Get Naked

Joining the CSS Naked Day 2020, I am removing my CSS to reveal the bare-bones HTML of this site. Aside from the huge logo, the site still works well. I hope you enjoy it. This is as naked as I get online.

Mapping Corruption

Since becoming president, Trump has brought his brand of corruption to every federal government agency and it is hard for us to keep track of it all. In the cover story of the March/April 2020 issue of The American Prospect, Jim Lardner unlocks extensive dossiers of the activities happening inside 15 federal departments.

Last week, the magazine contracted me to create an online version of the story. After discussing with its creative director who was my advisor for my final thesis on Vietnamese Typography, I developed an interactive page based on a map illustrated by Peter and Maria Hoey. My initial impression was that I might have to create an image map, which I used to despise and hadn’t have to create one in years. Thankfully, I was able to export the illustration into an SVG, which allowed me access individual shapes of the building to create links and hover state. When users hover each department, the building moves a bit and turns dark. Another requirement was to have the dollar signs flying across the map to show corruptions.

The project turned out well. The illustration is beautiful and the dossiers are informative. I invite you to check out “Mapping Corruption: The Interactive Exhibit.”

The Narcissismvirus

I am distancing from both the coronavirus and the narcissismvirus. The former spreads through contacts; the latter spreads through lies; and both could be deadly. I feel my friends’ outrage about the daily briefings of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and my advice to them is don’t watch. Don’t let the narcissimvirus get to you.

With the threat to his presidency and power, the narcissimvirus is ruthless. He entertained the idea of reopening the economy when American lives are still in jeopardy. His die-hard followers took up his words for it. They were willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to prevent the economy from crashing. He considered himself doing “a very good job” if only 200,000 people die. Does it sound like a cult? Remember Jim Jones’s followers lining up to drink poisonous Kool-Aid? While Jones killed over 900 of his followers, the narcissimvirus could cost hundreds of thousands of human lives and he won’t take any responsibility at all.

We know he won’t take any responsibility because he has been blaming everyone else but himself for the American crisis under his watch. The coronavirus was not preventable, but it wouldn’t have blown into a catastrophe if someone else led the country. Let’s face it. Not only he is incompetent, but he is also too afraid to take action in this pandemic.

Vĩnh Quyền: Trong vô tận

Quyển tiểu thuyết ngắn với những câu chuyện khó hiểu. Mở đầu người kể chuyện là một thanh niên ở nước ngoài về Việt Nam thăm người cha đang bệnh nặng. Qua chương hai, người kể chuyện đổi sang người cha. Ông tường thuật lại quá khứ và những mối tình của mình. Chương ba trở lại người con rồi chuyển sang chuyện truyện cổ tích Lạc Long Quân và Âu Cơ rồi chuyển sang lịch sử chữ Nôm. Tôi theo không kịp nên đã bị tẩu hỏa nhập ma từ đó nhưng vẫn cố gắng đọc cho xong. Tôi không rõ cách dẫn truyện của tác giả và càng không hiểu ông muốn đạt mục đích gì. Xin đầu hàng. Chắc văn chương của tôi vẫn quá kém nên không hấp thụ hết.

Hy hữu

Lâm Huyền Vi viết:

Donny đọc bài này chưa? Mình hoàn toàn đồng ý với tác giả bài viết. Có nhiều bản hòa âm cho các bài hát của chị Ngọc Lan dở quá. Không biết có ai đó có thể viết lại hòa âm cho các bài đó không? Tiếc quá! Giọng hát của chị thật là hay, nhưng hòa âm thật là tệ.

Tôi trả lời:

Dĩ nhiên là đã đọc vì mình chính là tác giả của bài đó. Thật là một tình cờ thú vị. Visualgui.com là trang blog cá nhân của mình. Không ngờ đã viết bài này tám năm rồi. Cám ơn Vi đọc và chia sẻ. Chúc Vi an lành và khỏe mạnh.

Đã lâu rồi tôi không viết về nhạc Việt nữa cũng nhớ nhớ. Chắc lâu lâu phải lôi ra những album cũ viết cho vui.

Why Do I Choose to Work for Higher Education?

My résumé shows that my entire career has been working in higher education. I started off at Vassar College for five years, moved on to George Washington University for three years, and landed at George Mason University for almost nine years. Why do I choose to work for higher education? The short answer is that I wanted to make money and keep on learning at the same time. I am still doing both of these things today.

In the summer of my sophomore year in college, I landed my first graphic design internship at the Trump Marina, which was the casino the savvy businessman ran to the ground. Although I was paid, I did not do jack. The in-house graphic designer didn’t give me anything to work on. I got tired of sitting in front of a Mac computer with no internet connection. I quit after two months and decided to focus on web design instead of graphic design.

Then I landed another paid internship at Unisys. I had no clue what the company did and I still don’t know what they do now. I was working with two older gentlemen on an intranet. They worked on a zip disk, burned the site to CDs, and distributed them within the company. They gave me a copy of the site to play with, but they gave me no instruction on what to do. I gave them advice on cleaning their codes because they were using Microsoft FrontPage, but they were not interested in implementing the changes. I quit after a month and a half and joined my classmates at La Salle University working on a start-up website called weplayit.com, which was some kind of a sport registration site for kids. I was recruited because of my Flash animation skills. It was a sweet gig. Unfortunately, I got laid off the day after the site launched. I guessed no one signed up.

Then I landed a part-time job at D4 Creative, an advertising agency in Philadelphia. I was hired to do Flash work and I was tasked with cheesy email ads. After a few weeks, my supervisor told me that he didn’t have any more work for me. He didn’t fire me, but he never called me back either.

I graduated from college and faced the dot-com bubble burst. I could not find a web-related job; therefore, I ended up stuffing papers into envelopes at RR Donnelley full-time and coding HTML pages at Triple Strength part-time. I finally landed my first real full-time job at Vassar College doing web design. At Vassar, projects didn’t move as fast as the agencies and deadlines took longer, which gave me the time to design, to experiment with different techniques, and to implement new technologies. I loved the educational environment where I could work and learn at the same time. After work, I went to free lectures and even free dinners sometimes. I audited classes and my favorite one was the course on the history of jazz. That class opened up my world to improvisational music, something I had never noticed before.

I moved to Virginia, worked for George Washington University School of Business, and started my own family. I had a rough time there, but I managed to get by. I even enrolled into the MS in Information Systems Technology program. I dropped out just after two months to take on a new job at George Mason University School of Law, which had been renamed to Antonin Scalia Law School.

Although educational institutions pay less than private companies, they are more secured. You are less likely to get laid off or fired unless you screw up really bad. On the positive side, tuition is the key benefit. I have an older friend who still works at American University and he put two of his kids through college for free. He saved four hundred grants right there. For me, getting an MA in graphic design at George Mason University School of Art was such a rewarding experience. Not only I didn’t have to pay a dime, I also made money teaching as an adjunct professor while earned my credits toward my degree. I wrote Professional Web Typography for an independent study, in which I earned an A+ and made some money off it as well. For my final thesis, I wrote Vietnamese Typography and put it out for free. The book had started my consulting works with type designers.

Lately I have been thinking of enrolling into a master writing program at Mason since I love to write so damn much. I would love to do non-fiction writing or journalism. I floated the idea to my wife, but she shut it down quickly. My priority right now is my kids. When they grow older, I’ll reconsider it.

Even if you just graduated from college and want to further your education, you might want to consider higher institutions. I hope this long post will inspire you to do so.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

Stanley Nelson’s documentary of Miles Davis is a disappointment. In the first half of the film, Nelson uses more still images than live performances. Based on the title, I thought the film would focus only on Birth of the Cool. Compressing Miles’s entire music career in just two hours only scratches the surface of Mile’s extensive catalogs. My criticism might be unfair because I have spent tremendous amount of time listening to Miles and read as many books about him as I could get my hands on. If you haven’t heard of Miles Davis and just wanted a quick overview, this might do it. To really appreciate Miles, you have to dig much deeper.

Enjoying Staying Home

I had a productive week. I caught up with my to-do list for the law school. I also plowed through a small web development project and reviewed Vietnamese diacritics for three typefaces. I love seeing more and more typefaces support Vietnamese and I am honored that type designers entrusted me with making sure their typefaces work well for native readers. I love my native language and I wrote my thesis on it. Please don’t fuck it up with the non-sense changes. The new proposed method called “Chữ Việt song song 4.0,” which does away with diacritics, is just a bunch of gobbledygook.

When not working or taking care of my kids, I love to read books or watch Netflix comedy specials to distance myself from the news, especially from that pathological narcissistic who claimed “I alone can fix it.” At this point, nothing coming out of his mouth would shock me. Then again, he does not speak to me. He understands his supporters. I give him that.

As for the lockdown, I am not hating it. Is it wrong to say I kind of am enjoying it? I don’t have to get up early in the morning. I don’t have to yell at my kids to get them ready for school. I don’t need to iron my clothes although I do throw on a dress shirt for video conferencing. Even though I miss my coworkers, I am constantly surrounded by my loved ones. I take breaks to spend time with them or to check on them. I just need to have my phone with me in case I need to answer emails.

The lockdown gives me excuses. My wife hasn’t said much about my drinking. I literally ran out of booze in my house and I don’t feel like going to a liquor store. I have not gone to the grocery stores either. Of course, I will be fine without alcohol. I don’t want to push my luck. Then again, a gout attack would only lock me down more. I am sure my wife won’t like it if I just stay in bed and read all day long.

When I have time for myself, I read without feeling guilty. I let the kids have more screen time without feeling bad. I eat constantly but consume less. I don’t need to overstuff myself because I have access to food all the time. My wife does most of the cooking. I do most of the dishes (thanks goodness for the dishwasher). My two older sons are now folding clothes. Since we are comfortable with staying home, I think we are coping well. I am sure my wife would have a different view.

It will be hard to readjust after the pandemic is over, but I will be more than thankful to have our lives back to normal. For now, we have to do what we have to do, not just for our own survival, but also for others. So let’s stay home until we beat this crisis.

Letter to My Sons #13

My Dearest Sons,

The last letter I wrote to you was four months ago. Because of the coronavirus crisis, we have been together all the time at home; therefore, I haven’t thought of writing down anything. I just want to let you know that we appreciate your help and cooperation during this difficult time. I understand it is not easy being stuck at home all day long while we also have to work. Even though we’re in the same space, your mom and I have less time to devote to you. I had always liked to take you to go places, but we can’t do that anymore at this time.

Vương: Thank you for keeping us entertained. I love waking up in the morning to see a beautiful smile on your face. I love it when you hold my hand and lead me to somewhere you wanted me to go. I love seeing you joining your big brothers playing Nerf guns or dancing to Vietnamese pop music videos. I love hearing talk even though I can’t make out what you say yet. I love seeing you happy and grow everyday.

Xuân: Although you’re going through that whiny stage, I love how expressive you are at everything and you do not take no for an answer. At mealtimes, you kept questioning us why your cousin (around your age) can watch iPad, but you can’t. I wanted you to focus on your food not your screen, but you argued that you can do both. When mommy caught you eating a pack of Pocky sticks, she asked you if you asked. You said, “Yes, I asked myself.” Your communication skills got yourself out of trouble time and time again.

Đán: I know being trapped at home is hard for you. You can’t go ice skating or fencing to release your energy. At least, you can still bike for a bit. I can’t wait for this coronavirus crisis to be over so we can go out and do things again. Hanging in there kiddo. I love reading your journal and drawings. I wish you would do more. Thank you for making us delicious sunny-side-up eggs for breakfasts. A bit of more patience, attention, and care, you can do anything you want to do.

Đạo: Your mom and I have been a bit hard on you because you’re the oldest. You have the responsibility as a big brother to love and care for your younger brothers. You are smart and they look up to you, especially Đán. You’re more than his brother. You’re his best friend. He always wanted to please you. Don’t take advantage of his fondness for you. Be kind and gentle to Xuân. He’s also your baby brother. Then again, you are still a kid and it is a bit unfair for you. I have thought about it and I am trying not to be too hard on you. We love you and we wanted you to be more compassionate, especially to your brothers. I am sure you will be when you figure it out for yourself.

Let’s all stick together during the time of a crisis. We will weather this pandemic and get back to normal life again. Nevertheless, I am still glad that we have all the time in the world to be close as a family. I feel very fortunate to have all of you by my side and in my life.

Dave Chappelle: The Mark Twain Prize

I caught Chappelle’s exceptional acceptance speech for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor last year, but I decided to watch the entire ceremony Netflix has recently released. In addition to touching words from other comedians including Sarah Silverman, Neal Brennan, and Jon Stewart, Netflix highlights some of Chappelle’s works. From his early performance on Star Search to his acting on the Chappelle’s Show to various standup specials, Chappelle has been great at what he does for so long because he never afraid to speak honestly about how he felt. In one particular segment, in which I found intriguing, he sat on a stool and told his audience:

Everybody gets mad at me because I say these jokes. You understand that this is the best time to say them. More now than ever, you have the responsibility to speak recklessly. Otherwise my kids may not know what reckless talk sounds like. The joys of being wrong. I didn’t come here to be right. I just come here to fuck around.

Now that is some truthful shit. Chappelle definitely deserved this prestigious award. He is a living legend in the world of standup comedy, which is truly an American art form I have come to appreciate.