man and his children walks in. During a good portion of the train ride, the man's children were rude, unruly, and disruptive. Dr. Covey leans over to the man, after finally reaching his breaking point, and says to him "can't you control your children please?" The man turns to him, with a face and slumped shoulders like the weight of the whole world was on him and says, "Hmmm....well, yeah, I guess I should. We just left the hospital. Their mother just died." In that instant, the mood changed. If this at all happened to any one of us, our mood would have surely changed just as Dr. Covey's did. That change was instant. If we can empower ourselves with that ability, change can be easy. Remember, it's a change in thinking, a change in how we view ourselves and the world -- the paradigm shift.

I was just reading some of my friends' blogs. One friend describes how his daughter was pulling grapes out and stuffing his face with the pulled grapes and kept doing it even when he didn't want anymore. He quipped at his daughter for continuuing this antic, quite annoyed at first. She replies, "oh, I was just sharing." That reply made him feel like a creep. That's a paradigm shift! Change in thinking is not difficult. Sometimes we need that jolt, kick, or epiphany to do it. To do it by on your own, is difficult, but is not impossible.

I've recently had my own "paradigm shift." I've come to this realization sitting here on a quiet rainy Saturday afternoon in the lab. I realize now that sometimes those around you, who you think are there to guide you, protect you or mentor, will not do so. That these individuals, after all is said and done, have the power only to protect their own self interests. It is imperative only upon me, that I protect my interests and can no longer rely on anyone else to help me in this respect. To all you fledgling grad students who duked it out and have read this far, take these words and try to live by it. You cannot make assumptions about anyone else's agenda. You cannot rely on anyone else to help you but yourself. It's a tough lesson to learn. And I've learned the hard way.

Posted by johnvu at 05:09 PM | Comments (1)

June 06, 2003

This explains it all

BBC NEWS | Health | Boy babies 'boost appetite'. We've recently been gifted with a baby boy, and during my wife's pregnancy, I was just amazed at how much my wife could eat. This recent study suggests that a "male fetus may may secrete a chemical from its developing testicles that stimulates its mother to step up her energy intake." That explains everything. Interesting little read. Sounds like such an old-wives' tale!

Posted by johnvu at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

Contributing to Open Source on your FREE time

Slashdot | Properly Contributing to Open Source While on Company Time?. This recent topic/question asked by a reader at slashdot has brought up so many good questions about IP and such, that I just had to blog about it.

In my experience, even if your work has nothing to do with writing software, an individual can still be questioned and punished if the perception of releasing IP to the open source project is there. Case in point: say a grad student was working on a piece of software that had nothing to do with his job description, it had nothing to do with his scope of employment, and had nothing to do with his day to day job, but had something to do with a weekly task.

Hypothetically speaking, say this student developed the software on his own time, using his own resources. Even if the intention of the student was good -- that is, the software helped him and his coworkers streamline a mundane weekly task -- the slightest hint that the software will be made available outside of the University will be construed (or misconstrued, depending on what side of the fence you are on) as breach of IP ownership rights (i.e. the University 0wnz j00!) Even if the student can prove that the ownership is his -- through timestamped files -- if the student was ever called up on it, it's a battle that he can never win. Let's face it, with a student salary, how can one hire a good lawyer? So the student's superiors give him a slap in the risk and reiterates to him that they 0wnz j00! And he walks away licking his wounds, vowing never again to take the initiative and go out of his way again to help out at work.

Less face it. When it comes to a confrontation between a grad student and his superiors, the odds are as even as an ant against the mighty Mississippi. This is a travesty of the system, because in the long run, who loses out? The answer is: everyone!

So the answer to the question the slashdot reader brought up, if it was me (the grad student) is NEVER. By not contributing anything at all as a grad student, it becomes a no issue. Remember this one thing: no one will support your side of the issue as a grad student, unless you are paying them well enough. It's only contingent upon you to watch your own back, no one else will do it for you, no matter how much you assume otherwise.

Posted by johnvu at 12:56 AM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2003

Integrating Pybliographer with OpenOffice

Pyblink. A python programmer went about creating a little tool to allow his wife, who uses Pybliographer to organize her references on a daily basis, to insert quick citations into an OpenOffice document. According to the author, it's a quick hack, but may be a step towards the right direction.

Posted by johnvu at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2003

Remastering Knoppix for Science

Quantian -- Knoppix remastered. One of the pet projects I had in mind in my "free time," was to remaster the Knoppix Linux Live CD to include Linux software that a scientist would deem useful. Well, the Quantian distribution has done just that. A live Linux CD is a good piece of software to have in your backpack anyway -- you can use it as a rescue CD or use it to compile your LaTeX document -- all without needing to install a whole new OS on your hard drive.

Posted by johnvu at 11:10 PM | Comments (1)

June 01, 2003

The ever pervasive SPAM

Work-at-Home Schemes. There has been lots of media attention recently on spam and its detriment to e-society. I've provided a little link above to help you sift through a common spam topic -- work-at-home. All spam sounds enticing -- as by nature it should -- but always remember, if it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is. One of the more notorious spams is the Nigerian money scam. If we all followed the simple process of not replying to spam (good or bad), we might be rid of this corruption. It's obvious spamming is lucrative, otherwise, why would they continue if it wasn't?

On a more happy note, I think we've finally figured out how to control baby's atopic dermatitis (eczema). Our most recent visit to the dermatologist (finally someone who knew what to do) left us with good advice. Pediatrician's tend to advise less baths for baby's with eczema; however, the dermatologist recommended at least one bath per day and to lock in the moisture immediately after the bath by using Aquafor. Doing this, with intermittent use of 2.5% hydrocortisone cream really reduced the breakouts.

Posted by johnvu at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)