• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    What would you do?

    For some strange reason, this song was stuck in my head all day yesterday. Yes, it's old. No, I haven't heard it on the radio in years.

    I have no clue why it was stuck in my head. I found it on Youtube to quench my insanity, and one line really stood out.

    "If God had a face, what would it look like? And would you wanna see, if seeing meant that you would have to believe in things like Heaven, and Jesus and the Saints, and all the prophets?" (1:55)

    I don't wax religious on this blog much, but allow me some licence here.

    How many of us have really thought about this question? To truly SEE God. It's scary. It's something I venture MOST people would opt NOT to do, even though it would solve a lot of questions. Why? You would have a perfect knowledge that He exists ... and that means following what he says, whether you want to or not. No more sinning a little here, or there, and in your heart of hearts, your darkened closets, rationalizing it away.

    I'm a Mormon, and that makes the Mormon assertion that Joseph Smith actually saw God all that more awe-inspiring. If what Mormons say is true, Joseph took a step far weightier than it looks on the outside. And that means his message has far more "oomph" than someone who just "had a feeling."

    On the other hand, if he's lying, he's a charlatan at best, deceiving countless people.

    I believe in the former, and after pondering this question, am even more awestruck that he had the courage to see God. Truthfully, I'm not sure if I would. I hope I would. But that's a weighty proposition.

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Closing a Chapter pt. 1

    I sympathize for the dilemma that faces American women today
    Last week my wife finished her maternity leave and went back to work. My wife had reservations about returning to work. She, like many women today, grew up expecting to work, gained meaning from her experience in the workforce, and enjoyed it. The housewife role is rapidly disappearing from US life, and is preceded by disappearance in little girls' dreams.

    My wife was afraid she'd miss her child upon returning to work, yet she felt guilty every day of maternity leave for yearning to be working. Now that she's returned to work, she feels guilty for not missing him, but enjoys the sense of purpose that an 8am to 4pm job brings.

    I sympathize for the dilemma that faces American women today. It would be hard to give up my dreams, my years of schooling, to stay home and raise children. Promises that, "you are doing a better work, raising your children. What you could achieve as one person, you're multiplying by successfully raising many outstanding children" sound incredibly trite and hollow when actually faced with the prospect that my dreams are being ended prematurely.

    The other day I was reading a post on a friend's blog (which mysteriously isn't there anymore, so I can't link to it...but it's still in my RSS reader!) and she (I'm not using her name because there might be a reason why the post is no longer available) related accompanying her husband to a law function.
    Anywho, while at the dinner, ...I tried to converse with some sense of grace and poise, while I attempted to look the part of a lawyer-to-be's wife, I started questioning...Would I ever feel at home all "dolled" up? Can I really be that kind of woman?...
    This introspection caused me to view my wife's predicament more fully. Would she ever feel at home all "dolled" up at physician functions? Does she want to live that life? The answer, not surprisingly, is NO.

    So I should change to accommodate her. How, I don't know. But I do understand that she wants to get a Masters in Public Health, and she wants to work for non-governmental organizations--preferably overseas. Balancing these dreams with the bonuses of being home to raise your children will be hard. I believe strongly that a mother in the home is FAR better than any child care agency on earth. However, I have faith both can be done--my wife's that amazing of a woman.

    Sunday, December 09, 2007

    Medical Word of the Day (MWD)

    While studying for Physical Diagnosis, I came across a word that peaked my interest, and since I'm living a pseudo-bachelor life right now, I had nobody to share it with.

    Therefore, I have decided to share it with everyone, in my new (hopefully the first of many) post, Medical Word of the Day (MWD). MWD is not WMD (weapon of mass destruction), although sometimes it has the same effect on my life.

    So, for all of you who want to be a doctor, answer me this (hint, I was studying the neurological exam, and focusing on cerebellar problems):

    Medical Word of the Day: Dysdiadochokinesis

    Dysfunction in performing rapid alternating movements. Movements are irregular in both range and rate.

    [+/-] Click here to read/hide the definition.

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007


    Is there anything that makes people happier than elections? College football polls, perhaps?

    This week two important elections took place outside of the United States and Asia and therefore my expertise. However, I wanted to call people's attention to the obvious ramifications of it all.

    President Hugo Chavez, lost two ballot measures 51% to 49% -- one to put the national bank under control of the president, and the other to get rid of term limits. If they had passed, these two referenda would have gone a long way to giving Pres. Chavez unlimited and perpetual control over Venezuela.

    Chavez lost because of a concerted opposition effort from students at Caracas University. It says a lot when the young educated are against you and only the poor vote for you. Chavez still plans to push through changes that will allow him to suspend the free press in times of emergency and seize private property. This is why the United States of America must learn from it's mistakes in Vietnam in the 1970s and China during Tienanmen Square. The USA must give support to the students now, so they can solidify their support of democracy and capitalism and work to stem President Chavez's disastrous changes.

    On the other hand, President Putin of Russia won his elections and therefore his referenda to help Russia become the URRP (United Russian Republics of Putin). He has steadily moved Russia away from Democracy, and Gary Kasparov, the opposition leader, didn't gain enough votes to stop him. To make things more muddy, his dictatorship also infuriates those that want to return to true socialism -- giving Russia two bad paths to tread.

    America needs to vocally oppose Russia and Putin. Gone are the days were Russia wields the extreme power that America has and China nears. Gone are the days where we seem to worry about the United Nations, so why worry about it's veto vote? Demand democracy from a has-been country that wants to be. If we don't demand it, they will never achieve it.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    I'm Alive!!!

    That is my long excuse for not posting for two months

    That's what I imagined my baby boy said on October 3rd.

    Yes, I do have an excuse for not posting in almost two months.

    As you can see, my last post was October 2nd, 2007. That's because, that night, after telling people at school he could come any day, I went to bed confident he wouldn't come until the weekend. About 3:30-3:45ish in the morning, I hear an,

    "Anh. Anh! Wake up! I think my water broke."
    *still groggy* "...ugh, what?? Are you sure?"
    "I don't know. I had to go to the bathroom, and it just keeps coming."
    "What color is it?"
    "Clear, I guess..."
    "Ok, ok...let's think...go stand in the bathtub for now so it doesn't get everywhere, and I'll grab the bags. What do we need to do now? Any contractions?"
    "Ok...we need to call Kelsey-Seybold and let them know before we head to the -- ah!! -- hospital..."
    "Was that contractions??"
    "Yes, I think so.. --ah!! -- they're coming pretty close toge --ah!! -- already."

    ... a couple seconds later, "Anh, the fluid is clear, kinda rose-ish --ah!--" as she braced herself against the shower wall.

    Flipping open the cell phone, i dialed the doctor's office (on speed dial). After punching all the requisite buttons to navigate the electronic forest I hear a voice on the other end say,

    "Hello sir. How may I help you?"
    "I think my wife is in labor."
    "Ok. And did her water break?"
    "Yes, about 15 minutes ago."
    "Alright, and is she having contractions?"
    "how far apart?"
    "I dunno...how far apart honey?"
    "--ah!-- I think 4 minutes!"
    "Yeah, she says 4 minutes."
    "Already? Are you sure?"
    "Ok, we'll have the doctor on call call you back. If he doesn't call shortly, please call again."

    I got off the phone and paced the room. My wife, still propped in the corner of the shower, continued to wince in pain every couple minutes. She grabbed her abdomen and said "ow ow ow..." then her face would relax as the tension and pain passed.

    Eventually, I called back the receptionist -- the doctor never called. She paged the doctor again. Eventually, he called, and said they were ready; come on over.

    I swung the bags over my shoulder and helped my wife get dressed. With her leaning on me, we went out to the car, backed out, and navigated our way out of the condo complex.

    The hospital was only three blocks and five minutes away. We were at the front door by 4:30am. Popping out of the car, I handed the keys to the valet, grabbed the bags from the back seat, and raced around to the other side to help my wife out. Grabbing the ticket, I walked her to the elevator and up to the labor and delivery ward.

    As told, the nurse staff was expecting us. The room was ready, and they wheeled her into it immediately. I set my stuff down and turned around to do the fatherly duties of filling out papers and paying the hospital.

    The nurses were incredibly nice and skilled. My wife writhed in pain every couple minutes as I held her hand and shot pictures. Eventually, I stepped outside while the anesthesiologist placed the epidural and when I returned, gone were the contorted faces and cries! In front of me was a tired but smiling wife. Those epidurals truly are amazing.

    By 5:45am my wife was dilated 10cm, and we had a choice--go with the on call ob/gyn or wait for our ob/gyn who was in transit. We opted to wait, and promptly about 6:30am he walked in. After taking a quick look at my wife, he gave the orders to prep and walked out.


    After a couple pushes, she was ready. Our ob/gyn reentered, and


    Those epidurals truly are amazing

    Out popped the baby. Our ob/gyn deftly slid his two fingers under the umbilical cord wrapped around the boy's neck, freed him up, and held his wailing body to the world.

    "Waa!! Waa!!"
    "Do you want to cut the cord?" he asked.

    Eagerly, I grabbed the scissors and cut in between the clamps. The doctor tied the knot, and the nurses whisked the baby over to the other side of the room to get weighed and scored. I followed.

    "He scored an APGAR 9" the nurse said. "Let's see how much he weighs....5lbs. 14.5oz. Do you want to take a picture?"
    "Of course! We've got lots of people who want to see this kid," I replied.

    And so entered Braeden into the world, at 7:10am (after only 3 hours of labor) on October 3rd, 2007 and weighing in at 5lbs 14.5 oz and 19 in long.

    That is my long excuse for not posting for two months. The birth of my first baby, exams the two weeks after the birth, and getting used to being a father and a student since then, has taken up almost all of my time.

    Now, however, I promise to reclaim my life -- at least until exams in two weeks or Braeden needs to be held.

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    Two cents on Matt Leinart

    No, he is not from China, or recalling toys.

    The pro football season is well underway now, and one of the many surprises this year is the 2-2 Cardinals. Why is 0.500 so good? Because the Cardinals never have been. That's why. So, when they beat the 3-1 Steelers last Sunday, 21-14, people should be partying in the streets, right??

    NOTE for my Vietnamese readers: In American pro football, teams play a 16 game season, so 25% of the season is already done. That mean's there's actually quite a difference in talent between a team with 3 wins and 1 loss (the Steelers) and a 2 win 2 loss team (the Cardinals).

    Scoring comes basically in either 3 or 7 points depending on what you do. So, a close game is decided by 1-5 points.

    Finally, each team has 11 players on offense and 11 on defense. The leader of the offense is called the "quarterback."

    Matt Leinart, the quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, was pulled from the game late in the first half in favor of Kurt Warner. Kurt plays better with little time,and he played well as expected. Leinart came back in the game at the end of the game and directed the winning score.

    After the game Leinart comments that,
    "I just want them to ride or die with me," Leinart told Yahoo!. "If I'm the franchise quarterback, play me and let me stumble, because I'll fight through it, and that will help me and our team in the long run. I know coaches want to win now, and I guess they have their reasons. But I don't understand it, and this switching back and forth is almost worse than getting benched."

    All the pundits on TV have gotten all tangled up in their underwear because he's complaining after a WIN. Plus he's complaining to the public. Therefore he's not a team player.

    Yeah, yeah, that may be true. The one thing people have forgotten is why he's saying this. He's not trying to play football. He wants to be a star. Some people say a movie star. No, he wants to be a Paris Hilton star. That's why he's slept with Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears, and parties like them, and lives that life.

    Interestingly, the other big story from the NFL this season is the reincarnation of Brett Farve. He's one of the best quarterbacks of all time. However, he too was drafted by a team (Atlanta) and then traded to another team (Green Bay) because he wasn't a good quarterback. He partied all night, never studied his plays, and slept through team meetings. Once in Green Bay, he woke up and changed and became great. This season he's amazing, because he's working more than ever before.

    This isn't coach Ken Whisenhunt's decision to make. He'll play whichever quarterback he has ready. Right now, it's not Leinart's decision either. He's already picked star over quarterback, and unless he starts studying and working, he'll never amount to either.

    Friday, September 21, 2007

    The Chinese are out to get me...

    How many children have to die ... before enough is enough?
    New readers of my blog are going to think I hate Chinese people. This is not true -- it could not be further from the truth. However, lately, the stars have aligned against me, and they're using China to do it.

    Today, CNN reported more Chinese-made goods recalled. This time it's cribs.

    "Cribs! I just bought a crib!" I think as I read the article. "Could our crib be one of the recalled?"

    Quickly I shoot an email off to my wife, because -- as all men know -- when there's a house/baby question, you ask the boss.

    It looks like the cribs being recalled are made by Simplicity. For the last ten years -- TEN YEARS -- a support strut has been installed upside down, causing some mattresses to fall and creating a space for babies to be trapped. How in the world does it take a company ten years to fix a problem like this?

    We looked at the Simplicity brand at Babies 'R Us, specifically the Ellis model. Luckily, the Ellis model is not one of the models recalled. Unfortunately, it's not that lucky. According to Simplicity's own website,
    "CPSC is aware of three deaths in different models of Simplicity brand cribs. Additionally, CPSC is aware of seven infant entrapments and 55 incidents in these cribs."
    My wife and I decided to go with a Jardine-made crib, because we felt the Simplicity crib (one of those turn-into-a-bed-later cribs) was too high and hard for my wife bend over. The Jardine isn't a "lifetime" bed, but it allows the side to drop more, so my wife can pick up our soon-to-be boy.

    the stars have aligned against me, and they're using China to do it
    Even with the Jardine, we had our own scare. By now, my wife and my decision to not buy Chinese is apparent. Jardine is a Taiwan-based company (which I don't equate as Chinese) and my crib was made in Vietnam (which gave us a good laugh, and made us wonder how much it would have cost if we had just bought it when we were in Vietnam). As I was setting up the crib, a screw from the slide (the same part that is forcing the recalls on the Simplicity cribs) kept falling out, making that side very unstable. Luckily, I was being the conscientious consumer and dad, and tested it out two or three times. With the help of my father, we figured out that each side of the support was supposed to have one small and one large screw, but they had put two large on one side, and two small on the other. Once we changed the screws, the supports held like intended.

    Weathering crib-gate, I opened my email today to find a lovely message from Ebay telling me my account was frozen. Someone had hijacked my account and was sending messages to other ebay customers, trying to get them to buy things (and hence steal important info). The message said,
    "Dear Sir/Madam:
    Please allow us to disturb your precious time!We are the Chinese biggest foreign trade wholesaler. If you want to do business, we can offer you our most reasonable discount, making you get more profit . If you have time, please visit our website,Please relate with us, we will give you a satisfying answer."
    I won't give out the website, but it was obviously Chinese. I spent one hour online trying to resolve this issue with Ebay (still not totally fixed...I'm probably going to delete my account when possible) and praying that they did not get anything really important (Ebay assured me that all financial info was not available to them).

    Join with me in consciously NOT buying things made in China when possible. You'll send a message to American manufacturers and their Chinese partners that we will not settle for dangerous and substandard goods. How many children have to die in faulty cribs, or eat lead paint chips, before enough is enough?

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

    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    Chinese Toys 2

    As a father-to-be, I don't care much about the bottom line of a company
    The earthquake that was the Chinese toy fiasco continues to give off aftershocks. More importantly, the rebuilding process has only begun, and really only affected the siding on houses, not true foundations.

    Today CNN reported that Mattel is recalling MORE toys because of lead paint. This is a great and horrible thing. Horrid, because it further brings to light the greed and ineptitude of American and Chinese manufacturers. Great, because it further brings to light the greed and ineptitude of American and Chinese manufacturers.

    As a father-to-be, I don't care much about the bottom line of a company (Yes, I do in life, but not with my "dad hat" on). Most other fathers and mothers feel the same way. I am much more interested in keeping my unborn child safe now and in the future, than whether a Barbie doll costs $5.99 or $8.99.

    I mentioned last month that my wife and I were voluntarily shunning Chinese-made goods. That is still ongoing. Interestingly, it's a dichotomy of feelings. We went to Babies-R-Us again, on Labor Day, and bought a crib. But with all the toy recalls, my thoughts went like this:
    1. Is this the type of crib we want?

    2. Is this the price we can afford?

    3. Is this the color that we want?

    4. Is this made in China?

    Although the "made-in-china" thought was not first on the list, it was the veto question. We wanted a crib that was low enough for my wife to reach over. Check. We wanted a crib that didn't cost $500. Check. We wanted a crib that fit our color scheme in the baby's room. Check. We wanted to make sure that the paint wasn't filled with lead from China so our future teething child doesn't retard his mental progression because we were lax parents...check.

    The earthquake that was the Chinese toy fiasco continues to give off aftershocks
    If that last question had come up wrong, we would have moved to another crib. No matter the color, style, or trendiness of a crib or toy, I, as a father, want my child to have the healthiest and best future possible.

    What at first seemed hard--to check if everything was made in China and not buy it--has actually been quite easy. Most everything has an alternative. I even bought windshield wipers for my car that were made in Mexico over those made in China (out of principle...and because the mexican wipers were cheaper).

    Join me. Our collective voices will do two things. One, it will force American manufacturers to diversify into other countries, which is better for the overall health of our economy. Two, it will continue to send a strong message to American manufacturers, forcing them to do like Mattel--spend over 50,000 man-hours finding out weak links in their manufacturing, and posting this webpage declaring unequivocally their responsibility to us, the consumers.

    ...oh, and three, it will protect our children.

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

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    My hurting ear

    Insurance companies are the "whore of all the earth"
    My last post was two weeks ago. It's been a crazy and painful two weeks. Ironically, this blog is called The Bleeding Ear, because of this, and although my ear did not bleed, it did hurt mightily.

    You see, somehow, I got an ear infection -- Otitis externa and Otitis media. For those of you who did not grow up speaking Latin, I had both outer and middle ear infections.

    I was never one to get ear infections as a child. Sure, I had one or two, but most everybody does. Typically came after swimming, i.e. "swimmer's ear," that horrible, painful condition you get by not getting all the water out after swimming. Pseudomonas aeruginosa loves that environment, and can't help making you feel miserable while it grows.

    On that note, I looked up "home remedies" for ear aches and found people attributing swimmer's ear to fungus and all sorts of things. One lady even said "use vinegar because it works well against fungi, but don't use it against bacteria because it makes their infections worse." Sorry, lady, but I got news for you: you're advocating vinegar for a bacterial infection, not a fungal one--directly contradicting yourself.

    Back to the main topic: My story starts about 18 months ago in the wet and hot streets of Saigon ... actually, it was there that I got my first "adult" ear infection. It was painful, annoying, but bearable. I saw a doctor -- a pediatrician -- because it was better to go to a private physician, trained by Americans, who worked out of his home, and new my in-laws for many years, than to go to a government-ran hospital. If I had done that, I probably would have left Vietnam with only one ear (and no paintings of haystacks).

    In Vietnam, pharmacists are unlicensed doctors. You can go to them and buy whatever drugs you want, without a prescription. Two years ago, I went to a pharmacist in Hue complaining of flu-like symptoms. She promptly gave me a plastic bag with a bunch of nondescript, generic pills, told me to take so many at such and such times, and I slept through the bus ride to Hoi An. But I got better, so she probably knew what she was doing, and gave me real medicine.

    Because the Chinese will often grab a real looking bottle, with real looking gel caps, but fill it with chalk instead of acetaminophen, and then you get sicker instead of better ... but I digress.

    The pediatrician wrote me a prescription, since I saw him first, and I went right next door to his neighbor that ran a pharmacy out of his home. I picked up the drugs, which purported to be sulfamexazole-trimethoprim ("Bactrim") and took it for a week or two. I got better, but my ear has never felt perfect since.

    Then, a couple Thursdays ago, my ear hurt. I mean, it hurt bad. I didn't sleep well Thursday night -- only a couple hours -- and on Friday I went into the student health center. Got prescribed amoxicillin 500mg po tid and ciprofloxacin/hydrocortisone drops to put in my ear. Cost me an arm and a leg.

    Back in Vietnam, I could have gone to the pharmacist, spent $5-7 USD, and got all that medication. Or, like I did, spend $2 USD to see the doctor, have him prescribe me correct meds, and then spend $5 to $7 USD on them. Everything out of pocket. I was able to go whatever doctor and pharmacy I wanted. No forms to fill out.

    I probably would have left Vietnam with only one ear (and no paintings of haystacks)
    Similar sickness, different setting. I had to go to my student health center, because my insurance won't pay for any doctor outside of it (without me paying a fortune), and then had to drop over $130 USD for the drugs (the amoxicillin was $10 USD copay, at the center, but the drops were $120 USD out of pocket at Walgreens). If I want to get reimbursed for the drops (minus copay) I have to fill out forms, attach the prescription, and mail it to Dallas. Some paper-pusher who knows nothing about my medical case or history (or medicine, probably) will then decide if the doctor was correct in prescribing those drops, and if I filled out all the forms, so i can get my $100 USD back.

    Insurance companies are the "whore of all the earth" ... but that's another story.

    Friday night I tried to rip my ear out of my head --with all cochlea and small bones attached. I called a "nurse hotline" (because evidently, the doctors I could call when I was growing up have now given all their expertise to nurses) who told me to take a decongestant and put heat on it. Great. I did those things, and tossed and turned throughout the night.

    Eventually, after finishing my 10 day course of antibiotics, my ear is bearable. Not better, but bearable. It doesn't feel "normal." A lot of times I feel like that ear needs to be "popped," like when you ride in an airplane. Other times, it feels discomforting, not quite painful, but definitely not fine. Maybe I need to see and ENT...but I don't want to fill out any more forms...

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

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    Boycott China 1

    Yesterday in my post on Chinese Toys, I broached the idea of boycotting Chinese-made goods. Today, I go to CNN.com and immediately see this:
    NEW YORK (AP) - Less than two weeks after Mattel Inc. (NYSE:MAT) recalled 1.5 million Chinese-made toys because of lead paint, the toy industry is bracing for another blow that could give parents more reason to rethink their purchases just before the critical holiday shopping season.

    Mattel is set to announce the recall of another toy involving a different Chinese supplier as early as Tuesday, according to three people close to the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

    Later in the day the news was confirmed:
    NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Mattel Inc. Tuesday recalled more than 9 million toys made in China, including "Polly Pocket" and "Batman" dolls and other popular figures, because of loose magnets and lead paint - its second major recall in less than a month.
    because...(drum roll please)...

    The move, announced by the company and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), comes after a host of other Chinese products, from seafood and pet food to tires and toothpaste, have been recalled for safety reasons in recent months.
    There are two reason FOR boycotting Chinese goods, and I'm sure many reasons NOT to boycott them. The two "pros" that come to mind immediately are:
    1. reducing American dependence on Chinese manufacturing and its economy

    2. taking a stand on the numerous and egregious human rights violations perpetrated by the communist government

    I believe that Americans would also rather ... "be safe than sorry"
    Now, Chinese human rights violations are nothing new, ranging from Tibet to beijing factory workers to Tiennamen Square. I will elaborate on this point later. American economic independence was, admittedly, not my first thought, but it was brought up eloquently by my wife. Here is the email exchange (edited a little for grammar and length because, lets face it, nobody writes with proper grammar when emailing):

    From: The Bleeding Ear
    Sent: Today
    To: The Wife
    Subject: Boycott China?

    The more I hear, the more I think that the only way to get China to shape up (and America to not be so dependent on one country) is to boycott Chinese-made goods. Teach these American companies to police themselves, or they're going to close shop.

    Here's the NEW news about chinese toys.


    love you,


    From: The Wife
    To: The Bleeding Ear
    Date: today
    Subject: RE: Boycott China?

    Americans need to boycott Chinese goods. ... We need ... [to] come home and support local businesses. If American companies opened their factories here, they would be able to find laborers. Perhaps, the labor here is not quite as cheap as it is in China, but I believe that Americans would also rather pay a little more and "be safe than sorry".

    I think it's rather "funny" that in Vietnam, [the] Vietnamese [will] not buy goods that are "Made in China", [but] they [will] hunt for anything that has ... American tags on it. Perhaps the Vietnamese know their neighbor too well!

    On the contrary, we Americans have to use everything with the tags "Product of China" because we do not have a choice. Everything in America is made in China. As China strives to overcome the U.S, to be the strongest economy in the world, their economy relies [mostly] on our [wealth], but in reverse, our economy also relies a lot on them. It's simply a 2 way street.

    So, there are three main solutions to this problem: 1). Americans need to support domestic goods; 2). American companies need to pull out of China (because it does not matter how hard they try to enforce their product standards, Chinese will always find a way to cheat the system. ... 3). Like ever, the U.S. government must do a better job inspecting imported goods (you can find more facts about this on CNN.com).


    The Wife
    I would add that the "2 way street" mentioned in the email is "2" lopsided. Americans depend heavily on Chinese goods, but China depends largely on American money. If there were a "falling out" between the two countries (or--heaven forbid--a war), this situation might hurt China in the world markets in the short term, but I postulate China would be relatively self-sufficient in staple goods while America would be crippled.

    Chinese products ... have been recalled for safety reasons in recent months

    Also, it interests me greatly that Vietnam, China's southern neighbor, doesn't rely as heavily on Chinese goods as America does. I think we can definitely learn something from that. Vietnam has thousands of years more experience dealing with the Chinese than we do.

    Ultimatly, though, how could we affect such a boycott? What must we do to achieve more economic independence and better quality goods?

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

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Chinese toys

    My wife and I won't buy any Chinese made toys. We went to Babies-R-Us the other day, registering for the bizillions of things kids need these days. Babies-R-Us had tons of toys ... and all of them were made in China. Due to the news out of China recently (lead painted toys, antifreeze in toothpaste, tires that blow up, less flavorful garlic, bad antibiotics in seafood, etc.), we decided not to buy them. Sure, the kid might have to do without Thomas the train, but at least he won't be retarded from sucking the lead paint.

    So, let's teach everyone a lesson. Boycott.
    Today Zhang Shu Hong, co-owner of the big Chinese toy company behind the American toy recalls, committed suicide. I'm not surprised. In fact, I'm gonna say what a lot of you are thinking. I'm glad he did it.

    I'm definitely not weeping for him. In an effort to make a buck, he endangered millions of children. However, this is good news for him. In Chinese culture, a disgraced person of high status can save face by committing suicide -- a practice similar to the more well known Seppuku by Japanese samurai. So, although western culture looks on suicide as a cheap escape, a dishonorable way to shirk your responsibilities, in his culture it was the honorable way of fessing up to your super-big mistake. That is why I am glad he did it, and honored that he would own up to it, instead of shifting blame down the food chain.

    That said, guilt is by no means his and his alone. His best friend sold him the lead paint. If anyone is dishonored by this whole fiasco, it's the friend. Where is he, and why doesn't he have the balls courage to own up to his greed and huge mistake through suicide? He dishonors not only his family and China, but children all over the world because he won't take responsibility for it.

    Also, American companies need to shoulder the blame too. We should not let them off the hook. In a desperate move to put prices over quality, American companies rushed to China knowing FULL WELL what that meant -- cheap labor, zero governmental controls. Now their greed has come back to bite us. We should punish them with our pocketbooks.

    We should punish our government for not doing what it's supposed to do. I'm not asking for anything ground-breaking, like doing something NEW, just enforcing the laws already on the books. If the American government actually searched more containers than not, we'd doubtless find more Chinese goods substandard. We need to hold our leaders accountable with our votes and our political contributions. If they won't do what they're supposed to, they won't be back in Washington, D.C.

    My wife and I won't buy any Chinese-made toys
    China's in an interesting position these days. Through rampant stealing and copying of products, and impoverishing its people relative to its neighbors, China has established itself as a low-cost manufacturer of goods the western world needs. However, that position comes with western responsibilities with which the Chinese aren't experienced. Now that China wants to be respected, it must bring quality to the table. The Communist government has done little to enforce quality, (or intellectual property rights for that matter) but must do both for the western world to look upon it as an equal.

    So, let's teach everyone a lesson. Boycott. Stop buying goods from the AMERICAN companies that signed that Faustian deal and endangered you or your child. Stop buying goods made in CHINA, because only loss of face and shrinking exports will force China to enact labor laws that will better protect consumers (and probably improve the lives of the working class in China). Vote out incumbents this election (either party) to show our POLITICIANS we're serious about them doing their job seriously.

    Then, maybe, Zhang's friend will hang himself too.

    Tuesday, July 31, 2007

    Oh, the humanity! v2.0

    Fourteen months ago, I suffered a terrible loss. I've never been a fascionista, down with the latest trends, super GQ guy. I wear what my wife tells me looks good, and since she's almost always right, I do ok. I just won't wear pink ties.

    One constant to my wardrobe (not a malfunction...) was my hat. One day, fourteen months ago, at the Go Vap VATC, I put my hat down and never saw it again.

    I died a little inside that day.

    This is my new hat! My problem was that I could not find it when I shopped around. My wife thought (thinks?) that I was crazy. You see, I could find the University of Texas hat with the longhorn on the front, in the new "z-fit" (zephyr's version of the mild elastic band that allows for semi-fitted hats) or in fitted styles, but I could only find the "T" logo on front in the "z-fit" style.

    So, at academy, I broke down and bought the "T" with the elastic fit. I brought it home. I tried it on. It was ok ... perhaps, if I had never had my beloved hat v1.0, I wouldn't have cared, but to be honest, the elastic fit that every hat maker is selling now is not as comfortable as a true fitted hat. I wanted my 7 1/4. So, I jumped online, found headhound.com, and found my hat--exactly the "T" and the fit.

    And now, every day is a little brighter, because I am me again. That funny guy with the orange "T" hat.

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    A Tour in Disarray

    The news that Rasmussen was sacked shocked me, but it was the withdrawl of his whole team and the whole french team that broke the last straw of sanity.

    Cycling is like a human body, struggling with an infection. Doping is like S. aureus, a small problem, typically constricted in a set location. However, if you do not treat your S. aureus infection with antibiotics, it may go septicemic.

    Cycling did not treat doping when it started, and didn't acknowledge the septicemia until the disease was too severe. Just like a bacterial infection that has progressed too far, it may be impossible to overcome doping. Often, when antibiotics won't work anymore, the body can only be saved by cutting off the infected limb. Other times, even that doesn't work, and the patient dies. Cycling is in the midst of a feverish fight with itself, and today it bit the bullet and amputated an arm.

    Rasmussen, the tour leader, axed without a true positive test, is like cutting the arm off above the fetid flesh--a desperate measure to stop the spread of the infection.

    The new tour leaders have never been linked to anything unethical, but it's too little, too late. Lance Armstrong's gone, and with him goes American interest. Germany is leaving too, and many more will follow because people's faith in the sport is gone. The infection is MRSA, and it's septic. The only way to cure the infection is to focus on limiting the spread to other sports, bury cycling as currently constituted (organization-wise), and start anew.

    Monday, July 23, 2007

    Dangerous Dog Registry

    Many months back my wife came home sad and stressed.

    "What's wrong?" I asked.

    "I just visited this little boy in the hospital who was mauled by a pit bull while in front of his house," she responded.

    Good enough for government work
    Pit bulls are a frequent topic at my house. Their good and bad traits have been debated by my wife and I, in-laws, out-laws--whoever--since my wife started working for Houston's Animal Regulation Bureau of the Environmental Health Department.

    The one thing that's abundantly clear from all this debate is that there is a large group of people who hate pit bulls and think they should be banned, and there is another large group that vehemently opposes the first.

    After hearing the latest story, I sat at the dinner table wondering what to do.

    "Well, since you can't ban pit bulls," I mused, "and you can't keep things the way they are, why not do something else?"

    "Like what?" my wife asked.

    "Like a registry ... for dangerous dogs. It'd be similar to a sex offender registry. Everyone with a dangerous dog is required to list their address."

    "I like the idea; I'm listening," my wife interjected.

    "Well, since owning a pet is a luxury, in my opinion, anyway, and these dogs have already been declared dangerous because of a previous bite incident, then a registry would allow minimal invasion of privacy --I mean, compared to outright banning of breeds -- but allow people information. That way, if someone with small children was moving to a subdivision, he or she could go online and look for any dangerous dogs near his or her prospective house and use it when deciding where to live.

    Also, the city must post it clearly on its website for this to work. Every time someone moved, they'd need to file a short change of address form--just like at the post office--or face a fine of whatever the city sees fit. All in all, people feel more safe with the information, and pit bull lovers don't see their breeds banned."

    My wife took the idea to work and ran with it. She passed it by her boss and he liked it --a lot-- so she talked to "the chief" -- the director of her Bureau -- and he liked the idea too. She came home a few days later and said it was going to the city's legal counsel so Houston can find a way to implement it.

    That's death.

    Today she found out at work that New York City will institute a dangerous dog registry just like the one I suggested. I did a quick google search and didn't find New York, but did find the state of Virginia has a dangerous dog registry. But Houston still does not.

    The cynic in me says this is because the stars of every law class do NOT work for the city, and that government is NEVER efficient. The truth is probably more the latter than the former.

    It'd be similar to a sex offender registry
    Still, it's quite a shame. When a bite case happens, the dog is declared dangerous. The city has it's registration number, and if it bites again, it's gone. How hard can it be to put that information up on the web, in a clear, searchable form, to empower people to protect their families? How many more children must be mauled before such a simple solution is started?

    Texas just enacted legislation that makes it a felony if a dog not on a leash seriously injures a person. A felony! They could push that legislation through but couldn't create this simple directory?

    Well, at least they talked about it. In the science world, we called a half-baked job like that, "good enough for government work."

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    A Tale of Two Peoples 2: The "Việt Kiều" word

    "Emigrant, my friends! Do you not see me here, in France, of my own will?"

    "You are a cursed emigrant," cried a farrier, making at him in a furious manner through the press, hammer in hand; "and you are a cursed aristocrat!"

    ... Darnay said, as soon as he could make his voice heard:

    "Friends, you deceive yourselves, or you are deceived. I am not a traitor."

    "He lies!" cried the smith. "He is a traitor since the decree. His life is forfeit to the people. His cursed life is not his own!"


    "What is this decree that the smith spoke of?" Darnay asked the postmaster, when he had thanked him, and stood beside him in the yard. "Truly, a decree for selling the property of emigrants."

    "When passed?"

    "On the fourteenth."

    "The day I left England!"

    "Everybody says it is but one of several, and that there will be others- if there are not already- banishing all emigrants, and condemning all to death who return. That is what he meant when he said your life was not your own."

    "But there are no such decrees yet?"

    "What do I know!" said the postmaster, shrugging his shoulders; "there may be, or there will be. It is all the same. What would you have?"
    (Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities, Book 3 chapter 1)

    In "A Tale of Two Peoples," I set forth the view that the Vietnamese in Vietnam and the Vietnamese living oversees are quite totally two different peoples. Many people made good, cogent comments. Possibly stemming from our unconscious ethno-centricism, most points focused on the status of the Việt kiều.

    However, at least equally responsible for the gulf between the two peoples are the Vietnamese mới. To prove that two peoples exist, I must both show a feeling of community that defines a people, and show feelings of disconnection between the two groups.

    I alluded to this when I said,
    "I cannot count anymore the number of times I've heard "việt kiều" come out of someone's mouth as a derogatory comment."
    and this term's connotation shows the gulf of which I write.

    Of course, these are two peoples currently moving apart, and as such there will be exceptions to my theory, but I do feel they are the minority, not majority.

    The term "việt kiều" is used by the communists to include people of Vietnamese descent living oversees as Vietnamese--to establish jurisdiction over them in the government's mind. This concept is foreign to someone from the United States. We do not wake up each morning, grab the paper, and read on the front page about the awards or escapades of someone of American descent living in a foreign country--France for instance--especially if that person was born and raised in France.

    But that is what the Vietnamese do every morning. Example: Open up your Tuổi Trẻ newspaper in the morning and you'll likely find an article (conveniently located online in the "Người Việt xa quê" [Viets away from home] section) about someone of Vietnamese descent doing something in another country, often barely related to Vietnam at all.

    Yet all the newspaper articles cannot stop the divide between people. I spoke with an old student of mine the other night, and this is part of the conversation we had:

    Student (4/19/2007 9:55:43 PM): o viet nam
    Student (4/19/2007 9:55:50 PM): co nhiu nguoi tu nhan la viet kieu
    Student (4/19/2007 9:55:54 PM): nhung ho hok het di lam
    Student (4/19/2007 9:56:02 PM): ma chi la di wa my rui ve
    Student (4/19/2007 9:56:14 PM): chu hok he lam viec
    Student (4/19/2007 9:56:26 PM): va ho chi mang mac viet kieu ma thoi
    Student (4/19/2007 10:04:46 PM): theo thi co 2 loai viet kieu thay ah
    Student (4/19/2007 10:04:51 PM): mot la nhu em da noi
    Student (4/19/2007 10:04:58 PM): ho lam viec cuc kho de kiem tien
    Student (4/19/2007 10:05:12 PM): rui gui ve cho gia dinh dang kho khan o viet nam hay ba con
    Student (4/19/2007 10:05:20 PM): nhung con mot loai viet kieu nua la
    Student (4/19/2007 10:05:25 PM): ho chi co danh thoi
    Student (4/19/2007 10:05:32 PM): chu ho hok he di lam de kiem tien
    Student (4/19/2007 10:05:41 PM): nen ho chi bit huong thu thoi
    Student (4/19/2007 10:05:59 PM): doi khi con co nhung nguoi mang danh viet kieu de di lua dao nua
    Student (4/19/2007 10:06:01 PM): v.v
    Student (4/19/2007 10:06:04 PM): nhiu lam thay oi
    Student (4/19/2007 10:06:29 PM): nen o viet nam neu viet kieu ma ve thuong xuyen la nguoi ta biet viet kieu gia
    Student (4/19/2007 10:06:45 PM): boi vi ve thuong xuyen thi co dau co di lam udoc
    Student (4/19/2007 10:06:56 PM): ma hok di lam thi sao lam ra tien phai hok thay
    Student (4/19/2007 10:06:59 PM): :-)

    Another viewpoint stemmed from this conversation I had with my wife.

    Me: Dear, when you hear the word "việt kiều" how do you feel?
    Wife: I don't like it. I don't want to be one.
    Me: But in Vietnam, does it have a negative or positive connotation?
    Wife: Negative.
    Me: Why?
    Wife: Because we don't like them, the việt kiều, coming into our country and acting like they're all good. Last time we were in Vietnam, I went with my mom to Parkson, and she pointed them out. They walk around and flash all their money like they're better thank us.
    Me: How could you tell them from other rich Viets?
    Wife: Oh you can tell. They're so nhà quê. They look like they've never been in a department store before, wandering around, not knowing where to go, but then they pull out all the money and flaunt it around saying 'Hey, we're rich.' They go to America and work for nothing, living a poor life, and then they fly back to Vietnam and throw it around acting all rich and better.
    Me: Your family's been blessed lately, and are pretty well off. Is it just a case of envy, or do others feel this way?
    Wife: All my friends felt that way, and many of them have no money. I felt this way growing up--before my parents got money. I think it's pretty common.
    Me: What about my student, who said "việt kiều" was used for those who went to work in America and came back?
    Wife: I don't know how the young generation uses it, but it can have many meanings--
    Me: Didn't it start from the government in newspapers trying to take credit for things done by ex patriot Vietnamese?
    Wife: Yes, and if you read the newspaper and see it, then that's what it means--the dictionary definition. But it has more than that. Most people use it derogatorily.
    Me: About the newspapers...did you ever feel kinship with the việt kiều written about in the Tuổi Trẻ?
    Wife: No. I thought it was stupid. They're not Vietnamese. The government is just trying to take credit for things that they do. If I did something here in America, and they wrote about it in Vietnam, that doesn't make it Vietnamese. It was a product of me, here in America, with these opportunities, and skills, and will always be an American thing.
    Me: What about a Vietnamese person who -- well, let's say you have a Vietnamese person in America--a high school student--who wins an award in math, and then a white kid wins the same award, and both are reported in the newspapers in Vietnam. Would you feel more closely with one or the other?
    Wife: Well obviously the Viet ... I'd think 'that's our Vietnamese brain! Good at math!' But as far as taking credit for him, no, because he grew up in America. He's not Vietnamese.

    Both viewpoints highlight the heterogeneous feelings that the Vietnamese mới have for the Việt kiều, and mirror what I felt I saw while there. In Vietnam, like always, there is great respect for hard work. The Vietnamese are some of the hardest working people I have ever seen. Therefore, those Vietnamese who live in America are respected for their hard work by those who understand that not all streets in America are paved with gold.

    However, the very visceral feelings of hurt, anger, pride, jealousy, etc. are also evident when those same people return to Vietnam. The ties between Việt mới and Việt kiều are minimal--possibly hair color and height only--because of the radically different circumstances in which they grew up and lived. Look at my wife's answers to my last two questions. She feels more connected to the Viet math star than the white math star, yet truly doesn't feel close to any person of Vietnamese descent living in America ("They're not Vietnamese").

    A middle class Vietnamese person makes between 3 million and 10 million đồng a month in Saigon. Actually, that's almost upper middle class. It's a lot less outside Saigon and Hanoi. The income disparity is massive. The new educated youth that speak English are taking foreign money and living well, but that is not nearly the norm for most of the country.

    Picture 110

    So, a 24 year old mechanic sees a 24 year old Việt kiều walk out of Parkson with a shirt that cost 800,000 đồng and a tie that cost 300,000đ and he doesn't say, "hey bro." He says, "you just spent my monthly wage on a shirt and tie, and you say you're one of me? You don't know me. You haven't lived through what I do. You aren't anything like me. You're not me."

    This is not a hatred, but a dissociation. The Việt mới stick around those who share their experiences, can empathize, and identify as being true Vietnamese.

    Monday, July 02, 2007

    Where are my Pictures?

    The other day I checked my photos on Yahoo photos and was greeted with this sight:

    I'm not a fan of Yahoo!, to be honest, but I was bummed. I do like Yahoo! Photos. Among other things, it was the one free photo host I had that let me make as many albums as I wanted. As you can tell from the screenshot above, Yahoo wants me to move to Flickr (because it owns Flickr), and I almost did it reflexively, since I've had a Flickr account for years (at least 2 B.Y. -- before Yahoo). However, I stopped myself, since I had no clue what the other three suggested photo sites were, and this is my discovery.

    Looking always to do things my own way, I immediately jumped to #2 and was horrified that I would have to download each photo one by one... I don't know how most people only have 20 photos or less, but I can assure you, I am NOT downloading my hundreds of photos one ... by ... one ... I'm stupid, but not that stupid.

    So I moved to the automated services. I started with the least familiar -- Shutterfly.

    The sign up was quick and painless. I was then greeted with the ability to start my own album or use Shutterfly's stock photos to make a demo album. They must understand that people like to test drive first. Already racking up the points. I picked the demo pictures, and was greeted with the first picture. Overall the layout is nice and crisp. Circle 1 shows your thumbnail options: small, medium, large. Large is the only option with names below. Small is REALLY small.

    Working in Shutterfly allows quick movement between albums and pictures. You can see in circle 2, that you can fix red-eye and make a slideshow. Making another album was as simple as pushing a button (picture 2), and should you be inclined to buy prints of your photos through Shutterfly (the real reason why it exists), the ubiquitous "Cart" button is always at the top. The ordering is pretty straight forward -- you just use drop-down boxes to select the # of each size photo you want. You can either have the prints mailed to you, or you can pick them up at the nearest Target.

    However, when looking at my photos, Shutterfly started to lose points. As you can see in the third picture, circle 1, Shutterfly has an easy to use system of doctoring photos. Good! But it doesn't allow you to look at your photos in any greater detail than you see the dog now. No zoom. No tagging of photos for searching. Limited metadata. Limited points in my book.

    I left Shutterfly unimpressed. It failed at the most important of all functions--letting me see my photos. If I just want to upload and print them, I'll just go straight to Target's photo page.

    Next on the list was Snapfish. Again, the sign up was easy, eerily similar to Shutterfly. In fact, almost everything was eerily similar.

    As you can see from circle 1, its main purpose is also to make you print your photos. They did, however, put the slideshow button central to the webpage, which I think is better, seeing how most people using this service will want their stuff simple, and that's as simple as it gets. However, you really can't do anything with the thumbnails (circle 3), and viewing the photos is exactly the same as Shutterfly. Overall, I'd go with Shutterfly, but in reality I think they are just twins separated at birth.

    Unimpressed with Snapfish, and compounded with previous experience of seeing Photobucket slideshows on Facebook pages, I entered Photobucket with very low expectations. Immediately I was hit with advertisements. Aaagghhh, busy webpage....my google-fied mindset cannot process such business. I like my webpages neat and uncluttered, definitely not filled with grinning faces and useless words that my eyes just skim over.

    This, however, is the theme of Photobucket. Advertise everything. If these photo hosting sites were cars, Photobucket would be in Nascar. Definitely geared to the mindless preteen/myspace generation.

    Immediately Photobucket lost more points by asking me for my cell phone number.

    If I don't give this to every person I know, why would I give it to some random website? I seriously almost stopped there, and if it wasn't for my blogging mindset, I would have. However, I pressed on, and am happy to say, you can leave it blank (which I did).

    After clearing that major hurdle, I was actually impressed with its service. Although it started with negative points after the cell phone fiasco, it quickly racked them up. Photobucket is a true photo hosting site. It lets you mess with your photos, share your photos, turn them into soup if you want to. Because of this, it deals with bandwidth and storage issues (picture), so it allows you to choose how you store your photos. It is also the first site I encounter with tiered access: free and paid.

    I had to upload my own files (no gimme demos), so I used the demos that come with Windows XP. Immediately I noticed three things (picture):

    1. The photos show up somewhat unnaturally at the bottom of the page.
    2. It is quite easy to edit data (like titles) in the photos.
    3. It gives you the url, img code, and embed link right up front -- a great boon for bloggers.

    When you click on a photo, you have a nice clean desktop to work with (picture).

    1. Photobucket allows you to see the full size (that you chose to save on their server) photo with a click of the button.
    2. In addition to the REAL photo editing and hosting functionality, it still allows you to give them money by printing your photos.
    3. Conveniently, the url, img, and embed code is situated unobtrusively in the bottom corner of the page while editing.
    4. For true photography junkies, it gives you some metadata to work with.

    Photobucket's coup de grace is it's ability to "Remix," or make a movie (picture). Partnering with Adobe, it allows users to drag video clips and photos to make a collage of sorts -- perfect for weddings where we all sigh at the pics and videos of the bride and groom when they're three. The system is easy to use (drag and drop), intuitive, and FREE. The only setback is the limited space given to movie hosting.

    Finally, you can upgrade to Pro for $25 (picture), but more on that later.

    Next came Flickr, the home team. Flickr's signup is doubly easy, because it's also Yahoo's sign up. If you have a Yahoo acct because of email, Yahoo360, etc., then you can use the same here. Upon entering, the front page is a little crowded, but not like Photobucket. It also has minimal advertising, while most of Photobucket's crowd was advertising.

    Moving to my photos, you can see both the good and the bad right away. The good is the layout. Whereas Photobucket put the photos at the bottom of the page, Flickr has them right there for you to peruse. You can also change the layout if you want. The bad is that you only get three albums in the free version of Flickr. It too is a tiered service.

    1. The slideshow button is clearly but unobtrusively placed (but no Remix!).
    2. Albums are clearly labeled and easy to use, if you have enough.

    Flickr's photo editing/viewing setup is great, mostly due to it's photographer base that made it popular before Yahoo dumbed it down. Looking at your photo (this is one I took of a noonday ceremony at the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh) you can see, (picture)

    1. Flickr makes it easy to see all sizes, blog your photo, or order prints. If you order prints, you do it through a company called Qoop, which coincidentally, is the company used by Photobucket.
    2. Tags make Flickr. By tagging your photo, you determine how people find it through searches.
    3. Also due to its photographer background, Flickr gives you all the gory details of the pictures.

    When you look at the other sizes of a photo, Flickr takes you to another page. This is kinda frustrating. I'm so used to javascript functionality that I'd like to see the page think, and then deliver it to me, instead of loading a whole new webpage. What Flickr does right is give you options. You can easily select sizes, and if you pay for the upgraded service you can have the "original" size option available (picture).

    In addition, Flickr clearly gives you the url, img, and embed info necessary to be a good blogger. One issue I have with their "community guidelines" is that my use of lightbox 2.0 doesn't mesh perfectly with Flickr's rules. All of this is extra info I've gained over years of use.

    Finally, Flickr's pro account also costs $25 a year (picture 1, picture 2).

    With all this site hopping, I got thinking. Yahoo left off one other BIG photo hosting site, and coincidentally, it's biggest competitor: Picasaweb by Google.

    So, I thought, why not try it out too? How does it compare to Photobucket and Flickr, which clearly cleaned the clocks of Snapfish and Shutterfly?

    Like Flickr, Picasa's sign in is easy and linked. Everything in the google universe is accessible. Since I am blogging on Blogger, I already have an account with Picasa, because that is the default host for my blog's photos.

    Looking at my blog's album, it is immediately apparent that Picasa follows Google's lust for all things minimalistic and pastel. The thumbnails' sizes are easily changed and laid out for you in a simple manner. Picasa also offers photo mapping and organization that other services do not -- basically you put a pin on a map where the pic is from so people can look at the map and browse photos from that area.

    When looking at a photo, Picasa doesn't give you the size options that Flickr does, but it's pretty comparable to Photobucket. Even when you zoom, you might not always get the original size, if it's a big photo (picture).

    1. It does give you all the photo metadata like Flickr does.
    2. It also makes the url, img, and embed info easy to find and unobtrusive like both Flickr and Photobucket. In fact, maybe a little better, because you can change the size of the picture coded quickly through a drop down menu below the code.

    Interestingly, if you choose to print your photo, Picasa gives you the option of using Shutterfly...so we come full circle! (picture)

    Another thing Picasa offers is Picasa for your computer, which organizes all your photos and basically acts like a mini Adobe photoshop, streamlining your photo organization and uploading. Photobucket has something similar in beta. Flickr doesn't have that, but does have some neat, light-weight uploading tools for your computer (and if you use Firefox, you might like Flock--which is a Firefox based browser that streamlines multimedia use, and has built in Flickr uploading capability).

    And of course, Picasaweb is a tiered service, offering a pro acct starting at $25 (picture).

    "Wait, wait, wait!" you say. "$25!" Yes, Photobucket, Flickr, and Picasaweb all offer more bang for your buck. "How much," you ask? This much:

    So in the end, what am I to do? Clearly, Snapfish and Shutterfly are inferior products. Photobucket is better than Flickr for the free tier because it gives me unlimited albums, but is worse than Flickr because it has those stupid ads. Picasaweb is probably the best for a free tier, but Yahoo didn't give me that option, so I'd have to download every photo one by one, and then upload them to Picasaweb. If I pay money, I think Flickr is hands down the best.

    So, do I go with Picasaweb and downloading, so I stay free?
    Or do I go with Photobucket because no downloading and free?
    Or do I go with Flickr because no downloading, and $25/year gives me great stuff?

    What do you think?

    Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    Societal Maturity

    In today's world, the elephant in the middle of the room is Mature Responsibility. There it sits, huge, unmoving, affecting everything and everyone that moves into and out of the room -- and nobody will address it.

    People clamor from both sides, "Let me live my own life! Let us govern ourselves!" but little importance is placed on actions.

    Look at soccer. Across the world, hooliganism infects and destroys perfectly good matches like a virulent virus. The latest example of such stupid immaturity happened yesterday in Argentina. Fans unhappy with a referee's call in the 2-1 Tigre win over Nueva Chicago, stormed the field. People threw rocks, swung metal pipes, and torched a bus. One man died, fourteen were injured, and 78 people arrested. Security was overwhelmed and had to be backed up by police shooting rubber bullets and tear gas.

    This should go without saying, but soccer is a SPORT! Sure we all love to watch it--the artistry and power that accompany truly great soccer is a beauty to behold--but ultimately, win or lose, we all go home and live our lives. We go back to work, love, play, and live. Never has soccer reached the importance that we must kill over it, and definitely not at some small game merely deciding the relegation of a team to the second league. If people can't control themselves watching a match, they shouldn't be given the luxury of watching it. Italy did this a couple months ago. If fans are going to act like children, then governing bodies will have to treat them as such.

    But this incident is just a harbinger of larger manifestations of the elephant in our world room. Iraqis want control of their own destiny, yet they continue to kill each other. More innocent Iraqis are killed every day than American troops or terrorists. The country has split in two in many places, Shi'a against Sunni, because people can't maturely put down their weapons of war, quell their emotions, put aside their differences and work for a peaceful compromise and future.

    The situation is similar in Palestine. After Palestine achieves semi-recognition in the international community, and Hamas wins a general election and gains a stake in the democratic future of their country, they throw it away, killing people, stomping on Yasser Arafat's picture, and controlling the Gaza strip--effectively splitting the small Palestinian state in half. Why? Because they didn't have the patience to continue gaining political power through democratic means, they didn't believe in the ability of the people to choose for themselves, they didn't believe in a joint West Bank-Gaza Palestine?

    America's idealistic view doesn't help. We seem to think that every child is perfectly capable of obeying those most basic sandbox rules--the ones your mother taught you while you played in the sandbox at the park: have patience, share, and no hitting/biting. However, children who know no education, no discipline, seen no prior example, find it hard to share toys when the situation arises. So too Americans think Palestine and Iraq should be able to govern themselves, yet the more autonomy they are given, the less they seem to be able to manage it.

    In both Iraq and Palestine, as in Argentine soccer yesterday, people have shown an paucity of those most basic sandbox rules. If you didn't follow those rules, mom took away the privilege to play with your toys in the sandbox until you could show you were fit to play again. Since people in Argentina, Iraq, and Palestine can't seem to follow the rules either, perhaps they need their toys and sandbox taken away too.

    Monday, June 25, 2007

    Shame on the Media, Go USA!!

    Congratulations to the USA soccer team, for their 2-1 victory of Mexico yesterday. I was not able to watch the game in English, because no basic cable (Comcast, Houston, TX) channel carried the game.

    (Above is a 1:48 video of the winning goal and this is the whole second half)

    I find this fact sad--depressingly so--and a grave error by Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner, and every other media mogul who had a chance to broadcast this game but did not.


    The semifinals and final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup were played at Soldier Field in Chicago. I was in Chicago from Thursday through Sunday for the American Medical Association's Annual Meeting (Medical Student Section). Unfortunately, I was not able to join Sam's Army in the stands because America played against Canada in the early game, and I did not get out of my meetings in time. To add insult to injury, my flight left Sunday morning, so I could not stay and go to the final, either.

    I arrived home hoping to catch it on TV, and instead I find only Univision broadcasting the game. Boy, was I disappointed. I love watching soccer on the Spanish Channel because of the awesome announcers, so watching it in Spanish didn't bother me, but rather that no English language channel covered it.

    If there are enough viewers and ratings to justify broadcasting Major League Soccer matches, surely there's at least that many people willing to watch the USA in the final of the Gold Cup?

    Let's give props to the USA team--often regarded as a weak side, they are now 10-0-1 on the pitch under new coach Bob Bradley. Although we are not bringing all our veteran starters to South America for the Copa America, I think we'll still put in a good showing. American soccer is steadily improving, and deserves our support, and we deserve the opportunity to support it.

    Put our team on the air, ESPN!

    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    The TB Lawyer

    When I read this a couple days ago, I was incredulous. How many things went wrong? What, if anything, should be done?

    Andrew Speaker would be thrown in jail if he had done these actions with AIDS
    First, what is TB? Many people in the United States probably know it by name, but have little or no experience with it. TB is the common acronym for tuberculosis, the disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

    For those unfamiliar with microbiology, think of a bacterium (singular for bacteria) as a pill. Some come in ball shapes, others in more elongated brick shapes, just like your medicine. The genus Mycobacteria is a group of bacteria characterized by a brick shape and a thick waxy coat around the bacterium--like a long gel cap.

    Mycobacteria are typically the "jungle ulcers" and tropical diseases you think about when you see movies or read history books. They range from Mycobacterium ulcerans, the cause of Buruli ulcer (my personal favorite and target of research for many years), to Mycobacterium leprae, cause of Leprosy, to M. tuberculosis.

    M. tuberculosis typically causes a respiratory disease. The bacteria get into the lungs of a person, and your immune system tries to "wall it off" by encasing it because it is hard to kill. When looking at x-rays, you can usually see white spots showing these hard encasings in a person that had infectious TB in the past. Someone with TB will have "chronic, productive cough, low-grade fever, night sweats, easy fatigability, and weight loss" (Medical Microbiology, 4ed, Samuel Baron, ed.). As the disease progresses, the sick person starts coughing up blood.

    This month I am at a county hospital in Houston, TX and have seen a couple of tuberculosis patients. Pulmonary TB is highly infectious, and every patient suspected of having TB is put in isolation. Everyone who interacts with the patient must wear protective masks, because TB is spread by coughing.

    How bad is this disease? In America there are about 5 cases per 100,000 people (CDC data, 2003). In the rest of the world, it is
    the second-largest cause of death from an infectious agent worldwide—killing approximately 1.7 million people in 2003. Despite steady drops in the number of cases in some parts of the world, the number of new cases appears to be growing, with an estimated 8.8 million new cases in 2003. (Disease Control Priorities Project, Tuberculosis, fact sheet)
    Approximately 1/3 of the world's population is infected with latent TB, but fortunately only about 10% progress to disease every year.

    The short synopsis of Andrew Speaker's journey is thus: he was diagnosed with TB in America, and told not to go anywhere. At that time they didn't know it was the extremely drug-resistant strain he actually has (XDR-TB). He goes against medical advice and flies to Europe for his wedding. Then it is confirmed he has XDR-TB and he goes against medical advice again and against the USA "no fly" policy and flies into Canada and drives into the US. Now he's in isolation in Denver.

    You can get a more detailed timeline based on Speaker's view of the events, at abcnews.go.com

    In all this ruckus, people have forgotten the most important point--Speaker willingly flaunted medical advice more than once, blatantly snuck into the United States and, most importantly, exposed so many people to this disease.

    Mycobacteria are typically the "jungle ulcers" and tropical diseases you think about when you see movies or read history books
    He can blame his actions on ignorance, or "he said, she said" stuff, but the truth is he's a bright young man and can't seriously feel the ONLY place he could get treatment is in Denver, CO. He can't seriously believe that when doctors in Europe tell him not to leave, after already being told that in America, that he knows better than them and he should be ok to go to Canada. He can't be a good lawyer when he blatantly flaunts the law he went to school to learn and prosecute and adjudicate.

    Let's change the name for a minute. Instead of TB, it's AIDS. Imagine with me. Andrew is diagnosed with AIDS. He is infectious, but doesn't look overly sick. Doctors admonish him to be celibate or practice safe sex. He flaunts their advice and sleeps around without protection and without telling his partners he's sick.

    Then he moves to another area, and the doctors there tell him he has a rapidly mutating form of the virus that depletes the immune system far faster than the more prevalent form. They tell him again to be celibate/use protection and that he is required to tell his partners he has AIDS.

    Speaker proceeds to again have unprotected sex with many people and not tell them he's infected. Finally, he checks into a hospital.

    Andrew Speaker would be thrown in jail if he had done these actions with AIDS. In America it is a crime to knowingly infect or expose someone to HIV. But Speaker had TB, not AIDS. He had a disease that is easier to transmit, infects more people, and kills about as many people. He knowingly put other people at risk many times -- especially when flying to Canada WITHOUT wearing a mask and AGAINST both medical advice and US law.

    Many people walk out of hospitals against medical advice every day. Usually they only hurt themselves. TB is a special case. If you do not follow your treatment regimen, you can be locked in isolation until you finish your medication--9 to 12 months. So, a precedent was set by making TB a special disease under the law, and another set by prosecuting special diseases in criminal court (AIDS).

    Given what Andrew Speaker did, passengers on that plane have a very good basis for a civil suit, and possibly criminal charges, due to his reckless endangerment of their lives. And that opens up a whole new can of worms...

    Friday, May 25, 2007

    How News Travels About Periods

    What have I done??

    Honestly, I never expected this would happen. All I did was write a short comment on a post about the new birth control pill that stops menstruation, and I released a firestorm. If I had known my comment would be picked apart with a microscope, I might have elaborated my position more, clarified some sentences, etc. But now it's generally lost in the conflagration.

    One post here, a comment there, causes another post somewhere else, and more comments
    This is what happened, and I think it's incredibly interesting as a example of how the blogosphere undulates--if I can use that word--when something is added.

    First, Apoorva Mandavilli wrote about the new pill, Lybrel, at Spoonful of Medicine.

    This got me thinking about the issue, and I read the articles the post linked to. I thought that was the end of it.

    Second, Ann Althouse heard the news and posted a short question on her blog.

    Is there some deep psychological/sociological/feminist angle to this story or is it obvious that everyone should obviously want to avoid something that's so inconvenient and annoying and that the only serious question is whether the pill is safe?

    Well, maybe it didn't start with me, it started with her assertion that "the only serious question is whether the pill is safe?" (emphasis added). One commenter disagreed with the absolute nature of her question, and replied,

    menstruation, like childbirth, is just part of being a woman. If another woman would want to escape it, then sure, she should go for it. But, not being punny, it just wouldn't feel right to sidestep it.

    This got Eugene posting on The Volokh Conspiracy. He said,

    Again, concerns about long-term health effects are quite sensible. But I don't see any justification for the feeling that it's not "right to sidestep" something that's "part of being a woman." I suppose it could be some esthetic judgment that argument won't much drive; but setting aside esthetics, why on earth should we want to accept natural but painful or unpleasant things?

    At this point I jumped in. The Volokh Conspiracy gets so many comments, that I didn't think much about mine--subconsciously figured it would be lost in the proverbial sea, so to speak. I said,

    This is an example of how much medicine is an ART and a science. Ultimately, pills treat symptoms and change chemicals that produce a different state of being--but the ideal state of being differs from person to person.

    It's been amazing seeing my wife and other women deal with her first pregnancy. Immediately upon announcing to the world she's pregnant, my wife was part of the "in crowd." Every mother--whether she knew my wife well or not--could smile and talk about morning sickness, or finding out the baby's gender, or feeling bloated, etc.

    So, it is not aesthetic. Humanity derives meaning from shared experiences, and deleting one of the most universal and central of all female experiences can subtract perceived meaning from people's lives. In that regard it is very important.

    As a soon-to-be-doctor, I would never recommend such birth control without bringing up and discussing the social and emotional ramifications in addition to the physiological ones.

    Apoorva Mandavilli over at Nature's Spoonful of Medicine posted a little on it about two weeks ago.

    The blog post links to Mandavilli's good article on pros and cons in Women's Health. Check it out too.

    The other reason I felt this comment wouldn't be noticed, is because I didn't feel I said anything too inflammatory. It turns out I was wrong on two counts.

    I figured people were being too literal and misunderstanding my point when a commenter, UVAgirl, wrote,

    From the doctor, I get a condescending lecture that I'm missing out on the experience of being a woman if I choose to take this pill.

    Then, Eugene Volokh posted a response post, quoting my analogy to pregnancy and saying,

    Humanity does derive meaning from some shared experiences — but not all. Shared experience that you bond over: pregnancy. Shared experiences that you don't bond over: hangnails, nearsightedness, tooth decay.

    ...But let's hear from some people who actually menstruate, and have been pregnant. When you menstruate, do you feel that you're part of the "in crowd"? If you chose to stop -- not because of menopause, which is a marker of age and of lost fertility, but voluntarily and reversibly -- would you feel "out"? Do you smile and talk to your friends about the cramps, the mood swings, and the like? Do you feel you derive meaning from the fact that you share menstruation as an experience with other women? Would you feel meaning subtracted if you stopped menstruating, because menstruation is so "central" a "female experience[]"? Do you find menstruation to be similar to pregnancy in any emotionally positive way?

    Eugene posted a comment later where he defended his second post by saying,

    When someone says "menstruation and pregnancy are analogous, and pregnancy is A, B, and C," it seems sensible to explore the analogy by asking whether menstruation is A, B, and C, too.

    Is it that people didn't connect that my questions were just quotes from Triet's comment, aimed at showing that Triet's analogy was unsound?

    Well, obviously no analogy is perfect. And yes, you can sit and look at why the analogy might not work, but that's only half the issue--you should also look at why the analogy might work too. Some of the comments on the first post had basically agreed with me, but things changed. Taking just this quote, people became very polarized about whether or not you can derive meaning from a period. Now I sit here and wonder if the rapidity and severity of the response doesn't prove my point.

    Có tật giật mình.

    But that's not the end. Ann Bartow from Feminist Law Professors remarked on her blog that he needed to be educated. Someone defended him at Is That Legal? by saying,

    Some guy said something kinda stupid, and Volokh replied: "Oh, really? Lets ask actual women about menstruation. So, women, how about it? Is it a life affirming shared cultural experience?"

    That's an entirely reasonable response.

    So now, I've said "stupid" things, according to someone I'll never know. But that's not all people said. In the comment section to the second post, many women agreed with me, like the first one that said

    Is it a bonding experience? Sure; it can be. Especially if you live with the women in question, because then you all get cramps together.

    and of course other's disagreed

    A bonding experience? Puhleeze. Look men, would you want to spend five or six days every month with blood leaking from your body, sometimes coming on with little warning, and potentially putting a very embarrassing stain on your business suit?

    All I did was write a short comment ...but now it's ... lost in the conflagration
    Unfortunately, as often happens in comment threads (see Xanghe's post on Breeder's of Hate), the discourse tends towards the extremes instead of answering the question in a logical and amicable way. I noticed that people had now totally missed the point of Lybrel--to offer a way for women to take birth control without monthly periods, but that it still comes with it's own issues (one of which is random bleeding). Everyone is pontificating on how many periods are normal, etc. Another commenter, Falafalafocus, summed it up greatly, saying,

    I must say, this topic is like an incredibly large automobile collision. I can do nothing to help it along and there are parts that make me want to run and hide, but I find myself strangly [sic] fascinated by the discussion nonetheless.

    Since it was my comment that caused the "automobile collision," I felt obligated to respond and clarify. On the subject of bonding, I said,

    I believe it does derive meaning from all shared experiences, good or bad. Some may play a larger and more central role in a person's life, and the composite of experiences that people share changes from relationship to relationship, but we bond over the bad and the good, the trivial and the important.

    Haven't we all complained off the cuff about stubbing our toe or having a hang-nail and someone else said "yeah, that sucks." Such a small and arguably insignificant thing has demonstrated another level of understanding between the two people involved.

    And shared bonds that we may not want to endure still provide meaning to our lives. When my lung collapsed spontaneously as a high school student, I was introduced serendipitously to a girl in Minnesota who had the same thing. We became pen-pals and friends, bonding on many levels including the pain we suffered dealing with a collapsed lung. In addition to the bonding, I also gained a little more "meaning" to my life by realizing that I would be dead if not for some modern machines.

    And on my last sentence which caused such consternation, I said,

    This is not because women should be persuaded out of this pill--no, not at all!--but that all women should be advised of the physiological changes and risks taking the pill entails, as well as the lifestyle changes (including possible absence of monthly menstruation), so that they can decide with their doctor if taking the pill is in their best interest for their health, lifestyle, and vision of who they are.

    Another commenter, JM Hanes, totally misunderstood how humanity might derive meaning from common experiences and yet people can derive individually different meanings from experiences. Well, I'm going to use another analogy--which we all know are never perfect--that I think can illustrate the premise.

    When you learn about bacteria, there are many kinds. One for example, is Escherichia coli. E. coli is familiar to us because we get sick from it, typically if we eat an undercooked hamburger. But not all E. coli's are the same. In fact, there are broad categories of E. coli--ones that cause watery diarrhea, ones that cause bloody diarrhea, etc. And when you look even closer at one type (say, Enterohemorrhagic E. Coli, or EHEC, that causes bloody diarrhea) you will see numerous variations in its genetic code that gives attributes, such as increased susceptibility or protection from antibiotics.

    So also is humanity. We may gain meaning from shared experiences, but yet have differences. On a microscopic scale we may seem incredibly different from each other, espeically if just one issue, like menstruation, is looked at. But when we step back and look at the aggregate of our experiences, we start to have more and more in common.

    JM Hanes also said this about my last assertion to talk with the patient about all the consequences of a pill:

    I'll chalk up the unwitting condescension here to youth, and suggest that you pay your future patients the courtesy of keeping your ruminations on the subtractive nature and social raminfications of the decision at issue to yourself! There is simply no way you can inject questions about the symbolic, psychological, and social affects of womanliness without adding gratuitous, if not specious, judgmental freight to a decision which, per this discussion, women are perfectly capable of sorting out as they, themselves, see fit.

    to which I responded,

    And I'm sorry you groaned over my last comment, but you must have missed the point. How could I bring up any birth control pill without discussing the social and emotional ramifications with a patient? I have been taught repeatedly to do that in medical school and I believe it is a correct principle. If a woman came in wanting birth control, I am going to talk to her about ramifications such as:

    1. Social -- do you know this birth control causes random spotting and bleeding? If your job or lifestyle puts you in situations where this might be inconvenient, then I might recommend a different pill.
    2. Emotional -- do you feel a period is a part of being a woman you don't want to give up? If yes, then obviously I'm going to suggest a typical estrogen+progesterone pill. If no, then the new one might be right for her.
    3. Physiological -- as with all progesterone+estrogen pills, this one carries with it an increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. Typically estrogen+progesterone pills do not carry the increased risk of cancer that progesterone only pills carry.

    Such a discourse in no way dictates condescendingly to a woman what pill she should take, but gives her the full knowledge so she can make an informed decision about what is best for her life.

    Oh, but that's not the end. For the furvor caused not only my first post on menstruation, and this second post, but a third post on The Volokh Conspiracy, those posts on Feminist Law Professors and Is That Legal?, and a post on Conglomerate by Christine Hurt. It is refreshing for a couple reasons.

    1. It is a real thoughtful response to his second post's questions, which the other commenters didn't do, and
    2. It agrees with me, which is very nice since my first comment got picked apart.

    She says, in part,

    1. Yes, pregnancy and childbirth make women part of a very large club whose members have something very important in common. Consider it like sports for men, or Dungeons and Dragons. Female culture doesn't have a common theme that most girls' youth revolves around that joins generations of women together other than fertility and childbirth. I remember finally having something in common with my grandma when I got pregnant. Menstruation is similar. When girls begin to menstruate, they do join sort of a club, but it's much more underground. Once girls begin to menstruate at school, their other friends want to also. No one wants to be left out of this growing up thing, obviously.

    2. Menstruation might be more of a bonding thing in this country if the culture were different. In the U.S., our culture is one of sanitizing and deodorizing must bodily functions. We shave a lot, bathe a lot, shampoo a lot, powder and perfume a lot, etc. Menstruation runs against that. So to some extent, especially among young girls, menstruation is embarrassing. The onset of menses also comes when girls are the most self-conscious they will ever be, adding to the secrecy and embarrassment. I'm not sure it has to be that way, though.

    It is a great post, so please click on the link and read the whole thing.

    Ultimately, I take you through this journey partly because I'm very interested in how YOU feel about the new pill and menstruation, but more because I'm fascinated by how discussion travels in waves around the blogosphere. One post here, a comment there, causes another post somewhere else, and more comments. Eventually people like me are reading blogs I would never have before (like Feminist Law Professors or Conglomerate) and different types of people are mingling. I'm sure some sociologists far smarter than I will or have already dissected this phenomenon and shed some light on it.

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