VDict - and other Online Vietnamese Dictionary Resources

Well, I should be asleep right now but I've run into a very cool internet dictionary tool. I've been a faithful follower of Hồ Ngọc Đức for the last several years and still use his dictionary on a daily basis because of its ease of use. He gives me the option to search different dictionaries at the same time, which saves me a lot of time when I'm translating and proofing at work. Thanks Mr Đức!
I occasionally cruise through the list of online Vietnamese to English dictionaries, and have come across some interesting ones (to see a list I compiled last year of my top dictionary resources plus other interesting sites relating to Vietnam, please see my wedding website) but nothing to compare to Mr Đức's work. I do remember coming across VDict a while back, which claimed to be the best dictionary online and had hopes of becoming a whole community based on internet dictionary lookup for Vietnamese. It sounded nice, but the site looked far from it. Until now.
VDict has become a high-functioning Vietnamese-English (and French and Chinesedictionary tool that has several nice "tiện nghi" that come in handy. Though it does not implement multiple dictionary lookup, it does support searching for the term in the definition, which I have yearned for with my current online dictionary. It also allows exact, broad or fuzzy lookup, as well as providing IE and Firefox toolbar and search plugins. It claims to have the "one and only free translating service" which works well for titles and occupations but has problems with phrases (just try "reading log"). But my favorite part is the forums.
The community they have built is great fun. It consists of just over 2000 members who are constantly volleying different Vietnamese and English phrases to see who can come up with the best translation. I've posted a few things and it's great to converse with people who are as interested in the mundane aspects of language as I am (but not too technical because I get lost in linguistics). Unfortunately, as I've seen with other Vietnamese language forums, there are several posts where non-Vietnamese-speaking men are requesting a translation of the text message or email they received from a Vietnamese woman. Or they want to translate their message into Vietnamese. I don't like that, but I try to keep my mouth shut. Or at least my hands off the keyboard.
Lastly, the great folks over at VDict have opened their script up for webmasters to integrate the dictionary into a webpage. Like right now, did you know that if you double-click any of the words on this page (besides the links) that a definition will popup? How about if you select a multiple-word phrase and press Ctrl+Shift+A (try tiện nghi)? They have done a great job at debugging this tool and I think it's so great that I've added it to my website. So from now on, xanghe.blogspot.com will have a built-in dictionary (both Viet-En and En-Viet), including an actual dictionary input box where you can type in your word like a regular dictionary (on the right-hand side). This probably won't turn out to be incredibly useful, but it was way too cool to pass up.
Good nite all

I posted a question about east and west in the VDict forum and I had a good discussion about how to translate it, but it ended with such a funny post that I had to share it here. I was basically told that I'm a bit confused with all my examples so here's a diagram, drawn by one of the
discussion members, to "làm sáng tỏ mọi thứ."
It ended with "Happy Halloween!"


Weather cools but we won't forget

As with all big news, the tantalizing reporting starts to wain within a week or so. The newspaper articles have gone from terrifying stories of generations-old ranches burning to the ground to mundane stories of school kids missing homecoming because of the fires. At the same time, the harsh, surreal heat of the Santa Ana winds has died down to nothing, and even as I type I hear raindrops pattering on our porch. Here in my kitchen things seem pretty cozy, and the memory of a raging wildfire seems like yesterday's news.

But it's not. Even though the predictions are aiming at Tuesday for full containment of the fire, the lives of those involved have been burned to the ground as well. I've heard a lot of hush hush talk about those rich people shouldn't be living on the hillside in a place like this and other types of complaints. I don't feel that's the emphasis at this point, maybe we should focus on the people who started the fire and why.

As an asthmatic, I'm feeling the repercussions of the fire. Every morning still smells like smoke and my lungs have been constricted for the last few days. It's a small price compared to what others are going through, but it just reminds me that this is not over yet and there is a very human aspect in this disaster that lies deeper than the reports can show.

images courtesy of:


A Little Autumn Part 2 - I spoke too soon

Well, all that rubbish of coolness and gray from the last post seems like something from another world right now. With 99 degrees and 40-50 mph gusts of hot, dry wind, it feels like autumn might never come. The air is like a furnace and I'm not even in danger of the flames.

The term "Santa Ana Winds" refers to the annual week of h-e-double-hockey-sticks caused by high pressure systems in the inland deserts (as far as Colorado). The winds blow across the desert sweeping up dry hot air then are funneled through a series of natural wind tunnels in the mountains on their way to the coast. Those winds hit our coastal plains and fan out to create a climate much like that of the inside of a convection oven. The heat is enough, but inevitably these winds are accompanied by lightening and/or arsonists which lead to fires in the mountains. Every year trees are blown down by these winds and every year our hilltops are peaked with orange and red flames and every year we breathe ash for air even as we wipe off the layer of ash on our cars. I thought we might have escaped it this year because it usually happens much earlier in October or September. Oh was I wrong.

It is reported that over half a million Southern California residents have been ordered to evacuate due to the fires. 1,400 homes have been destroyed. This video looks like something from an action movie: Modjeska Homes Burn. Below is a link to the map that gives details on the location of the fire:

View Larger Map

We are praying for those who are in danger of this fire and empowered by the efforts to help them. My wife and I are blessed to be safely distanced from the danger, but have experienced some of this extreme weather in the last few days as well:

Sunday night we found ourselves street-locked between two fallen trees. I later heard that a man had been in his camper, which was parked on the road, when he heard a crack and found himself running for shelter as the tree crashed a hole in his ceiling. The winds had been shaking our little condo so we knew they were very strong, but stepping out in the road and being met by the sight of trees, now dead, laying in the road was quite eerie. It too looked like a scene from a movie. Later that night, I went back down to the road and looked off into the distant hilltops. The wind was so harsh that it whipped at my face, but if I squinted, I could see red and orange drops leaping on the hillside. The next day I saw a horizontal column of red and gray smoke laying across the sky, turning the sun and air red. Today the smell of smoke permeates even into the house. In addition to the heat, the sky and air have taken on an eerie red haze. I took this photo an hour ago as the sun was nearing the horizon; no filter, no editing, just a little saturation shows the depth of red in the sky right now. It's much more surreal seeing this in person. It happens every year, but each time I have a sneaky suspicion that it's the end of the world. Plus I know a lot of people who believe the apocalypse will begin in Southern California anyway:), so it's always a little unnerving when these things happen.


A Little Autumn

Things have been a bit melancholy around the house this week, and I'm thinking it's because of the impending change in seasons. I've always felt that Orange County doesn't have much of an Autumn, just a lot of hot, dry Santa Ana winds followed by an immediate jump into the cool monotony of an OC winter. But it seems like this year we might be graced with something like Fall, a little Autumn to top off our summer.

Things are winding down around our place as well: Prophet, our pregnant praying mantis, has gone missing for a few days now. She's probably off spinning one of those mantis webs for the eggs. Ally, our new Southern Alligator lizard, is spending more and more time hiding in her corner under the bark chips - I think she feels hibernation right around the corner. Our hoa giấy (bougainvillea) is just about to drop it's last bunch of flowers and all the other plants are slowing any sign of growth to a halt as the days get shorter and sunlight becomes a scarcity. The ash tree is about to drop it's leaves and I think our banana tree is done sprouting for the year. The mornings are overcast, days are cloudy and evenings return to overcast as we tilt oh so slowly from the sun. My wife mentions that she's feeling a little down lately, perhaps because her moods happen to follow the sun more than the moon. It's as if the lush, green, sun-drenched, ocean-lined "OC" that the media perpetuates is going to sleep for awhile, probably planning to wake back up around the time Ally does.

But I like it. I'm always too hot in the summer and this weather is perfect for riding my bike to and from work. For some reason, the cloudiness and unshakable gray of winter here seems to rejuvenate me from the oppressive summer sun. I should be deep asleep now, but I feel more energetic in this cool weather. Things at work are picking up - who would have thought last year when I was hired as a Vietnamese specialist that I would be doing graphic design and database management now, in addition to my actual "job" - but I've decided that I'm not going to come home exhausted anymore because it seems to wear on my wife's morale. She's having a hard enough time with the weather right now, the least I can do is not make it worse by bringing work home. We just finished a great General Conference and Stake Conference and I'm feeling pretty enlightened despite the dreary backdrop. I've always kind of blossomed this time of year; especially now amidst the melancholy season I'm feeling more alive than ever.

Good thing God made my wife blossom in the summer and me in the winter or else we'd be in trouble. If we were both feeling down, who would cheer us both up? That's the magic about marriage - two individuals who are willing and able to lift the other up during the Falls of their life... even if it's only a little Autumn.


Time for new strings

I hate it when this happens. :) Mid-song, too...


General Conference and the tender mercies of God

Well, here's the post on our Utah trip. We decided to go from the airport to the mountains to see the autumn colors. It was beautiful. The weather was ideal, but by the time we got to the top the afternoon wind picked up to about 60 mph. It was strong enough to blow me over if I didn't dig my feet into the rocks. In fact, as I was taking this picture (), the wind actually blew the General Conference tickets out of my pocket!! Thanks to the tireless efforts of my parents, we procured enough tickets for all 8 of us, plus an extra one. 5 of them were in my shirt pocket at the time, and all of them just blew out and down the mountain side. Ah!! Luckily my dad kept his head and told me to go get them. We clambered down the mountain and ended up finding 4 of the 5 tickets, plus both parking permits. I believe it was the tender mercies of God that found those tickets for us because I might have been seriously injured if I had returned to my friends without those tickets. Once we finally got to Conference we were so worn out that most of us fell asleep but it was still worth it.

Ahhh, the Temple. It doesn't matter how many times I've been back here, and how many groups of people I've taken through Temple Square, it's still shockingly beautiful to me every time. Perhaps it's the spiritual significance of the place that strikes me. Anyway, here's the full slideshow so take a look:



Magic Music

I came home from work today with a long list of things to do like cooking and cleaning and homework, but I somehow ended up writing a song. It's been ages since I've written a whole song in one sitting, but that experience only comes around once in a while anyway. Lately I've been thinking a lot on heaven and how to get there, and I think since I haven't been writing down the little epiphanies as they come it just came spewing out in one musical expression. Phew, it's rather tiring, actually. I've always felt that the music and lyrics act independent of the musician, they present themselves when you're not ready and if you don't write it down at that instant, they get offended and leave. While I was feeding Ally today, I caught a wisp of an opening riff and felt the lyrics inside gurgling their way up, so I figured it was time for a song.

The first riff sounds a bit like Live's Dolphin's Cry, and the chorus chord progression (esp at the end of a stanza) kind of sounds like Collective Soul's Forgiveness. The lyrics are based on a loose version of the Prodigal Son, perhaps on his walk back to father's house. The funny thing is, I sat on the couch with my guitar for two hours and the song just came, lyrics and music and all, without me even thinking about the above comparisons. I made those just now as I was playing the song through my head. It's a very simple song and probably quite unremarkable in most aspects, but I've come to appreciate my music for the affect it has on me (now that's an ego!) because my songs are like a journal of sorts. But the music packs 100 times the emotion that plain words do, and every time I sing it, I relive those feelings.

I lost my recording equipment to a thief so I probably won't be recording this one, or the other two I've written since the last "album," but I am planning on putting together another project sometime in the future. Probably when I'm retired.

Well, I should go to bed. The next blog post on my list is about the trip I took to Utah last weekend, but that list might fall prey to another unforeseen event. Hopefully I'll get it out soon. In the meantime, here's some of my friends pictures of our trip...

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)