Want to use a smiley outside of chat?

Try this:

Using that little mess of numbers (called an HTML character entity) in your online document will yield a cute little smiley:

This little smiley (and all the other character entities) will work if your online document or page is using a standard font (the fonts in this post should all work) and is being displayed in a modern browser (more on this below). Here are two extensive and detailed lists of character identities: Character Entity HTML Reference and HTML Character Entities. Here's a quick reference of the ones I think are coolest:

Looks likeCharacter EntityDescription
☺Smiley face
☻Inverted smiley face
☹Frowny face
  Non-breaking space - like hitting the spacebar (ever noticed your double-spaces after a period don't work online? Use  )
¼¼Fraction one-quarter
½½Fraction one-half
¾¾Fraction three-quarters
©©Copyright sign
®®Registered sign
™Trademark sign
♥Hearts suit (in cards)
☂Umbrella (rain)
☮Peace sign
☯Yin & Yang
♘White Knight (chess)
♪Eighth note

How it works: Browsers are designed to read HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language) documents (history of HTML here). Unlike plain-text or word-processing documents (static documents), HTML documents are built up with all kinds of tags and symbols and codes, telling the browser how to display the content. So you could be typing a sentence and mid-way decide to break into song "♪A whole ♩♬ new world!♫" Try it. Next time you update your facebook or twitter, throw a little ✄ or ☢ to really get your message across.

Sometimes the most common things are the hardest to do

Life presents us with so many choices sometimes it's hard to do the things that are most important to us. Whenever I have a day off at home, I plan to do so much housework- all those things that I can't do during the week. But at the end of the day, I look back and realize that I actually accomplished nothing. Except maybe updating my facebook. That's my dilemma - doing the things that I don't need to do in place of the things that I should be doing.

Saturday night I had the hardest time deciding whether or not to go to church (it was stake conference, after all). I knew I wouldn't be thrust down to hell for not going, but there a dull nagging in the back of my head that I SHOULD go, that thing we call "conscience" or "duty" or whatever. I was so tired and had been out all day and hadn't done any of the home stuff I had planned and blah blah blah, I just didn't want to go. Finally, my wife convinced me to go (and came along for the ride!) and upon arriving I felt like I had actually done something right (or my wife, rather). The talks were good and I got pretty beat up by the spiritual 2x4, but the last speaker really drilled it home. He basically said "there are some of you here that didn't plan on being here, or didn't want to be here, but you showed up anyway and that's the important thing." Before I could give myself a pat on the back, he motioned behind him to the chorister and said "it wasn't easy for Sister Carlson to be here, but she made it." I later learned that her husband had passed away the day before.

There are so many things that we should be doing - that we must be doing - but somehow slip through the cracks. Sometimes we're too tired, sad, sick, or downtrodden to look beyond the bare necessities to those things that will help others or brighten their day. Of anyone in that congregation, Sister Carlson was the ONE who had a valid excuse not to be there, but despite the sorrow she came and did what she knew she must. Let's follow her example. Let's get up right now and do that thing which we know we should have done last week. Write that letter (email) to your loved one, apologize to your neighbor (or spouse), find the strength to forgive, pay that debt, clean that room, whatever it is that you've had on your mind for so long but haven't had the strength or the faith to do, go do it now. Really. Stop reading and go do it. Get out of here. Someone's waiting.


Vietnamese Input - A Few Methods of Typing Vietnamese

Here are three ways of using Vietnamese characters in your workflow:

  • Vietnamese input method software that you install on your machine

  • Online service that acts as input method software

  • Online Vietnamese manual keyboard

Input Method Software

I'm partial towards one piece of Vietnamese input software, and it is called Unikey. Great open-source software (that means it's free!) that is incredibly small, efficient and mobile. Other software includes VNI, VPSKeys, etc, which includes dictionaries, spell checkers and a lunar calendar for goodness sake, but if you only need the ability to type in Vietnamese, I would recommend Unikey above the rest. I've used it for 5 years now and love it.

  • First, download Unikey (zip) here

  • Unzip the file and save the contents in some folder you'll remember

  • Open the file named unikey.exe, make sure the little icon at the bottom is a "V" instead of "E", and start typing

That's it! You're done! No installation, no registry changes, no library files to clutter your system32, nothing! Because it is so small and lightweight and doesn't require an installation to run, you can actually copy the contents of your folder to a USB drive and then plug it in to any other computer to start typing Vietnamese. If you want to make sure that the your Vietnamese characters are readable to the vast majority of viewers (ie webpage, email, Word document) then make sure that the Character Set in the Control Panel is set to Unicode and that you use one of the following fonts:

  • Arial

  • Courier New

  • Myriad Pro (Adobe)

  • Palatino Linotype

  • Tahoma

  • Verdana

There are a few others, but these are the main Unicode fonts that contain all the characters in the Vietnamese alphabet. A standard installation of Windows will include all of these fonts (minus Myriad Pro, which comes bundled with Adobe CS products).

Online service

Although there is no service that I can find that is specifically intended for this purpose (I have one on the back burner but it's really beyond me right now), if I'm stuck at a computer with no Vietnamese input software and I left my USB drive at home, this is my next best option. We will basically be using a Vietnamese dictionary site that facilitates Vietnamese input then copying the text and pasting it where we need it.
  • Navigate to a dictionary site that provides online Vietnamese input (my personal favorite of all time: http://dict.vietfun.com/)

  • Make sure Output Format is UTF-8 and Input Mode is VNI or VIQR

  • Start typing your content in the search box

  • Copy the text and paste it where you need it

This method works well for single words or short phrases. It also can be used for mobile devices, except the iPhone which can't copy and paste (yet. OS 3.0 should).

Online Vietnamese Keyboard

My last option, if all else fails, is to use a manual keyboard (one that gives you all the Vietnamese characters and you click on the one you want). I found a nice one today for this article, here at Incks.com You can type the standard English letters, then click on the Vietnamese-specific letters as you come to them. Huge impediment in the typing process, but better than nothing. Also has the option to zoom in/out, save as a text file or view and print.

Hope this has been helpful. Let me know your thoughts, and if you use other methods of typing Vietnamese please add it to this post in the comments! It would be cool to see how everyone else does it.

One last thing: A huge player in the open-source world of Vietnamese input is Hồ Ngọc Đức. This man is the master-mind behind both Unikey and the dictionary I mentioned above. He is a professor at Universität zu Lübeck in Germany and has made substantial contributions to the Vietnamese input method community. Visit his homepage here. And, if you really need a lunar calender but don't want to pay for VNI, he has one of those, too.

Update: Just remembered, my friend developed a tool to convert between different Vietnamese character formats (Unicode, VNI, VPS, VIQR). This could also be used to type Vietnamese characters, if you're familiar with VIQR, which can be typed with any keyboard. Read up on VIQR and then type your content into the tool and hit Convert. Here is Nguyễn Trí Minh's Vietnamese Conversion tool.

Change of Direction

I've been MIA for the last little while. Work is picking up, and after my last blog redesign I've kind of pulled away from the computer at home to make way for some other things (ie. planting blueberries!). Actually, I've turned more towards Facebook and Twitter and Flickr as vehicles to keep in touch with friends and stuff, because it's so quick and easy and I'm lazy. Anyway, I am going to start a new topic on this blog, namely Tips and Tricks for computer stuff. Just a series of short posts regarding things I've found to speed up my workflow. Today is the first article and it pertains to inputing Vietnamese characters.


Tết Pictures In!!

Better late than never. Here's my coverage of the festival this year. I was mostly caught up doing what I do best (running after my wife) but I was able to capture a few fun moments. My favorite was going behind the food vendors' booths and sneaking shots while my wife told them how they can sell their wares more successfully.

Click here for the slideshow

[images hosted by flickr]

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)