cool new home

This is the air con in my home office and it seems as though it’s found new tenants. The sparrows have found a way in from the outside and are setting up shop so to speak. I couldn’t work out a few days ago why their tweeting and fluttering about sounded so close, but a few tail feathers sticking out occasionally and now this bedding that slipped through confirms it. I have some new office buddies in a cool new home!


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a truer Truth

As many truths as men. Occasionally, I glimpse a truer Truth, hiding in imperfect simulacrums of itself, but as I approach, it bestirs itself & moves deeper into the thorny swamp of dissent.
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

circus gala

I’ve never been overly keen on circuses, they’ve never been on the top of my priority list as entertainment. I don’t particularly like animal acts because there is always the thought in my mind that cruelty has been involved in the training process somewhere and anyway, isn’t it demeaning to parade around a bear dressed like a little girl wearing a leather muzzle? Isn’t it? Better than being confined to a cage for the extraction of bile juices I hear you say… well yes… true.

However, on the cnr of Pham Ngu Lao and Nguyen Trai Sts there’s a permanent big top that once a year puts on a circus gala performance and until last Sunday night, I’d never been to one. A couple of my friends had recommended it to me over the years but, I was reluctant. Finally making it to the ticket counter increased my reluctance when I saw the price of a ticket, but what the hey, we gave it a go anyway and, apart from the few animal acts and one rather weak magician, I was pleasantly surprised.

The magician was good, very very good, at showing the audience exactly where he was pulling his tricks from under his cape that is. But the jugglers, clowns, trapeze artists, and gymnasts were excellent. All in all a great evenings entertainment, worth the admission price after all and next time there’s a circus gala in town they’ve got me.

Apologies in advance for the image quality, lighting you know!


design course text

Design is conceiving and giving form to artifacts that solve problems.

A line from the text book, “Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society” which I’m sure sums up the course topic perfectly. Now it’s a matter of picking that sentence apart and putting it into practice.

Design Course Text


Design Course Text

Inside view

One great thing about being in Viet Nam is the print shops. Give them the PDF on a USB stick and within 15 minutes 2 books are printed, trimmed and spiral bound for only a few dollars.

Today is a reading day before the course begins tomorrow.

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free university course #2

As reported in my last post, I’ve enrolled in a free university course through Coursera beginning next January. However, being the impatient type of person I am, I decided to see if any courses beginning this month were of interest. From the ones commencing within the next few weeks, both Lan and I have chosen “Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society”. As you can see in the image below, this course commences this coming Monday, precisely 2 days, 7 hours, 45 minutes, and 4 seconds from the time I took this screen grab. Very precise?? Or just a developer having fun with some code perhaps :-)

free university course

The course outline suggests that it will, “Combine fundamental concepts with hands-on design challenges to become a better designer”.  Considering design is one of the things I’m passionate about and web design in particular, this sounds pretty good to me.

As you can see from the image below, the course is presented by the University of Pennsylvania and the instructor is Karl T. Ulrich. 8 weeks duration is pretty fine also as it means I’ll have a break over the Christmas period between courses. Unless that is I see another course that I can’t resist taking! Ah… the eternal student.

Here’s the short introductory video from the course site:

So actually, i guess this article title should read, “free university course #1” given I’ll be commencing this course first, however, it doesn’t pay to be too pedantic about stuff like this :-)

free university course

I’ve just signed up for a course from the University of Virginia in the US that’s facilitated and conducted online by a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. The company is called Coursera and their aim is to create a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions.


The course I’ve chosen to undertake is called, “How Things Work 1” and it’s described as being;

Designed for non-science students, this course is a practical introduction to physics and science in everyday life. It considers objects from the world around us, identifying and exploring the scientific concepts upon which they’re based. Because it starts with objects and looks within them for science, it is the reverse of a traditional physics class. The emphasis of this semester is on mechanical objects, objects that involve fluids, objects that involve heat, and resonant objects.

how things work

I was heartened to discover that the course instructor, Louis A. Bloomfield, was a tinkerer as a child because I was just the same. I also was one of those children who loved to pull things apart to find out how they worked and try to get them back together again, and yes, I also suffered many an electrical shock and caused many a stain on the polished timber floors of my bedroom from spillages caused by odd experiments. So… this course could be perfectly tailored for me. It doesn’t begin until January 14 next year, so I’ll be chomping at the bit for a couple of months waiting to get on with it.

What a great concept Coursera have come up with, free university courses. It means that students who otherwise may not have the opportunity to attend a decent university, or in fact any university at all, will now have the chance to learn from some of the very best.

The founder of MultiUni here in Viet Nam, Huy Zing, is now a software developer at Coursera and he’ll be talking at RMIT University next Monday night.



explore a Google data center

Google data center

A server room in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The pipes are painted bright colours to designate which one is which. The bright pink pipe in this photo transfers water from the row of chillers (the green units on the left) to an outside cooling tower. Photo: Google/Connie Zhou


I guess I’ve never given any thought before this to just how big Google really is, I don’t mean as an online presence but rather the physical size of their buildings set up to store data and handle  traffic from the myriad  Google apps. But Google have now made it possible to explore a Google data center from the comfort of your own home, office or wherever.

You view one of their data centres in this video provided through a new updated Data Centres website that features photos from inside some of the eight data centres Google already has running in the US, Finland and Belgium. Google is also building data centres in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Chile.

Apart from this video, if you’re really into this type of voyeurism, you can travel around the data centers using Google maps streetview, how cool is that!!

The photographic access to Google’s data centres coincides with the publication of a Wired magazine article about how the company builds and operates them.

Hotel International Phnom Penh

On a recent visit to Cambodia I spotted the old Hotel International Phnom Penh from my own hotel’s balcony. Obviously this old girl has seen much better days and must have been an elegant hotel in its heyday. Sadly though, I couldn’t locate any old photos of the Hotel International Phnom Penh in prime condition, it would have been great to sit the images side by side for a comparison.

If you look closely at the old building (click image for larger version), it’s been divided up into tiny apartments and even more squalid living quarters have been built (I use the term built fairly loosely), on the roof. The only thing remaining of the original hotel facade is the once elegant old domed column with its faded sign and rusty awning over what must have been the “grand entrance” at the front.

No doubt this relic from the past would have many tales and some dark secrets lurking amongst the dust and vermin within its framework.

Hotel International Phnom Penh