Two-Month Feedback

The new web content specialist has been working with me for two months and she asked me for feedback. I couldn’t be happier. She hit the ground running and learned all the responsibilities. She is reliable, detail oriented, and independent. In addition to making updates according to requests, she spots issues including broken links, spelling errors, and outdated markups.

The truth was that I wanted to hire her after the round of interviews. She was highly recommended by a friend of mine. I had to go with the committee to hire someone else even though I predicted that she wouldn’t stay for too long. She left after nine months. Before she left, she trained her successor.

The current web content specialist had been out of the workforce in a while to raise her kids. As her kids grow older, she wants to get back to work for a bit. This position fits her schedule because I offered her flexibility. My management style is easygoing. She is working 100% remotely and we are working well together. My colleagues, including my new boss, have complimented her on her work as well. I hope she will stay for a while. I really appreciate what she has contributed to our team.

A Vietnamese Hacker Turned Humanitarian

Koh Ewe, writing for Vice:

Hieu grew up in Cam Ranh, a city in south Vietnam, where his parents owned a small electronics store. He got his first computer when he was 13, and by age 14, the curious teen was already dipping his toe into the world of hacking, inspired by a man he had befriended at a local internet cafe.

Bánh Mì Entered American Dictionary

Merriam-Webster defines bánh mì:

a usually spicy sandwich in Vietnamese cuisine consisting of a split baguette filled typically with meat (such as pork or chicken) and pickled vegetables (such as carrot and daikon) and garnished with cilantro and often cucumbers

Quian Julie Wang: Beautiful Country

Wang’s memoir, in which she takes readers through her immigrant struggles, reminds me of my own childhood. I shared similar experiences as someone who didn’t speak a word of English and lived in an cockroach-infested apartment. Her family faced more challenges than our because they were undocumented. We were chained migrations. Although Wang’s writing is moving, I find the content a bit too long. For almost 300 pages, Wang only covered up to her middle school years. She skipped her entire life in Canada where her family had to moved to because they were still illegal in America. It’s still a good read.

Replacing Rear Wiper Blade for 2011 Toyota Sienna

I took my 2011 Toyota Sienna to Ourisman Fairfax Toyota to get an oil change. We’re clocking in 160,000 miles. The service staff who checked me in asked if I needed anything else besides an oil change. I figure I should get a new rear wiper blade. Obviously I had to pay for the part, but he also charged me for the installation. I told him to cancel the service. I just wanted to pay for the part ($18).

The trick to replace the rear wiper was to turn it on. When the blade wiped half way through, turned of the engine. From there, I just popped off the old wiper and replaced the new one. A YouTube video shows how to that in 1 minute and 7 seconds. Ourisman Fairfax Toyota was going to charge me for this, how greedy?

SDF Treatment

Our three-year-old Vương has two cavity spots on his upper front tooth. His dentist recommended silver diamine fluoride (SDF) treatment to keep his tooth from decaying too quickly. We had an appointment for today. His dentist rubbed the SDF liquid on his tooth. The entire treatment took less than 5 minutes. They charged us $150. My jaw dropped. What a lucrative business.

Jo Koy: Live From the Los Angeles Forum

In his forth Netflix special, Jo Koy steps up his game with his energy and charisma. His materials include the CPAP machine, his mama’s pussy, and his road to success as a Filipino-American comic. He faced the challenges as well as systemic racism, but he determined to march forward. He kicked the door open so all Filipino-Americans can come through. I am glad to see him making it and he deserves the recognition. Despite the sexual content, his performance was enjoyable and his delivery felt honest.

Eleven Years at Scalia Law School

This October will mark my 11th year working at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School. As Director of Design and Web Services, I wear many hats and play many roles, but my main focus is the Law School website. It feels as if I had adopted and raised my own child and watched it grow over the years from a toddler to a teenager.

When I first inherited the site from my predecessor, I had never worked with MODX before. The site was still running on the old codebase from MODX Evolution. To familiarize myself with the platform, I ripped the site apart and redesigned the site from the ground up. I cleaned up the back-end codes and made sure the front-end markups were well structured. At the time when responsive design was still new, I implemented responsive layout for the Law School website using the mobile-first approach and progressive enhancement.

All the work I put in from the start has paid off in the long run. As the site grew over the years with countless iterations and several redesigns, the solid foundation on the backend, the clean markups on the frontend, and the visual presentation never spawned out of control. Under my watch, I maintained and nurtured every part of the Law School website. I value our visitors and respect their privacy. I pushed back when being asked to implement third-party trackers, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google. I enhanced the user experience based on user study, accessibility guidelines, and usability recommendations. I improved the design with new technologies such as CSS Grid for layouts and web fonts for branding typography. I worked with developers to upgrade MODX Evolution to MODX Revolution. I worked with the official MODX team to migrate to MODX Cloud.

The site had been through different visions from three deans. The first dean and my supervisor gave me the freedom to shape the look and feel of the website. The second dean entrusted me to build a branding system for his vision: Learn. Challenge. Lead. Based on the University’s branding guidelines, typefaces, and colors, I implemented bright colors, bold typography, and inviting graphics. The site was vibrant and distinctive, yet still compliant with the Mason branding. The third and current dean wanted to tone down the look and feel. We went through several redesigns and ended up with what we have now.

Designing and developing the Law School website has been not just my profession, but also my passion. I loved the web when I first discovered it many years ago and that love hasn’t changed. Between my professional work and personal projects, I want to continue to make the web a better experience for visitors: no tracking, no wasting time, no frustration. My hope is to continue to maintain and to grow the Law School website for many years to come.

Super-Dodger?

I have not contracted Covid yet. Does that make me a super-dodger? No, I have been more like super lucky. Our family members, including my mother-in-law, have been shielded from Covid. I believe my mother who died of Covid is protecting us from Covid. I was by her side when she fought and lost her battle with Covid and I didn’t get it from her.

A couple of weeks ago, we came real close to catching it. When my six-year-old son tested positive, I thought we were all doomed. I slept right next to him the night before; therefore, I was positive that I had been infected. I went to the skatepark to rollerblade before my symptoms showing up. I rollerbladed hard and sweat like I was taking a shower. I stepped up the highest ramp and pray to my mother. I asked her to protect us and she did. Later on that evening, we tested our six-year-old again and he was negative, twice.

None of our family member showed any symptoms and we all tested negative despite being exposed so closed to people with Covid. We are definitely not super-dodgers. We are super lucky because we (my kids and I) have put down our guards, but we haven’t caught it. It has to be the invisible power from my mother that protects us. Still, I am keeping my mask on and keeping social distances. I am going to get the boosters and all. Covid is here to stay and we’ll catch it eventually.

Corruption on Both Sides of Vietnam

Erik Villard writes about the South Vietnamese corruption in HistoryNet:

Corruption sapped South Vietnam’s military strength when senior officials pocketed money or resources meant for the armed forces, set up rolls of “ghost soldiers” to collect the pay for nonexistent troops, took bribes in exchange for contracts or put personal connections above proven abilities when they doled out jobs.

He concludes:

Corruption continued to be a major problem even after the communists took power. In 2021, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, which rates countries for corruption on a sale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) placed Vietnam at 39— a slight improvement from its score of 31 a decade earlier. South Vietnam may have had a problem with corruption, but the communist government has proved to be no more honest.