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    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    First Semester in Review

    It's been two months since I've written a post on TBE. I must say, it's been a loooonnnngggg two months. Not a week--no--not a day has gone by that I haven't thought about posting. Countless reasons to post have came and went, but one reason not to post trumped them all: school.

    I never imagined medical school would be this hard. My sentiments have been echoed countless times by most of my classmates. Every one of us did well at our undergraduate institution. Some did remarkably well. We all expected to come into medical school and do what we always did--studying and what not--and get the grades.

    The first semester was divided into three blocks. Each block was about six weeks long. Block exams then lasted one week. At the end of the semester we had Thanksgiving, then third block exams, and then finals. All in all, I was studying exams for the first two and a half weeks of December.

    After finals, I spent the next week before Christmas playing tour guide, translator, and shopper. My father-in-law came in town and spent Christmas with us. It was great, but busy. While my wife worked, I got to drive all over Houston, pointing out interesting sites, translating things into Vietnamese, and trying to find Christmas gifts.

    After Christmas, we all (wife, father-in-law, myself) went to San Jose, CA for a wedding. I love California. Now, I'd never want to live in San Francisco, but I was impressed. It was my first time going there, and it was fun, interesting, delicious (the food), and expensive. I'll talk more about that later.

    But now I'm back. It's a new year, a new semester, new classes, new experiences, a new blogger (if you have a blogger blog you understand), and new posts. Here's to a great 2006 and a better 2007.

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    Second Anniversary

    Today is my wife and my's second anniversary. I can't believe two years has gone by since we got married, and about four since we met. This means a couple things:
    I truly am the luckiest guy in the world

    1. I am getting old. Don't laugh. Yes, I know I am still in my twenties, but I am older than 98% of my medical school class, and it tells.

    2. I am the luckiest guy in the world. My wife loves me and keeps reaffirming how great my decision was to marry her.

    I'm not sure how I won her heart. You see, she didn't like me at first. She thought I was stuck up. I thought she was stuck up. Obviously looks can be deceiving. We met briefly at a Vietnamese Student Association thing, I gave her my email address so I could be informed about upcoming meetings, and we both took away those first impressions.

    Little did I know I'd marry her about two years later.
    [She] slipped her her hand into mine, and my heart fluttered

    A month after that fateful email delivery, I went down to Orange County, CA to visit old friends and attend the Tet festival (Chinese New Year) in Garden Grove. By this time we had talked, and things were generally confusing. She wasn't sure how she felt about me. I wasn't sure where things were headed. I went down with some friends of mine, and invited her to take the second car down. She said she'd think about it, but needed to stay and study.

    The next night she met me at the Tet festival and slipped her hand into mine, and my heart fluttered, and the train was off.

    Two years later she slipped her hand into mine, this time wearing a diamond ring, and we drove away from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City a married couple ... and my heart fluttered.

    Last night, with stuff nose and headache, I went to bed. I have a cold. I feel horrible. You know the feeling--your head pounds, you can't breathe out of your nose, and generally you just feel like drilling a hole in your head to let out the pressure, and hopefully allow you to breathe better. A little while later I felt my wife slip under the covers, kiss me on the forehead, and slip her hand into mine as I fell back asleep ... and my heart fluttered.

    I truly am the luckiest guy in the world.

    Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    Medical School is Crazy

    Nobody understands what doctors go through until they are there. I just finished my first round of exams, and as you might have noticed, have blogged little as of late. I have a blog on medical school, but even that is hard to find time for, let alone my passion on Vietnam and international politics that use TBE as a forum.

    Let me just tell you that doctors do not make nearly as much as the effort that is exerted. People think doctors make a ton of money, and most are compensated far better than average (i.e. top 5% of the country) but compare that with law, business, or another profession, and a doctor's time is cheap, pennies-on-the-dollar cheap, in comparison.

    So, next time you visit your doctor, thank him for surviving, yes, surviving medical school, so he can keep you healthy enough to bill your clients $100 an hour to do their legal stuff.

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Ode to a Great One

    Photo taken from NY Times

    Goodbye. Farewell. Today I saw the end of an era. I still don't believe it ... well, I believe it, but my consciousness has yet to accept it. Andre Agassi is done. My family is a tennis family. Since my earliest days I remember sitting on Saturdays and Sundays watching two or four people hit a green felt ball back and forth, "click, clock! click clock! click clock!" the crowd silent, until some incredible angle was attempted and hit or a line painted. Then came deafening roars and cheers from my living room.
    To me, the only planet to live on was Planet Agassi

    By 10 years old the world revolved around two people -- no, not Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev -- Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Sure, there were others. Who can forget the memorable French open run of Chang? Or the Wimbledon of Malivai Washington a little later? But the Galaxy was determined. There were two planets: Planet Sampras and Planet Agassi. Everyone else were at best moons revolving around these two.

    Sure there were older players. I remember Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Boris Becker. But every brightly burning star eventually bloats to a red gas giant and then cools to a black dwarf. These great stars had no more light. The two that remained, revolving around each other, could not be any more different. To my young mind, Planet Sampras was pure power. Lightning serves rained down from his serene skies, points finishing quickly. I could hear a point: "ugh, pop! *grunt!* thunk!" and the ball had hit the wall behind the returner.


    Planet Sampras was always clean cut. His orbit was round and he stuck to it, never deviating. His private life stayed private, and people loved him for his mastery of the game.

    But I never could. To me, the only planet to live on was Planet Agassi. Whereas Sampras lived by a legendary serve, Agassi redefined returning serve. Agassi took serves so fast you couldn't help but say "ouch!" and laugh. Yes, it's impressive to throw a huge punch, ut how much more impressive is it to just stand there, take the punch without flinching, and rip one back so fast and hard that the other guy is on his back before he knows it? That was Agassi.

    "ugh, pop! *grunt* clock! thunk!"

    and the ball was in the wall behind the server.

    Planet Agassi had no appreciable standard orbit. As a kid I loved a player finally not wearing tennis whites with short, clean cut hair. Agassi was the youthful freedom we all sought. His long hair and flamboyant clothes defined his personality, the pirate, bucking against tradition and form. He was The Rebel. Even in commercials, it was the EOS Powershot Rebel. We all wanted to rebel.

    As the years rolled on I would cheer him in the great Sampras:Agassi matches. I mourned him when he hit bottom in the late 1990s. I thanked God for an answer to my prayers during his resurgence. My highschool days were marked by long hair too, hoping for the same statement I saw out of him a few years earlier.
    Agassi the rebel had returned from the dead as Agassi the Sage

    McEnroe was a firebrand, a misfit of sorts. Agassi was different. He was a phoenix. He lived a burning hot life, and when it ended, he arose back out of the ashes, reformed. After a year in the minor leagues Agassi returned, different. Everything I loved about him as a kid was gone, and everything I didn't like then I respected now. He and I had grown up. The hair was gone. Fashion cannot conquer genetics, and Agassi's pate had nothing on it. Bald. His clothes were white. Agassi the rebel had returned from the dead as Agassi the Sage.

    Planet Agassi's orbit became as regular as ever. He became the Monk of Tennis with his shaved head and all white ensemble. And more than his clothes, his words and actions spoke nirvana. As he won, Agassi relected on the greatness of tennis, its fans, and humanity. As he won, he put more and more money into charities such as his charter school for economically dsiadvantaged children in Las Vegas, NV. As he won, he became even more respected for that return, especially as his back continued to fail on him.

    The wounded warrior who falls to a great foe after a strong fight is more revered than the strong warrior who dispatches him. And so it was with Andre. Even down to his last tournament, I watched in awe as he took Baghdatis to five sets, winning in the end, and then Becker to four sets, losing close each set. It conjured up dreams of what he would be like, even at 36, with a good back. A couple more majors, Andre?

    21 years are over. The wise monk has finally retired to his mountain home. The bright star has burnt out with fury, not slowly. The stormy planet that grew calm has finally grown silent. I sat and watched his last match. I stood for points on ending hoping that the cosmos would align because of my superstitious actions and will him to victory. I screamed at the tv as an obviously tired Becker got lucky with big serves against an ailing Agassi.

    I cried when Agassi broke down in his chair, and again when he thanked the fans and people of New York for 21 great years. And I too said "Thank you, Andre."

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    Vuelta a Espania

    Have you ever riden a 10 to 12% grade on a bicycle at a speed over 10 mph? If you haven't, let me give you a clue about how it feels. Imagine someone has a meat tenderizer hammer and pounds your thighs until they look like hamburger. The riders in the Vuelta a Espania (Tour of Spain, one of the three Grand Tours) experienced this today. Ouch. Imagine your thighs hurting like that and then someone passes you. What do you have to do? Attack, of course. So, that means putting the pain aside and putting all of your effort and sanity to catch up to and pass your opponent. I respect those guys for the effort and skill they have gained in their cycling careers.

    On to the doping stuff again. It looks like the doping news has settled down a little. For all of you Tyler Hamilton supporters, he will end his ban for blood doping in the month of September. The current president of the UCI (http://www.uci.ch) or International Cyclists Union is trying to get Hamilton banned for life due to the current doping mess. His name some how appeared in documents of the charged doping doctor. Who knows?

    Well, I'm upgrading my bike. I am using new components from the SRAM corporation. These parts move into a market dominated by two makers: Shimano and Campy. SRAM gives me light weight parts at a fraction of the price of either. However, the parts I am buying with SRAM pasted all over them are for my road bike, not my time trial bike. For instance, the gear/brake levers built by SRAM (model Rival) weigh in at 335 g. Shimano's Dura Ace, their top of the line shifters, weigh a staggering 420g. For a climber, those numbers are huge. Next, look at the brakes, SRAM Rival (SRAM's number 2 model, their Dura Ace model is called FORCE) brakes weigh 290 g while DA brakes weigh 305 g. When you add up the components, RIVAL only lacks in their crankset which is 30g heavier than DA's crank. Give SRAM a few more years, and they will break up the Shimano/Campy domination.

    Till next time! Keep on riding! and Studying!

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Thursday, August 24, 2006

    Iraq and the Melia, addendum

    Consul-at-arms made a good comment in my first post, prompting my reply and study.

    "The Belgians went into the colony and separated the people according to physical features that looked European vs. Non-european."

    Huh? Where'd you hear that? And if it were true, how is that several neighboring countries, where the Belgians weren't the colonial power, have the same two tribes?
    I replied,
    Well, I took your question and ran with it. First, I made the statement based on admittedly little knowledge on the subject, and what I had seen on Sometimes in April.

    So, after reading your comment, I wanted to see if I was wrong. Yes and no. The Belgians did separate people into the groups Hutu and Tutsi based on physical features. But I was wrong in the insinuation that they were exactly one people before this.

    The Hutu and Tutsi were one people for years. They lived in tribes, intermarried, etc. For most of this time, Hutu designated farmers and Tutsi designated rulers or people not doing rural work. Therefore, the indentifier could change as you changed class, work, etc.

    However, by the time the Europeans arrived the Hutu and Tutsi designations were starting to congeal in a Tutsi=non-farm-worker and Hutu=farm-worker identity, making most societal leaders Tutsi. Their work indoors and a different genetic origin for many of them, gave them lighter skin, and more European features generally.

    Hence, when the Belgians came, it was easy to see the Tutsi's as more European, already versed in ruling a society, and easy candidates to run the colony.

    Since this is becoming longer than expected, I am going to put quotes in another post.
    I want to add some to that.

    Wikipedia--not always the most reliable source, but good--says
    The Belgian government continued to rely on the Tutsi power structure for administering the country. It also consistently favoured the Tutsis where education was concerned, leading to a situation where many Tutsis were literate, while the majority of Hutus were not. Belgians educated the Tutsis in Catholic schools, which widened the ethnic rift between Hutu and Tutsi.

    ...Current academic thought is that the European emphasis on racial division led to many of the difficulties between Hutu and Tutsi in the latter part of the 20th century.
    from Wikipedia:History of Rwanda

    Here it talks about Hutu and Tutsi denominations, saying,
    The word "Tutsi," which apparently first described the status of an individual—a person rich in cattle—became the term that referred to the elite group as a whole and the word "Hutu"—meaning originally a subordinate or follower of a more powerful person—came to refer to the mass of the ordinary people.

    ...Because Europeans thought that the Tutsi looked more like themselves than did other Rwandans, they found it reasonable to suppose them closer to Europeans in the evolutionary hierarchy and hence closer to them in ability. Believing the Tutsi to be more capable, they found it logical for the Tutsi to rule Hutu and Twa just as it was reasonable for Europeans to rule Africans. Unaware of the "Hutu" contribution to building Rwanda, the Europeans saw only that the ruler of this impressive state and many of his immediate entourage were Tutsi, which led them to assume that the complex institutions had been created exclusively by Tutsi.

    Not surprisingly, Tutsi welcomed these ideas about their superiority...
    (found in Rwandan History)

    Although my reference towards the origin of the Hutu and Tutsi was not entirely clear, and generalizations are never entirely accurate, I still think the Hutu vs. Tutsi conflict has some bonafide similarities with the Shi'a/Sunni situation I wrote about in the first post, including the repercussions still today of Europeans arbitrarily outlining colonies.

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Chinese Censorship and Tour Guides

    Yesterday, my family had a little get-together with some relatives to celebrate my brother's return from Italy. As talk moved to everyone's recent travels (Vietnam, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Thailand, Cambodia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, China, Korea, and the Philippines), my aunt recounted her favorite times in China--the Great Wall and the Terracotta warriors.
    Did you know he had concubines?

    Then the topic turned to Mao.

    The tour guide happily explained about Chairman Mao and all the great and wonderful things he did for China. Then he said, "he had a wife and a couple kids and was a great family man."

    "Did you know he had concubines?" my cousin, fleunt in Mandarin and who graduated with a degree in Asian Studies, queried.

    "No, that is not true," retorted the tour guide. "I have never heard such things."

    "Oh but it is," she responded. "He had over one hundred concubines, and stopped brushing his teeth about 20 years before he died."

    The tour guide's eyes widened. "Really? What more about Mao have we not been told?"
    They don't have weapons now but watch out

    My cousin proceeded to explain a few points to him. My aunt, relating the story, then said,

    "Everywhere we went, we stood in long lines of tourists. With capitalism, China is embracing tourism, and where tourists go, people talk. Eventually, the aggregate sum of these encounters will lead to something big. Shanghai is an amazing city. In my opinion, it's more amazing than New York City. But you go 10 miles outside of Shanghai and people have mud floors in their huts. Right now, the government controls the media, but eventually this knowledge will spread, and you will have millions of angry citizens. They don't have weapons now, but watch out. It'll be big."

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Iraq and the Melia

    I was listening to NPR yesterday evening and couldnt help connecting the current conflict in Iraq with one in Africa that was the subject of two great movies: Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April.

    What in the world could Baghdad have with the Hotel Melia?? Small bastions of solace amid a storm of sectarian violence spiraling out of control.

    If you haven't seen Sometimes in April, I highly reccomend it. I think it is better than Hotel Rwanda, which is a great movie. Something running through both movies is the theme of international indifference while people slaughter each other over a name.

    "What's in a name?? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
    (Who wrote that line?)

    The Hutu and Tutsi sects that massacred each other in the movies above really were one people. The Belgians went into the colony and separated the people according to physical features that looked European vs. Non-european. The Tutsi, or European group became rulers over the more numerous Hutu group. When the Hutu regained power, tension spiraled towards genocide.

    Now, in Iraq, we have the start of a similar situation. Shi'a and Sunni are both Arab, however, due to differences in religious belief, stemming from hundreds of years ago (i.e. who should rule after Mohammad, his grandson or someone else), numerous wars and sectarian violence has bred mutual animosity and distrust in --not all but-- a number of people who now work towards cleansing towns and suburbs of Baghdad of the "other" group. I fear it may have hit critical mass. The government there and here cannot stop the course of events without seriously stepping up manpower, and that will only put the lid on things until the "police" leave. How can you stop and change hundreds of years of pride and animosity?

    I blame the Brits for arbitrarily creating Iraq from a mish-mash of ethnic and religious groups that weren't getting along then and don't now. The road to peace will be long and hard, changing the habits and prejudices of parents and children, and could start by having mandatory study of enlightenment philosophers in schools (for the young...when they can go to school). Obviously much more needs to be done, but I don't profess to have all the answers, if any.

    Monday, August 14, 2006

    My First Day of Medical School

    Today was my first day of medical school. On that note, I am taking the advice of a blogging master, Virtual Doug, and I am starting a one-post-a-day blog about medical school. It will consist only of my thoughts and experiences while in medical school or my life as it directly pertains to medical school (possibly alot, since that's all I'm doing for the next four years). I hope people find it interesting.

    Welcome to A Med Student's Life.


    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Texas Drivers

    I'm eating crow. Lots of it. Every day my wife ribs me as we drive around Houston looking for houses or taking her to tennis lessons.

    "I thought you said Texas drivers were good?"

    "I did."

    "Well, I don't see that," she replies. "Nobody here is courteous. They're worse than Utah drivers."

    "Now, don't say that! They haven't stooped that low!" I retort.

    What's this world coming to when a smoking grandma tries to get you to rear-end her
    But the truth is, they're coming close. Why? When I grew up here, drivers were courteous. They stopped with room to spare at lights to let merge out of parking lots and into traffic. They drove at that general lackadaisical pace found on the farms that "farm roads" are supposed to lead to (FM 529--farm road 529--is NOT a farm road anymore!). Sure, driving wasn't perfect--drivers weren't perfect--but people generally were nice, and after being helped out once, you typically returned the favor, spawning this viral good deed driving atmosphere.

    Today things are different. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only driver on the road still doing the things listed above. Drivers drive fast, the ride bumpers to make a Southern Californian jealous. When I first got into town, my mother drove the family to the Museum of Natural Science. Someone tried to get over, put on his or her blinker, and my mother sped up.

    "I can't let them in. They'll put me farther behind."

    WHAT!? Then she proceeded to speed up, forcing the car to merge farther back, and then slammed on her brakes because she was riding the rear bumper of a SUV that was slowing. My heart leapt into my throat.

    Driving has been hard for my wife. She has almost no experience driving in traffic like this, and our old car was a 1990 Toyota Camry held together by duct tape and chewing gum. It leaked more oil than it burned, and burned more than it used. Hopefully, she can take backroads as she gets used to a new car and roads.

    For me, I still have the roads memorized. There are some new street lights where we used to have stopsigns, and stores where there was cow pastures, but generally the layout is the same. I've driven in Utah and SoCal, so I can manage the cutthroat practices here. The impetus for this rant came two days ago, when I almost got in an accident.

    I was traveling down West Road, after dropping my wife off at tennis class. This area of West Rd. is four lanes, divided by a marge median with trees and grass. So two lanes one way, two the other. The oncoming two lanes were packed, as people returned home from work during rush hour. My lanes were generally empty because I'm driving east, into town.

    I'm driving along at the speed limit, 40mph, left lane, with one silver car in front of me in the right lane. West Rd cuts through subdivisions in
    If the lane I just came from wasn't empty, I'd be in that car's back bumper right now
    this area, so there is a light at the intersection into one subdvision with my old elementary school, Fiest, and then another light maybe 200 ft past because of a blind turn into the intersection on the left. My entrance is on the right just past the second light.

    Well, I passed the first light and switched over to the right lane because i will turn just after the second light. It turns yellow.

    "Man, I just got into this lane behind the silver car," I thought. "I guess I'll move back because there's not a lot of room to stop and I'll be first at the light."

    There were no other cars.

    As I start to shift back to the left lane, the silver car in front of me slams on its breaks forcing me to cut over quickly so I don't hit it.

    "What the heck?" I think to myself. "If the lane I just came from wasn't empty, I'd be in that car's back bumper right now."

    I wasn't following inordinately close, the car just stopped really quickly. Whipping into the left lane, I look over and see an old gray-haired woman, about 70, lighting a cigarette. Her car comes to a complete stop a full 2 car lengths before the light. There's only about 200 ft or so between lights!

    Gathering my wits before me, I moved back into the right hand lane since I needed to turn right. Mind you, I'm not cutting this smoking grandma off. Even with me in the right hand lane, there's still a good 12 feet between us. The light turns green, I take off, and the grandma speeds up, cuts into the left lane behind a car that caught up to us, and proceeds to give me the evilest glare as she passes me.

    What's this world coming to when a smoking grandma tries to get you to rear-end her, stops multiple car lengths from the light, the gives you the evil-eye as she passes?? Beware Houston drivers.

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    Thursday, July 27, 2006

    Landis in question for doping??!?!?!?!?

    Phonak confirms Landis rider in question

    The Phonak Cycling Team confirmed Thursday that Tour de France winner Floyd Landis is the rider who submitted a positive "A" sample following the 17th stage of this year's Tour de France. The UCI revealed Wednesday that the anti-doping laboratory at Ch√Ętenay-Malabry in Paris discovered an "adverse analytical finding" in a doping control taken during the 93rd Tour. "The adverse analytical finding received on Wednesday morning relates to the first analysis and will have to be confirmed either by a counter-analysis required by the rider, or by the fact that the rider renounces to that counter analysis," the UCI statement said. A positive "A" sample is only the first step in the process and does not constitute proof of any rider's use of performance-enhancing substances.

    The Phonak Cycling Team issued the following statement Thursday, confirming Landis as the rider in question:

    The Phonak Cycling Team was notified yesterday by the UCI of an unusual level of Testosteron/Epitestosteron ratio in the test made on Floyd Landis after stage 17 of the Tour de France.

    The Team Management and the rider were both totally surprised of this physiological result. The rider will ask in the upcoming days for the counter analysis to prove either that this result is coming from a natural process or that this is resulting from a mistake in the confirmation. In application of the Pro Tour Ethical Code, the rider will not race anymore until this problem is totally clear.

    If the result of the B sample analysis confirms the result of the A sample the rider will be dismissed and will then pass the corresponding endocrinological examinations. Please understand that we cannot at this time give you more detailed comments.

    More about doping in the 2006 Tour DAY France.

    The UCI revealed Wednesday that the anti-doping laboratory at Ch√Ętenay-Malabry in Paris discovered an "adverse analytical finding" in a doping control taken during the 93rd Tour.

    <---- Is it one of these guys?
    Please no. The European press loves a scandel as much as any news agency. Once a decade, they try to derail the tour on doping. Other reports show that the Astana-Wurth team which had five riders implicated in Operacion Puerto was cleared. That means that Vino's chance at taking the tour was derailed for NOTHING! This guy should have placed on the podium! --->

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006

    The Next Lance?

    This guy, Levi may be Discovery Channel's next Lance. If no one knows, Levi used to be on the old US Postal Squad that became Disco.

    Next years Tour de France will be another shocker. With people like Jan Ullrich trying to get cleared of doping problems, Vino who will be as combative as possible, and now Levi and Discovery, get ready to be on the edge of your seat again.

    Today, word was released that one of the cyclists at the Tour had one of their blood samples test positive for some banned substance. Wow. Could a tour that was already rocked due to drugs be rocked even more? Well, in the next few days we will know who had to cheat to compete. These guys are at the top of their game and are driven at times to maintain their high placing or level of competition. Why dope?

    Back to Levi. With an entire team behind him, his chances of standing on top of the podium in Paris next year skyrockets. However, look at the horrible time trial that Levi rode. This next season, he definately needs to spend a little more time on the TT bike and get rid of all excuses to lose eight minutes to the first place finisher of the ITT stages.

    On other news... I am interested in getting the new SRAM Force/Rival components for my bike. Right now, two major companies control ALL of the high end cycling market: Shimano and Campy. I have been a Shimano rider for a long time...ever since I started racing bikes. However, I am displeased with the cost of the components and sometimes the weight of the components. SRAM is moving into the arena with two groupos that offer better pricing and usage together.

    I AM A STUDENT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! CHEAPER... lighter... stronger parts are what I call for my bike!

    Americans Dominate French Tour

    As you know, I love the Tour de France. I like cycling, but I'm not good at it, and I love watching the tour. Dunno why. This year, with the moving and all, I haven't posted about it, but hopefully AnonCyclist will stop worrying about my great Texas/Vietnam logo or med school applications and fill us in on the state of cycling (since he is a cyclist).

    Floyd Landis was not the race favorite in May. He wasn't the race favorite in June. Only after Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, and some other big names were barred from competing because of the blood doping scandal, and some bad accidents at the beginning of the race dashed the hopes of one or two others, did Landis move from a potential top 10 finisher to a potential winner--and he didn't disappoint.
    That makes 11 in 21 years ... They're probably sick to death of the Star Spangled Banner

    In fact, there's a theme here. Americans don't like cycling nearly as much as europeans, but we can kick their trash IF we are NOT healthy. There have been three winners of the tour--Greg LeMond, Lance Armstrong, and Floyd Landis. Greg was shot and nearly killed right after winning his first Tour de France.
    Over forty shotgun pellets ripped through Greg's body, lodging not only in his back and legs, but more critically in his small intestine, liver, diaphragm, and heart lining. While waiting for rescue, his right lung collapsed and he lost three quarters of his blood supply. A cell phone, a police helicopter and nearby hospital that specialized in gun shot wounds saved his life. Because of the dangerous locations, surgeons were forced to leave over thirty of the pellets imbedded in his body.
    He came back from this adversity to win the Tour in 1989 and 1990 before retiring.

    Armstrong's saga is well-known, and provides a great springboard for politics which many people predict he will get into. Maybe we will see a Governor Armstrong in Texas. Anyway, his fight and victory over cancer, return to cycling, and domination of the world's toughest race and most talented racers, turned into seven consequtive yellow jerseys and an explosion of cycling interest in America.

    But then he retired and the French breathed a sigh of relief that an uncouth American would not win their tour again. Boy were they wrong. Out pops Landis, who rides on an arthritic hip that will be replaced in the next month or two. He bonks, is in 11th place and 8:08 back entering the final mountain stage, and proceeds to go for broke--ending up third, 30 seconds behind Oscar Pereio, who he beat during the time trial to win the Tour de France.

    That makes 11 in 21 years. Those Frenchies have gotta hate us. They're probably sick to death of the Star Spangled Banner.

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    Monday, July 24, 2006

    What's up with Texas? Does it now have....

    What's up with the Texas picture in the upper right hand corner? It looks like it has a massive gastrointestinal tract. I can see it now in the headlines:

    "Texas eats up all of the resources of Oklahoma.

    Sends the trash into Mexico."

    Well, who really knows? I think I have used more question marks in this post than I have in the last 4 weeks of filling out medical school secondaries. HA HA.

    Next headline for Texas. In the latest magazine stand at the Wal-Mart grocery side of the store you find this headline:

    "Keep energy costs down, fry on the hood of your car and use the inside for an oven!"

    Well, I don't really know if the temperatures are as high in Texas as they are in Houston. With 100% humidity, you should be able to see the moisture move out of the way of your hand as you try to fan yourself in the middle of the day.

    Have fun. And keep the ear bleeding!

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    Robbing Walmart

    First, I'm sorry that the posts are few, far between, and irregular. Life is crazy right now as my wife and I look for a house in Houston. I promise things will become more regular as life settles down.
    trying to rob Walmart in the middle of the day ... is just plain stupid

    Two days ago my wife and I ran to Walmart, on the corner of FM 529 and Hwy 6, to pick up some tennis balls for her tennis class. She needs only 1/2 of a credit of PE to graduate from BYU, so she's taking a tennis class at the local community college. Right as we are walking in the front door, out comes a tall, big-boned caucasian woman with long brown hair pulled up in a pony tail in her upper 30s. She's wearing a black dress with white designs on it, and it catches my eye because she is booking it out of Walmart and the dress is slipping off her right shoulder.

    "Geez, what's up with her?" I think to myself.

    Immediately she yells, "Go! Go!" to a tall mexican man, upper 30s to mid 40s, short black hair, standing next to a blue chevy cavalier that is parked right outside the front door in the fire lane. The woman dishes off her shopping cart to the man who proceeds to dump large boxes into the open trunk. They looked to be electronics of some kind.

    At the same time, out runs the poor older Walmart lady who checks purchases and gives carts at the door.

    "Stop! Stop!" she cries. "You can't take that! Stop!"

    "Outta my way!" screams the brown-haired woman at a smaller blond lady with a child, convieniently standing near the car. Then she ducks into the passenger seat.

    "Do you want me to get the license plate?" asks the blond woman to the Walmart employee.

    Within seconds the mexican man slams the trunk closed and hops into the drivers seat. The car looks like a mid-1990s (1995?) blue chevy cavalier, license plate # Z34 JHT. The tires squeal and he peels out right as another Walmart employee, a man runs out with pencil and paper.

    I walked inside with my wife and that man, giving him the license plate number, but he didn't want my contact info. Then another Walmart employee, a middle-aged Asian woman, came to see what was the matter--probably the manager. At that point I figured I'd done everything I could and commenced shopping with my wife. However, the whole day I kept replaying the scene over and over again, digesting it. When it happened, it happened so fast I could hardly react. My first thought was get the license plate # and make/model of the car, so I did, yet the rest of the day I wondered if I should have done more.

    I dunno, but I do know that trying to rob Walmart in the middle of the day, when packed with witnesses, and with the cameras they have at every door and in the parking lot, is just plain stupid.

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    Jury Duty

    No sooner do I step foot in Texas but they haul me into a court room for jury duty. Actually, I was summoned months ago while in Vietnam, but obviously I'm not going to fly back to Texas for three hours of civic duty...so I postponed it. I wonder what I could have done had I stayed longer in Vietnam??

    Anyway, I was actually excitied to go to jury duty this morning. My wife and mother thought I was crazy, but they predicted it, because of my fascination for all things legal and political (yet I am not going to law school...).

    Harris county jury duty consists of two parts: dumb & boring, cool & interesting. Unfortunately, all I will tell you about is the dumb and boring side. I showed up at the courthouse downtown this morning at 7am--a good hour early--thanks to waking up at 5:30am and driving on already crowded highways for an hour. From 7am to 8am, I sat in a large room, reading a book on real estate, and watching the various and sundry people enter the room to take a seat like me. Continuously, in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, a tv told us that we can not serve on a jury if we are criminals, and there are many reasons to exempt. Don't forget to exempt! But excercise your civic duty and waive the exemption....but don't forget to exempt! But exercise your civic duty and waive the exemption....but don't ... (you get the picture).

    I could have exercised my exemption (student) because I am in med school now, but I wanted to get picked. So I sat there, reading, staring at weird people, remarking at how truly multicultural my county is (and how even MORE varied all their backgrounds must be), looking at the old guy's dandruff in front of me, and generally trying not to sleep (since I stayed up last night watching Kiba until 2:00am).

    At 8am, for the next hour, they waited for stragglers and picked up our papers saying who we are, what ethnicity we are, what we do for work, who our favorite baseball player is, what we ate for breakfast, and where we were on the night of Nov. 25, 1976--you know, the standard info that lawyers need to weed out the good jurors and pick the ones biased in their favor.

    Finally, a nice lady with a monotone voice got on the loudspeaker and announced where we would all be headed.

    "Will the forty people with numbers one thousand one to twelve hundred forty nine please go downstairs to my right to the orange waiting area? Court 4 needs twelve jurors. Numbers one-zero-zero-one to one-two-four-nine, please go down the stairs to the right to the orange waiting area."

    However, my grandiose dreams of furthering the democratic ideal and rule of law were shattered when a nice cop in a southern drawl got on the PA and announced:

    "Sorry, y'all. All courts are currently filled with jurors. You must stay here and wait to see if any additional juries are needed. We will turn on the televisions. If y'all don't want ta watch tv, y'all can head outside for a smoke or to the snack room where the tv will be on but muted. If nobody comes in a reasonable amount of time, ya'll are free to leave. By reasonable, I mean 11:15am."

    I looked at the clock; it read 10:00am. "Man, I'm in for the long haul," I thought. At that moment my hopes were dashed. My number was 3795 and they barely got to the 2000s. I would spend my whole morning reading a real estate book in a large cold room behind an old man with dandruff...*sniff*

    At 11:15am, the cop came in again and released us, and it felt like elementary school again, fighting the kids through the hall to recess. Everyone young and old bolted for the doors and the elevators. Remarkably, nobody died. Merging into the long car line trying to leave the parking garage, I inched my way to the ticket-taking-lady-guard-person. I handed her my ticket and my credit card.

    No go. Evidently, even in 2006, someone (namely Harris County) still doesn't use debit or credit cards--only cash or checks. Aren't checks being phased out everywhere else because of processing fees? Am I dreaming of the 1980s? What do I do, m'am? I have no cash or checks. What? You've never met someone from the future? Well, pleased to meet you too.

    So I had to park at the exit (after going through the arm-guard-thingie, and "on my honor" go back into the courthouse, find an atm, get cash, walk back to her stall, pay her, find my car, and leave. At least I felt I did the right thing and paid instead of just driving off. Oh wait, I feel used because they called me to jury duty and then make me pay $5.50 to sit and read a real estate book in a large cold room behind an old man with dandruff....

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    Wireless Issues

    I have issues. Most people who know me are probably laughing, nodding, and quietly saying "yes," but seriously, I do. My wireless doesn't work anymore.

    This is a large problem because it's how I get on the internet. Posting has been scarce because I've been moving, and right when posting can pick back up again...*poof!* there goes my notebook adapter card.

    What is wrong??? I dunno. I got it for Christmas last year and it worked fine with my family's 2WIRE router (DSL) at that time. Then I went to Vietnam and didn't use it. Then I got back to the states and it worked fine in Utah at BYU. But coming back to Texas did something, because it doesn't work.

    It doesn't work on my wife's computer, or my friend's laptop either. And my wife bought a similar one for her comp yesterday and it didn't work on our comps either.

    So, if you have a clue why Netgear 108mbs wireless notebook adapters (PC slot) don't work with fully updated windows XP SP2 and a 2WIRE router, please, please, tell me.

    That, on top of reformatting my parents desktop to fix driver issues caused by old viruses, and then having to listen to constant querying as to when my family can use the internet again has kept me pretty busy.

    Friday, July 07, 2006

    Ponderances on Vietnam

    As the wife and I return to life in the United States, I thought I would give some remembrances of Vietnam.

    1. A Vietnamese friend is a friend for life.

    I've believe that the native Vietnamese--those who grow up and live in Vietnam--are incredibly friendly people. But being friendly is different than being a friend. The Vietnamese do not make friends easily. They will be courteous and kind and helpful, but a friend is someone who shares your personal life, and they keep that sacred.

    Over the last 6 months that I was in Vietnam, I think I made maybe one true friend that was not a student. Interestingly, I have made friends with a couple students, but all told, the total is probably around 4.

    That does not mean I didn't have lots of fun--people were friendly, I knew lots of acquaintances, but only 4 that I could (and would) sit down with and talk about life.

    That said, once you have a Viet as a friend, that bond is incredibly strong, and almost never fades. It is a great thing.

    2. Can you not like Vietnamese food?

    I love food. Period. I love to cook. I love to eat. I think cooking is truly an art. The Vietnamese are masters, from the big restaurants down to the street stalls and home-cooked meals. I am already missing the pho, bun thit nuong, rau muong, etc. that is so hard to find in America. Take that back...so hard to find done well in America. There are some great Vietnamese cooks in the States, but pho there misses something you find in a small bowl in the corner stall.

    3. Social society

    I miss talking to people every day. I miss the wonderful Vietnamese way of sitting outside in your hem after work or school and talking with each other, or heading downtown to play during the evening. The karaoke places are always packed, the live outdoor concerts rock, and you can't beat sitting atop the Hoa Duong cafe on Quang Trung street, chatting, eating ice cream, and watching the planes fly overhead and land at Tan Son Nhat airport.

    4. Motorbikes

    I love driving--absolutely love it. Leaving my motorbike was a hard thing. Driving a car is great, I love the speed, but there's something about feeling the wind in your hair, and having your wife hug you tight while sitting behind you that makes riding a motorbike intoxicating...

    It's amazing, now driving a car again, how 40km/hr can feel so fast. I keep telling my wife that we should look into getting me a bullet bike in the States for going to medical school, but she won't buy it. She cuts out the "bullet" and says I can ride my "bike." Bummer. I mean, bikes are great and all, but they aren't motorbikes.

    In addition to riding, I miss seeing a million people stuffed on one motorbike or bicycle. The Vietnamese are so industrious and ingenious--they use ever part of the animal for food, and every part of the motorbike for work. What's the most people you've ever seen on a motorbike?? I've seen 5 (counting children), but my brother swears he's seen 7 in the Philippines.

    4. Pollution

    My second week back in America I went mountain biking. Man, who wants clean air and mountains?? Why would I want to get away from people, and noise, and actually hear myself think?? Actually, I loved it. No matter how far out in the boonies you go in Vietnam, you still can't be by yourself. My wife and I went to see the tomb of Gia Long in Hue--the farthest tomb out, away from everything--and we were never out of eyesite of a house. Crazy. And in the city, the sleep in my eye was always black and oily and stained my clothes if I wiped it on my shirt. I know I lost years off my life riding behind busses that have never met any sort of EPA standards. Like smoking 400 cigarettes an hour, is riding behind those things...

    But I do miss seeing my students enthusiasm at how much they loved Vietnam's environment and wanted to protect it. One day in class, they went off for 30 minutes on various ways to clean up Ho Chi Minh City, including planting trees and starting enviornmental clubs in schools. I hope that someday one of them does it, because a great HCMC would be even more amazing if it was clean.

    5. Orphans

    Finally, although I'm sure I could go on, I miss my orphans at the Phu My Orphanage. They are so innocent, so pure, so fun and loving. I grew more volunteering there than doing anything else in Vietnam. I know they served me far more than I served them. The men and women who work at the orphanage make pennies on the dollar, really, for the work they do, but they continue to come to work every day, and serve these children. Most are poor themselves--the salaries don't allow for much. They pool it with their husbands' or wives' salary and rent an apartment from which to raise their two children, always hoping that their kids will do well in school and have a better life. At moments they share their fears, that they do not make enough money to send their children to extra school, and so their children will not do well enough to enter college and will lead a life no different from theirs. Still, they give it all for those children. They are my heroes.

    The beautiful thing about Vietnam, is that even when you leave it, it never truly leaves you.

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    The Bleeding Ear 2.0

    Introducing The Bleeding Ear v2.0!!

    Thank you in advance to all my readers for patience. Although I feel the design is stable enough to be rolled out on the blog, it is nowhere near bug free. First and most obvious, the javascript on the page work fine in IE 6 and Opera 9, but not in the Mozilla based browsers, Firefox 1.5 and Flock Beta. In the latter two, the lists will show up or open but the white box will not expand around them like in the html only boxes on the sidebar. Talking with my friend Dennis, he explained the basics of identifying browsers, but we were interrupted before he could look into a fix.

    Therefore, if any reader understands what I should code into my javascript to fix the glitch in Firefox 1.5/Flock, let me know please.

    Otherwise, I think you will like the new, uncluttered design. I wanted to move to a different color scheme, tried a million things, and finally landed on blue and orange as accents rather than the base color. I also owe alot of the look to Cultured Code. I stumbled across their website and realized that was where I was trying to head haphazardly. My code is table based, but the look is similar. Over the next few weeks and months I hope to little by little fitch glitches and modify styles to make it more my own.

    Suggestions are always welcome. TBE promises to continue to pontificate about and elucidate for you the foibles and important events the world over. I hope you enjoy.

    Monday, June 26, 2006

    Why Americans Hate Soccer

    As the world cup plays out many themes appear before our eyes: horrible American play, underdogs, brilliant Argentines, red and yellow cards, and referees in general.

    People ask, every four years, why don't Americans love soccer as much as the rest of the world?? Various reasons are given, and most Americans themselves would say one of two: it's slow or there's not enough scoring.

    (Which, I admit, is very similar to "it's slow")

    We Americans hate the brouhaha stirred up by the imbroglio of referee scandals

    However, I would like to submit that the real reason Americans don't like soccer, despite the scores of youth leagues, YMCA, etc that every young boy and girl play in throughout elementary school, is the referee system. No other game is so racked by controversial calls and allegations of bribery/tampering/corruption as soccer.

    Today the Italians escaped Australia with a 1-0 victory on a last secong penalty kick that was NOT a penalty. Is it a coincidence that half Italy's players and its coach are implicated in the current referee tampering scandal in Serie A?? I'm not so sure...

    Deep down inside, we Americans hate the brouhaha stirred up by the imbroglio of referee scandals. Any scandals. Cheating. Baseball, arguably the most subjective of American sports--and maybe also the slowest (closest in speed and scoring to soccer)--hears complaints by fans but never tampering. Why? First, there are ample referees on the field to cover most plays, and second, the referees are hired and evaluated by MLB in a way that ensures fair play so they can get a paycheck.

    This is what mutes the Seahawks' complaints after the Superbowl, or Mark Cuban's complaints during the NBA finals: No matter how bad the missed call, the system of referees in American sports helps ensure that corruption is minimized via instant replay, where the paycheck comes from, and the number of refs on the field/court.

    Contrast this with Europe. Cycling, a sport predominantly european suffers from huge amounts of substance abuse. BAseball goes into fits over an alleged use by one player. Soccer teams, like mini-kingdoms, make backroom deals to get what refs they want, and what happens if caught? They move down a league. People would be banned in America.

    So it comes as no surprise that FIFA can't, or won't, keep a handle on the referees during this world cup. First, there should be more referees on the field--instead of one and the side judges, give two or three plus judges to accurately call fouls. Second, flops should be penalized harshly. It's not that hard for the ref to have hand-held instant replay piped from the tv coverage and it wouldn't slow the game down that much. Third, referee org structures should mimic the NFL, to minimize corruption.

    Until then, Americans won't tune into soccer that much. They just don't like watching a game and wondering which team paid the ref the most.

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    A Late Father's Day Story

    I caught this Father's Day story the other day as I was surfing newspapers online. I think this is a must-read.
    My only regret? That I couldn't do it more or start sooner.
    Louis DeLuca, a staff photographer for the Dallas Morning News, shares his story of adopting Fu Yang, an orphan from China who was born with sever facial deformities.

    I love the mental progression he and his wife went through when they first met Fu Yang and decided to adopt him. I think it's very typical of many people that deal with disabled people.

    "It was October, the middle of the football season and I was busy," Mr. DeLuca recalls. He complained to his wife, Dinah.

    "He's an orphan," she said. "You can take the time."
    We're all so busy in our lives, that we all think this, proably daily. Work, family, school -- legitimate time-consuming enterprises. And we all probably miss some great blessings in life by just going through our routines.

    Then, after meeting and falling in love with Fu Yang, Louis and his wife think this:
    "I thought of every reason why I couldn't do it," he says, "language barriers, economic barriers. It costs lots of money to adopt a child." Adoption was the furthest thing from his mind. Especially a child with special needs.

    "I have no special skills for that," he says.

    "It was a very volatile time for me emotionally. My heart was saying, 'Go for it! Do it!' And my head was saying, 'No way!' "
    How often have we come to a trial in our lives and told ourselves "I have no special skills for that." We, like they, think up all the excuses we can not to power through and overcome the situation before us. But I feel strongly in God, and I feel he gives trials in life to make us stronger. When we see a trial or challenge and decide to endure, he will increase our skills--be it patience, knowledge, strength, kindness, etc.--to have success.

    Especially with people that have disabilities. It is very easy to think "they are different from me" and not associate with them. I mean, how much does one have in common with someone who has Down syndrome, or is in a wheelchair, or has cerebral palsey? As a teenager in Houston, I had the opportunity every year to work with special olympics. However, I fell into that group--the doubting group--and spent most of my time doing jobs that took me away from interaction with the participants.

    "In retrospect, it would have been a huge mistake not to have done this," he says. "When he's around, he has a way of brightening your life."
    That is how I felt in Vietnam the last five months. I had the opportunity to volunteer at an orphanage for disabled children. When I first volunteered, I did so half-heartedly. I didn't know if I could do it. The first day was so taxing mentally and physically. Most of the children have cerebral palsy. I volunteered there two days a week for four months and established such great relationships with the children and workers. My only regret? That I couldn't do it more or start sooner.

    I'll talk more about my experience at a later date, but for now, read the article and make sure you look at DeLuca's photo and audio essay. Wonderful.

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    Turmoil in Oaxaca

    Please, please read this excellent post by Mark in Mexico. He has updates here, here, and here. This really irks me. Not what he talks about, but that I haven't heard about it before now.
    I'm reminded of a quote by Dave Chappelle in Black Bush ... It starts with "shut" and ends with "up"

    My wife and I were just remarking the other day about how dumb we feel listening to CNN or Fox. This last weekend, Fox spent 80% of it's coverage on the failed terror attack on New York City that was planned for three years ago and was never tried. Who cares??!!?? Ok, telling me about it once, I can understand, but for 80% of your coverage all day?? Give me a freaking headache.

    So what do they do with the rest of their time? FOX tells me about the Duke lacross rape trial. Like I care. It's a rape trial. It hasn't even gone to trial. It's just a case. Granted, it may have caused a stir in Durham, where most people are black and most Duke students are white or asian, but I don't live their and never will. I never want to heard about the trial again, let alone hours of idiots pontificating about whether the DA has a case or not. I'm reminded of a quote by Dave Chappelle in Black Bush when he's at the podium talking about the UN. It starts with "shut" and ends with "up."

    Mexico has issues. Serious issues. Besides this teacher strike, its own southern border is proving a little too porous for its own good. That is news worth telling us about, FOX, CNN. Until then, I look to the blogosphere.

    P.S. I was led to Mark in Mexico by The Glittering Eye (not related to me, The Bleeding Ear). Check it out too.

    Javascript vs. Browser: My blog

    Why oh why can't web browsers do things the same AND WELL?? You may have read about my new blog layout....well it's taken another iteration, and is in Beta form. The Bleeding Ear v.2 Beta. you can catch it on my test blog: here.

    The problem is, I am not a good programmer. It takes me forever to do what I'm sure some others, like ecmanaut, Aditya, and those at Freshblog could do in minutes. Because of that, it's taken me quite a long time to put this together and I have two issues to resolve.

    First, i need to think up a good header. Oh...I dunno. Any ideas would be appreciated. Something that really encapsulates this blog.

    Second, my new layout doesn't look the same in all browsers!!! AAAGGGHHHH!!!! It's getting annoying, because I spent a long time yesterday trying to fix my blogroll only to see that it looks fine in Opera 9.0 Beta 2, and pretty good in IE 6. Why does it look funny in Firefox and Flock?

    (Yes, I have four browsers, but I don't think that's abnormal anymore, do you??)

    I know it must be the javascript. Whenever I import the javascript and write as a list (see my blogroll from blogrolling and my topics from Freshtags and my recent comments by BloggerHacks) the css formatting doesn't look right in Firefox. This is odd, because firefox is the more modern browser compared to IE 6, so I thought IE would be the one giving me problems. And Opera shows the javascript correctly, but doesn't center the icons in the sidebar like I get in Firefox. O tempora O mores!!

    Father's Day

    My wife made an astute comment yesterday.

    "You better celebrate Father's day because men only get one day a year, and women get two."

    I haven't looked at a list of holidays, but it seems to ring true. Men get father's day and women get both mother's day and international women's day. Always the short end of the stick... just kidding.

    Actually, I'm not a father but I love Father's Day. Two reasons:

    First, I have a great father role model. My father is a great man, and although as a little kid I hated his disciplinarian style (and loved his coaching of my little league teams) I find myself turning into him more and more, and wanting to be like him. My father grew up in a small town, and brings a farm work ethic to life. He changed religions when he was 17, and that moral/religious conviction drives his life. He has always been a good role model as a father and husband, hard worker, always volunteering to help people, a genuine love for others, for God, and family. I hope that today, for father's day, everyone can celebrate the father's in your lives, and hopefully you have one as good as mine.

    Second, what a better tradition than watching the US Open on Father's Day. I love the fight. I love golf and it's family legacy. So often the golfer got his start because of his dad. His dad caddies for him. His dad cheers him on. I don't golf much, but I love being out on the course, especially with my father and brothers, just able to enjoy the scene, relax, and enjoy the company. It's a great game.

    Happy Father's Day.

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Mystic River

    Last night my wife and I finally saw the movie Mystic River. Rent it edited. Generally, I am against editing, but this is a movie where CleanFlicks does a service. Cinematically, the movie is solid. The plot is interesting, acting well done, scenes filmed and edited well.

    Mystic River uses language almost as colorful as a Quentin Tarantino film

    Language ... profuse. I grew up in Houston, and have heard enough colorful language in my day to not flinch to much when someone drops the "f-bomb" or something, but I choose personally to associate with people who language is clean. My wife even more so. She grew up around clean language and so any foul language really irks her.

    Anyway, Mystic River uses language almost as colorful as a Quentin Tarantino film. Do yourself a favor, get a copy with the language edited (it's the only thing that needs editing) and watch the movie. Great movie. Really leaves you thinking about life, choices, and luck.

    Secondly, pedophiles are sick. Dave's abuse and escape as a child is a central theme to the movie and Tim Robbins does an amazing job portraying the psychological scars an incident can leave. So, all morning I've thought about "girl-lovers" and "boy-lovers" and how my stomach turns. I won't give you any hyperlinks, but I'm sure you could google the terms if you want. Those terms are becoming the two terms of choice for advocates of legalizing pedophilia.

    Here's the situation. In western society, specifically America, homosexuality was considered deviant behavior and a psychological disorder for years, centuries. However, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) decided to remove homosexuality from the list of psychiatric disorders. There were reasons for this. Some thought it was a disorder. Others thought it was, but labeling it as such brought discrimination against homosexuals. Whatever the personal reason, psychologists at the APA removed it in 1973 and since then homosexuality has gone from hidden, to marginalized, to tolerated, to accepted, and finally to the point of turning into a civil rights movement (marriage).

    Pedophiles have seen this and want to do the same thing. They understand that if they can get the APA to remove pedophilia as a disorder,

    homosexuality has gone from hidden, to marginalized, to tolerated, to accepted

    they can start on the same path towards acceptance. I am sort of open to bending the legal age of consent...it's always difficult to say "hey, at this age you can accept and act on your feelings but not before," but children are just unacceptable. Children are pure. They are innocent. They are definitely not sexually developed, and anyone who argues feelings or actions with them are normal is NOT.

    I had a friend named Amanda who was sexually assaulted in college by someone close to her. I remember the nights my friend Rob and I spent talking with her, helping her deal with her feelings. I remember poignantly how she related her feeling of causing it, and being so dirty afterwards--always wanting to shower but never feeling clean. And Amanda was an adult. I can only imagine how a child would or would not deal with these issues.

    So, watch Mystic River (edited) and oppose mainstreaming pedophilia. It's a stronger movement than most people think. Nip it in the bud before it grows more. Contact the APA (here).

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    Med School Computers

    Oh the headache!!

    I have spent many hours yesterday and today looking at laptops. It's a racket, I tell ya. I have to get a new laptop for medical school ... and because this one is dying.

    Currently I have a Gateway S something. It has:
    Intel Celeron 2.0ghz
    512 MB DDR RAM
    40 GB HD
    integrated graphics/video card
    integrated 10/100 ethernet
    external Netgear WG511T 802.11b/g 108Mbs wireless
    24x/8x CD-RW/DVD-ROM

    Why am I getting rid of it? Well, one of the two hinges for my screen is broken, meaning the screen stays up most of the time, but slips now and again.

    and how come nobody says how hot or loud their notebooks run

    Secondly, my cdrw/dvd-rom is dying. As in not reading things.

    Otherwise, it's been a good comp. I've had it for three years. It's a little hot, and runs a little slow, but it's survived viruses, tons of programs, videos, being dropped, etc.

    What do I need? UT-Houston says:
    Intel Pentium IV 1.5 ghz
    512 MB RAM
    30 GB HD
    10/100 network interface card
    802.11b/g wireless
    windows XP Professional

    Yes, I must have win XP professional. Luckily, it doesn't rule out a mac anymore because boot camp lets me have both OS on a macbook pro. Unfortunately, macs are still expensive, and do I really want to mess with two OS?

    Now I'm seeing AMD vs. Intel all over again. AMD is cheaper, it's faster, but it's 90nm. Intel Core Duo is more efficient than the Turion as a chip, because its 65nm, but not as a system. It's also usually $300 more expensive. Things are making HP and Compaq look more and more enticing with the AMD systems. Does anybody have experience with them?

    AND HOW COME NOBODY SAYS HOW HOT OR LOUD THEIR NOTEBOOKS RUN!!???!! That is freaking annoying. My biggest pet peeve with my current laptop is that when I used to study in the library I felt it was really noisy, and it gets hot fast. I want to know how laptops compare to each other in that dept.

    Ugh...*sigh* I guess I will just have to keep searching.

    (By the way, name means a lot. A Dell latitude cost me $1750, and the EXACT same components in a Dell XPS cost $2400. Crazy, huh?)

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    Today's Non Sequitur Cartoon

    I think today's Non Sequitur cartoon embodies America's definition of marriage debate.

    Cultural liberals argue that the constitution protects privacy and individual rights, not marriage as man and woman. Conservatives say marriage has been between man and woman for thousands of years, my religion and moral ethos preach that, and we must keep it that way.

    To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, "A house divided cannot stand."

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is Dead

    I, like everyone else woke up this morning to the news that American soldiers killed Al-Zarqawi via two 500lb. bombs.

    If you decapitate one head of a hydra, does the body die?

    We will find out.

    Fox News
    has been very positive about this development all morning, reporting that,

    "Loud applause broke out as al-Maliki, flanked by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, made the announcement at a news conference in Baghdad Thursday that Zarqawi was "terminated."

    CNN's very first paragraph is:

    "Al-Zarqawi's death gives Iraq a chance to "turn the tide" in the fight against the nation's insurgency, President Bush said at the White House."

    The only really lukewarm reaction is from the BBC, saying,

    However, the death of one man does not necessarily bring a breakthrough ... he was not a one-man band.

    Lately most of my posts have been about Vietnam, but those of you who know me personally should know that I supported the war in Iraq when we started. Since that time, I personally disagree with much of how the Bush Administration has conducted it, but I still support the general issue.

    If you decapitate one head of a hydra, does the body die?

    I think we need to be in Iraq, and I am ok with the realization that troops will need to be in Iraq for probably 50 years.

    You may call me a warmonger, but that's not it at all, and the reasons behind my simplified position stated above warrant a separate post or three, but I think this is pretty good evidence that although people die, things are moving forward over there.

    And moving to Vietnam...where's the reporting of Al-zarqawi in Vietnam? Actually, the Tuoi Tre has an article on his death, but it is not on the front page like CNN, BBC, and FOX. You have to dig through the "the gioi" (world) section to find it. NOTE: Before finishing this article, the front page of the Tuoi Tre was updated and this article was put on the front page, though not the number one article.

    Although down towards the bottom of the first page, the Nhan Dan gets it on the first page, still under the "the gioi" section.

    Let's hope that this is a significant step towards stabilization in Iraq and pressure on Iran, not just a fleshwound to a hydra.

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    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Bicycles in Vietnam

    The Vietnamese are great at many things. They are hardworking, family oriented, optimistic about the future, and great bicycle riders. Yes, bicycle riders. If that's a word. Does it need to be hyphenated? Bicycle-rider?

    I digress.

    Talk about giving your kids a ride to school

    Since I returned to Vietnam, I have endeavored to take pictures of people living--candid, real, rough, and fresh. I want to see the true feelings people have. Bicycle riding is a very integral part of many people's days. So the pics I will post will hopefully give you a small feeling of what it is like.

    Because the Vietnamese have perfected the art of bicycle riding. Yes, an art. They pump two, sometimes three people on a bike. The pump them behind, on the handlebars, on the frame...I've even see a kid riding on the shoulders of the rider (unfortunately no pic...that was two years ago in HCMC in District 6...). One of their improvements, mainly due to their great dexterity and small foot size, is that two riders will sit on a bike and both will pedal--their feet are small enough to fit two feet on each pedal.

    Here's some bicycle riding pics from Vietnam. Enjoy.
    This is a good general picture. Notice the steel-framed bike with basket, typical of Vietnam. Also, I love the girls faces as they laugh about something.

    A little farther away, but you can see a mom and two daughters on this bike. Talk about giving your kids a ride to school! The older daughter is sitting on a book rack over the back tire, and the little girl is sharing the saddle with her mother.

    These women (mostly) are becoming a thing of the past as the omniscient Communists crack down on all social evils...including poor Hanoian women who come south to sell fruit at markets...obviously a social ill. Besides their outfits, which I will never forget, look at the wire boxes on both sides of the bike, full of produce in the morning, and empty about noon as they return home. For the Vietnamese, the bike is more than recreation, it is a work vehicle.

    This is one of my favorite pictures. With the advent of motorbikes, bicycles are fading from the scene, and are now seen mostly with teenagers. The boys here were on their way to the swimming pool for an afternoon of fun and sun. Notice how there are three boys on one bike. Swimmingsuits and towels are in the backpack in the basket up front. Behind them are two girls, coming home from school. If you look closely you will notice what I talked about earlier--both girls are pedaling the bike.

    Although the motorbike is increasingly used in place of the bicycle, and now the car is making inroads on the motorbike, there is still a special place in Vietnam for the bicycle. Perhaps, as Vietnam's economy grows, more Vietnamese will take up cycling. With their body size, and expertise at utilizing a bike, I think it's only a matter of time before we see one in the Tour de France.


    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Vietnamese Blogs

    I'm sure I'm not alone in my frustration at the lack of Vietnamese-themed blogs and blogs by Vietnamese people in the blogosphere.

    When I can get political blogs and law blogs and econ blogs just like in America...that will be a great day.

    Vietnam is such an amazing place and the people are so .... real that blogging would be perfect for them. By "real," I mean everyone I know in Vietnam has so many facets, good and bad, foibles and talents, that I just love talking to them, listening to them, learning about their lives, their wants, their likes and dislikes ... what makes them tick.

    Growing up in America, I'm used to the open-ness of the culture. Well, and I grew up in Texas, where "bigger is better," and big mouths seem to follow in that vein. So even though Vietnamese culture says almost as much through not speaking as through speaking, and the general xung ho questions--"hello, how are you?" "what's your name?" "how old are you?" "how many children do you have?" etc.--are ok, the average person on the street won't just sit down and tell you how they persevered through the loss of their mother when they were 11. That being said, once you do know someone, the strength of Vietnamese relationships allows those stories to really blossom.

    "Enough ranting!" you say. Ok, Ok. The reason I bring it all up is because blogs act as that window to the soul. Blogs in Vietnam would do many things:

    1. they would shed light on what the desires of Vietnam's older and, especially, the younger generations have
    2. the vietnamese press is opening up, especially with the latitude give the Tuoi Tre to cover bribery scandals, and oh... I'd love to hear what press bloggers say about their jobs.
    3. along with the press, the economy is burgeoning, and I know many educated men and women working in banks and companies that could blog in english or viet and shed light on life "on the inside" as Vietnam opens.
    4. of course, I'd love to see some political pundritry, law blogging, doctor's blogging
    5. but mostly, what I have the least chance of seeing is what I'd want to see most--blogs by street vendors, xich lo drivers, and women who sell fruit at the cho

    I want them in english if they want, but Vietnamese for sure, so they can express themselves in their native tongue.

    When I can get political blogs and law blogs and econ blogs just like in America...that will be a great day.

    Which makes it interesting, that of all the blogs I do stumble across by native Viets (not Viet kieu--overseas Vietnamese--) most seem to come from Hanoi and are in English. This surprises me, because Ho Chi Minh City is more open internet-wise (blogspot is blocked in most of Hanoi) and thinking-wise (hence the Tuoi Tre is leading the bribery charge), yet it's in Hanoi that the blogs are popping up--blogspot blogs, no less.

    I wonder how this is happening? And why are most bloggers I find blogging in English? Is there something vital that I am just missing?

    Here are some new blogs steered my way by Noodlepie. Gotta give him props. They're new blogs, a couple months old max, but they look to be good, real, and well...tuoi("fresh") if I can use that word.

    Check them out:
    I am Moony
    Rose's Blog (although I have a sneaking suspicion that she's Viet kieu, and therefore disqualified for the narrow category I'm taking about, she does do humanitarian work and live in the north, which gives her high props from my wife and me if you know what we do)

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    Monday, May 22, 2006

    The Constitution and my wife

    Here's my wife's second essay on the founding principles of the Constitution. As before, she is taking a class, "American Heritage," which functions as a politica-history class. I help with ideas, brainstorming, grammar, vocabulary, and editing.

    Warning, it is long. Read at your own risk!

    *****Essay 2 by My Wife (quotes may be used with proper annotation. This work may not be reproduced in full without the expressed written consent of the author. A reminder, everything on this blog is under copyright)*****

    One of the favorite foods in Vietnam is rice paper. It is used in many ways. Some people wet it, and fill it with chopped meat, and vegetables, then roll it and eat it as spring rolls. Others put in rice noodles, big leaves of lettuce and mint, and beef, and then roll it in half. In both cases, the rice paper is not the center portion of the food that the palate tastes—it is the structure used to hold all the various ingredients together. Rice paper is chosen for this work because of its flexibility, its size, edibility, taste, and look. In just this way the Constitution influences our lives. It is not the main law that Americans see every day—but it is the underlying structure that holds all laws together. And the principles of the Constitution, like the attributes of rice paper, are what gives it this ability and makes it special.

    One of the basic principles of American government is the sanctity and amorality of the Constitution. It is a written fundamental law higher than man or government. The Constitution is a legal document that serves the country and its people—not a moral theory. The Framers of the Constitution did not use it to expound certain moral theories or beliefs or enforce righteousness. In fact, they tried to keep morality from the Constitution on purpose. They believed that a document focusing on truth and justice, without preaching morality, would accumulate support from the individualistic Americans who did not want someone or something telling them how to live their lives, and who were inherently virtuous anyway.

    This pose on amorality stemmed from a strong belief in natural rights, like those described by John Locke, and an opposition to British common law. Americans felt that the Constitution outlined all the basic rights citizens and the government had, thereby making it impossible for someone to pass a law contrary to these basic rights, and that by writing down the Constitution, it would serve as a clear benchmark to judge laws passed later by Congress.

    Today we see the wake of these of ideas in the turmoil over Supreme Court Justices. Ultimately, all controversial decisions about the constitutionality of a law appear before the Supreme Court. When Pres. Bush nominated Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito, they were subjected to extreme scrutiny from all parties because their voices would be the voice of the constitution. Also, this principle is shown clearly in the language of today—just two sentences earlier. People talk about the “constitutionality” of things, of laws. All actions are not answerable to the government, but to our constitution.

    Creating an amoral document did not mean the Founding Fathers wanted an amoral government. In fact, they hoped for the opposite. Madison argued in Federalist 43 for not just any government, or any form of self-government, but for “good government.” The Founding Fathers lived in a land with a strong emphasis on Christian moralism, and to achieve this, they expected virtue to pervade, influence, and guide the actions of the polity. In Vietnamese, virtue is “duc hanh,” the combination of “duc,” meaning morals or righteousness and “hanh,” meaning good nature or sweet character. Its overall meaning is “behaviors that show high moral standards or goodness.” The Constitution was written with the expectation that a moral populace could be trusted to vote and elect leaders in a federal republic.

    The Founding Fathers also realized that communication and coherent political process in between such a large population in a spacious country would be weak and inefficient at best. In order to merge their hopes with the reality of America, they settled on the principle of popular representation. Popular representation was a republican form of government more than a democracy. People chose individuals who would represent them in the government. This way, the numerous, varied, and sometimes specific wants of the populace would be relayed efficiently to the government, and the often unpopular and necessary laws could be relayed back to the governed. The Framers, believing people to be inherently virtuous, expected the people to choose representatives more virtuous and intelligent than themselves.

    Today we see the importance a virtuous candidate has in the political process. It is widely accepted that the sexual misconduct President Clinton did with his aide, Monica Lewinsky, occurs often between coworkers in the workplace. Yet, the scandal seized the attention of the American public for years. Why? Because a president is supposed to be above such moral lapses in character. Any student of history can find plenty of examples of past presidents and sexual license (Thomas Jefferson and children by his slave), but most instances were kept under wraps. In retaliation, President George W. Bush has served two terms in office riding the backlash of this scandal—the growing power and popularity of a morally-conservative Christian movement in the Republican party. His allegiance to them, a portrayal as a down-to-earth politician with a genuine love for his wife, answered the virtue questions that Pres. Clinton raised, and overcame other political shortcomings (a controversial war, etc.) to earn him victories over both Al Gore and John Kerry.

    The Founding Fathers realized that nobody was virtuous all the time. Some people were never virtuous. Often when personal benefit and virtue crossed each other, self-interest would be the first choice. Laws and government structure based on self-interest is called auxiliary precautions because all actions taken with self-interest as a guide are supposed to be auxiliary to virtue.

    Due to auxiliary precautions, the Framers of the Constitution structured this document according to the principle of counterpoise. Everyone has his or her own interests that might conflict with others’. One interest is balanced against another, so no group can be in control. This helps maintain the power of balance and control within a large republic. It also led to the principle of shared sovereignty.

    Using counterpoise, the Founding Fathers insured that people choosing leaders out of self-interest instead of virtue would never gain a permanent hold on the government by setting up a federal republic. A classical republic often lost effectiveness due to factions. This attribute was of extreme importance to those like James Madison, who wrote in Federalist 10 against all forms of factions. However, Madison counterintuitively rebuffed the arguments against republics by saying that the larger the republic the less corrupt it would become. The more tiers of government, the more factions would be represented. It would be easy for a representative to represent one faction if he or she represented one small group, but a larger group would have more varied needs and would be less likely to be ruled by one faction. Modern political parties, although factions, rely on such a broad support base of people, that the sub-factions make it extremely difficult for one faction to control a government and oppress the other.

    A strong central government was also likely to be led by one faction; however, a government where the federal government shared some sovereignty with the states muted this point. People living in states would work for their own self-interests—states’ interests—and those on the federal level would argue for federal interests. Often these two outcomes would be at odds with each other. It also let people turn to the states for specific needs that would be poorly addressed at the federal level. Today this is seen again with the marriage issue. When Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, many other states’ voters opposed the idea by writing amendments to their constitutions defining marriage as between a man and woman only. This freedom of states to legislate for their constituents provides a laboratory to see what works before implementing it on the federal level, and allows the government the flexibility to meet individual needs of states without affecting all other states.

    Such a balance of counterpoise was achieved by structuring the Constitution according to the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. The Founding Fathers were fearful that an omnipotent executive could usurp power and create a monarchy. On the other hand, without a strong central government, the representatives of the people and the states (House and Senate) would be about as weak and inefficient as the old Articles of Confederation government. First, they divided powers. By creating an executive branch that is responsible for administering the laws and a legislative branch that is responsible for creating the laws, the desire for reelection by the people would keep the branches working towards separate goals. There would be little incentive to create a “grand coalition” because carrying out the laws and international duties had a different set of goals than creating laws. This set up prevented Congress from passing laws to achieve a particular purpose because it did not enforce the laws, and it would never want to give up that power to an executive either. The two branches became counterweights.

    In addition to separation of powers, the Founding Fathers introduced checks & balances. The executive office was given a veto power over bills and the legislative branch could override the veto with a two-thirds majority. The judicial branch checked to make sure all proceedings followed the Constitution, and in return the justices must be appointed by the president and approved by the senate. This set up not only gave separate powers, but made the three branches fundamentally at odds with each other on some basic points. A popularly elected president would reap the blessings or cursings of bad federal legislation, and would be free to enforce or veto as necessary to keep himself in office. Meanwhile, a representative of senator must create laws that reflect his or her constituents’ views—that might not reflect the average American voter—and if enacted might benefit the senator at the expense of other Americans.

    Today, the immigration question highlights the balance of powers in the American government. A republican led House passed a bill restricting illegal immigration by building a wall and making it a felony to be illegal. The Senate, also republican led, cannot pass that same bill because (ironically) a republican president would veto it. He is pressing for worker permits that are far more liberal than many senators’ constituents want. So, the senators are caught between a rock of a house bill and a hard spot of easy “amnesty” (as opponents call it). Pres. Bush does this because he is trying to court Hispanic voters on a national stage. Senators, meanwhile, worry about their constituents, which may or may not be predominantly Hispanic. If not, they have little incentive to vote the way President Bush wants.

    Ultimately, the Constitution of the United States of America became one of the most libertarian of all documents in this government. It hoped for virtue from citizens and leaders, but expected self-interest. Through that expectation, it setup a system of counterpoise, by playing the goals of the branches of government off each other. By sharing sovereignty with the states, the federal government gained flexibility to meet the needs of smaller constituencies without sacrificing a strong central identity. Ultimately, the constitution became the perfect skeleton to hang an ever increasing and changing set of laws and statutes.

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