tomo's blog

Daily Twitter Posts - 04/13/2012 - 04/20/2012

Submitted by tomo on April 20, 2012 - 12:45pm

04/19 06:04 @dynamicscholar Have you asked for dextromethorpan? The active drug in Robo DM. Many kinds of Robitussin, depends. #
04/18 05:40 @cnualart Last night @ChrisInCambo was explaining to me that tonal languages are stored like songs in the brain, diff. from non-tonal #
04/18 03:06 @PhamNguyen @barcamphanoi I plan to talk about why businesses in Vietnam should use Drupal #
04/18 02:56 @caligarn Lol, just wait til your last day there... when you look in the mirror and see... #
04/17 12:17 @joannayeoml Hi Joanna, nice to meet you at the e27 Vietnam Satellite tonight! Hope you can find some "phin ca phe" filters and ca phe chon #
04/17 02:20 Waiting for this e27 Vietnam satellite event to kick off. The room is standing room only now. #
04/16 08:58 In case you hadn't heard, Friendster is (still) in beta and you can login using Facebook Connect #
04/16 02:23 Tickets booked to Hanoi for @barcamphanoi this weekend. Anyone else from Saigon going? #
04/15 07:15 Watching Vietnamese people turn Japanese at Genki festival. Needs Japanese public transportation to get here. #
04/14 21:22 @HerDailyDigest Thanks for the support! :-) #
04/14 20:36 En route to our first major Drupal conference! Today I'll talk about the business case for using Drupal in Vietnam #

Daily Twitter Posts - 04/06/2012 - 04/13/2012

Submitted by tomo on April 13, 2012 - 12:45pm

04/11 06:05 @caligarn You still think it's futile to try to model the brain in 1s and 0s? ;) #
04/11 06:04 @jon7b Does this happen as you're falling asleep? Or are otherwise resting? #
04/11 03:32 Exploding head syndrome: #
04/10 07:55 Apparently, Stella Cafe was renamed "New Stellar Vietnam". #saigon #
04/07 09:39 I love Da Lat! (@ Vcafe) #
04/06 07:35 @sonnylebythebay Thanks again for the recc. Being ignorant of scripture is par for course, not you. Religion gets inherited from parents #
04/06 07:31 @geetree @kingceejay @tamkaizen @nguyenhimself I'm also out of town this weekend. Evenings are also good, not really a morning person :-) #
04/06 07:29 @NBNQ One of the few cases where the movie (Bladerunner) was better than the book #
04/06 07:22 If Vietnam had a Wyoming, $900k would buy like 1000 houses there #

Daily Twitter Posts - 03/30/2012 - 04/06/2012

Submitted by tomo on April 6, 2012 - 12:45pm

04/05 00:23 @sonnylebythebay Thanks for tipping me off to The Story of Buddhism! It seems to address questions about Buddhism's effects on local culture #
04/04 04:01 Some answered (in)frequent questions about Buddhism in Vietnam: #
04/03 07:19 Sh*t Expats in Hanoi Say: #
04/03 04:02 Experiencing high correlation between MacBook crashes with immediately after a Vietnamese holiday. Better gear up for Fall of Saigon Day. #
04/03 03:36 Japan’s Strongest Storm Since 1959 Forecast to Slam Into Tokyo, wind up to 90 km/h: #
04/03 03:03 There is a name for my "sleeping disease"! DSPD - #
04/03 01:41 RT lupohiep: Earth Hour helps Vietnam save 546,000 kWh, equivalent to US$34,000 - #
04/02 05:34 @kingceejay Power is back on at home since late last night (but no internet), and intermittent throughout morning. How's your water? #
04/02 01:17 When a trop.storm is scraping the buildings around you, power is out, batteries drained, and all that remains is the breath. Meditate on it. #
04/01 07:00 @fisheggtree But many businesses here do waste light (empty, lit up highrises) and energy (blasting A/C with the doors wide open) #
03/30 19:57 @patrizio_bui @kingceejay @tamkaizen @mr_kimpossible Hey gentlemen, I just got home - apologies if I'm not at the court in a few hours #
03/30 04:19 @tamkaizen @kingceejay @patrizio_bui @mr_kimpossible I'll try to round up more, just so I will have to run less! #
03/30 03:49 @kingceejay @patrizio_bui @tamkaizen @mr_kimpossible I'll be working late tonight but will try to make it tmrw morn. Phan Ding Phung, right? #

Buddhism in Vietnam

Submitted by tomo on April 4, 2012 - 5:29am

Curious about Buddhism in Vietnam? So was I. When you look around the country you would just about assume that everyone was Buddhist. Until recently, I was only taking in these "Buddhisms" as just another dish in the realm of Vietnamese culture that makes the country so different from the West. But there are also Christian churches (some 10% of the population) as well as a long tradition of Islam within certain ethnic minorities like the Cham who form Muslim communities in their provincial strongholds as well as in the city. There's also a unique indigenous religion called Cao Đài that basically mixes Buddhism and an Abrahamic God. Still it's clear that Vietnam is a predominantly Buddhist country in both religion and culture and it has been for most of known recorded history (notably, there was a dark and critically damaging period for Buddhism in Vietnam when Roman Catholics controlled the Southern Vietnamese government, more on the issue of religious intolerance in another future post perhaps).

What kind or sect of Buddhism?

When one thinks of Christians, they are a diverse group that identify much more with being Catholic or Protestant or Mormon or whatever else more than just being a Christian. It seems every major world religion has similarly broken down over the years into sects that started believing all kinds of things that weren't there at the founding of the religion, and who differentiate themselves from other sects through these new and unique beliefs. While people in Vietnam seem to just think they are Buddhist rather than any special kind of Buddhist, Buddhism itself, as I've found, has not been immune from such corruption -- or innovation, depending on how you look at it.

When you think of Buddhism as just an aspect of being Vietnamese, you don't think much about how Vietnamese Buddhism relates to Buddhism in other countries but in fact it does have its own characteristics. If you split Buddhists into the two main branches, Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) and Theravada, Vietnam falls into Mahayana along with the rest of China's historical sphere of influence (the CJKV countries, ethnic Chinese countries like Singapore and Taiwan, and neighbors like Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia). The Southeast Asian Buddhist countries (Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia) are all Theravadin except for Vietnam. What is relatively unknown is that Vietnam does have Theravada Buddhism among the million or so Khmer (Cambodian) population concentrated in the Mekong Delta as well as with a small number of ethnic Kinh (Vietnamese are mostly ethnically Kinh) who have their own Theravadin temples. There is also a third, newer branch called Vajrayana a.k.a. the Diamond Vehicle (Kim cương thừa or Mật tông in Vietnamese), Esoteric Buddhism, or Tantric Buddhism. There are some small centers teaching Vajrayana scattered throughout the country including ones (associated with Diamond Way Centers) run by foreigners. Otherwise, Vajrayana doesn't lie in Vietnamese Buddhist tradition the same way as Mahayana.

But unlike a Catholic or Protestant, a Vietnamese Buddhist might not really identify with any sect of Buddhism. If you ask them, they might not even know. And Theravadin Buddhists and Mahayana Buddhists can actually be Buddhist buddies together in the same places without any conflict. Vietnamese Buddhists are generally some mixture of Pure Land and Tientai for most people (laypeople) which involves mostly chanting, burning stuff, ringing bells, and praying, or Vietnamese Zen (Thiền-Na or more commonly just Thiền), which is mostly for monks and is where meditation is found. The two types of Buddhism live side by side and are mixed into a unified Zen-Pure Land Buddhism and this doesn't seem to bother anyone. Vietnamese might not even identify themselves as Buddhist, although they will still have a mix of Buddhist, Confucian, and ancestor-worship beliefs and practices.

Nam Mô A Di Đà Phật

A common chant or prayer used by Vietnamese Buddhists is "Nam Mô A Di Đà Phật" which is a call (somewhat like seeking refuge) to the A Di Da (Amitābha) Buddha, who was a, but not the, Buddha. By calling out his name it is said you will be born in the Pure Land (tịnh độ) when you die, where you can more easily attain enlightenment. To me, it sounds a lot like Jesus. However, chanting can also be similar to Buddhist meditation practices by instilling a sort of mindfulness. Anyways, that line is just the first part of a longer prayer which is meaningless in Vietnamese but was transcribed (via Chinese) from Sanskrit. You can find it in small booklets found, among other places, in some vegetarian restaurants.

Vietnamese Buddhist laypersons are mostly not vegetarian, but once a month (although preferably six days a month) Buddhists will abstain from animal food products. On these days, which occur at midpoints in the lunar month, many local restaurants especially those near temples will serve vegetarian dishes. Vegetarian restaurants will be packed, but temples will also provide vegetarian meals, sometimes for free.

Thích Nhất Hạnh

The last piece I'll cover in this introduction to Vietnamese Buddhism is the aspect of Vietnamese Buddhism outside of Vietnam. In America, Buddhism came to be known from Asian immigrants and especially from certain Americans going over to Japan after the war and learning about Japanese Zen. [If there are stories of American War Veterans bringing Vietnamese Buddhism back to the States, I'd love to hear about it.] Buddhism in Japan had itself spread from China which had received it from India. Likewise, Tibetan Buddhism has also spread to the Western world after exiled Tibetans fled to India where they came into contact with traveling hippies.

Vietnamese Buddhists have also had their influence around the world although mostly through a single enigmatic figure rather than a school of thought. This person would be Thich Nhat Hanh (random aside: Thích is the "family name" taken by Vietnamese Buddhists when they become monks and it comes from Thích-ca Mâu-ni or Shakyamuni, the Buddha). Thich Nhat Hanh comes from Vietnamese Rinzai lineage, but today he is said to no longer represents any kind of contemporary Vietnamese Buddhism. Sadly, he is also not allowed to freely return to Vietnam despite being one of the world's greatest living Zen masters.

Another Vietnamese monk who came to be known around the world was one Thích Quảng Đức. It was not his teachings that brought him fame but his self-immolation in protest of religious persecution which became a major event in the end of American support for the South Vietnamese government. A large memorial park was recently constructed at the intersection of Cach Mang Thang 8 and Nguyen Dinh Chieu in District 3 where Thich Quang Duc set himself on fire. Today, as Tibetan monks self-immolate in increasing numbers, also in protest of a certain government, they might learn a thing or two about PR from the Vietnamese.

But like other waves of Asian immigration before, the post-Vietnam War flood of Vietnamese into the US eventually led to temples in maturing Vietnamese communities everywhere in the country. I believe these temples mostly serve to memorialize ancestors and as community centers now but some do serve to teach practical Buddhist teachings that can be useful to more than just Vietnamese immigrants. Today they don't hold the cachet that, say, Japanese-style Zen centers have. But I am, with the help of some good friends, gradually discovering the traditions in Vietnam that have been passed down and were able to foster such great masters of whom Thich Nhat Hanh and Thich Quang Duc are only two.

Thien Vien Truc Lam, Da Lat.

Daily Twitter Posts - 03/23/2012 - 03/30/2012

Submitted by tomo on March 30, 2012 - 12:45pm

03/29 06:57 Contender for most ridiculously understated headline of the year: "FDI helps drive Vietnam’s economy" #
03/28 16:52 @Jane_Minnie Wake up! #
03/28 10:15 Anyone Aussies know how to register a vanity domain without having a company there (but registered elsewhere if it helps)? #
03/28 03:21 TIL There are worker-owned, unionized strip clubs back in the USofA. (Naked) Workers of the world, unite! #
03/28 03:14 @HerDailyDigest Bike! Good for health, economical, green, connects you to your city, and annoys the piss out of car drivers! #
03/27 12:24 @hjames I urge you to look up pornterest as, while the underlying technology may resemble fffound, the results are strikingly different! #
03/27 12:13 Is there a pornterest, a Pinterest for Porn? Google says there is. Almost afraid to click through. Almost. #
03/27 00:47 @patrizio_bui @tamkaizen @kingceejay @mr_kimpossible Not sure I can live up to Saigon Cool. Maybe Saigon Warm, or just Luke Warm. #
03/26 11:57 @kingceejay @tamkaizen @patrizio_bui @mr_kimpossible I'm pretty horrible, just like to play for fun. Late afternoon Sat/Sun works for me #
03/23 04:17 Việt Nam muôn năm! Hà Nội là thành phố ô nhiễm nhất Đông Nam Á. #

Daily Twitter Posts - 03/16/2012 - 03/23/2012

Submitted by tomo on March 23, 2012 - 12:45pm

03/22 10:11 If you ever need to debug crazy bugs in Chrome, chrome://net-internals/ is AWESOME. Also: chrome://view-http-cache/ #
03/20 11:07 @WAYFUNBAA The trick is to type Vietnamese out on your phone, make THEM guess what the dau you're saying :D #
03/20 11:06 @kingceejay I'll unfortunately be out of town. Enjoy the game! I'd be rooting for Heat, haha! @Saigon_Heat #
03/19 12:04 Learning a foreign language is tuff. I mean tugh. Wait, tough. #
03/17 06:51 Saigon Heat vs Indonesia Warriors tonight. Who's going? #
03/17 06:41 ATTN VN: A new official book to be published in China with non-ridiculous English translations of Chinese dishes #
03/16 02:54 Basketball in Vietnam - Saigon Heat: #saigonist #

Basketball in Vietnam - Saigon Heat

Submitted by tomo on March 16, 2012 - 3:46am

Last night I went to my first Saigon Heat game (thanks Skunkworks!) against the Philippines Patriots (the Philippines actually have two teams in the ASEAN Basketball League). Despite being up by six in the first half, the Patriots swiftly brought nearly 20 points of defeat to Saigon, who seemed to make mistake after mistake. The Heat are Vietnam's only basketball team, have only been around since late last year, and have been trying to promote this rather unknown sport with lots of promotional tickets. There was a decent turnout that night and it really was a fun night out, despite our loss.

Saigon have two Americans on the team (including an ex-Laker, I hear) who tower over the rest of the players, as well as two Filipinos. The Philippines, with much stronger American influence, are relatively big fans of basketball whereas in Vietnam it's really all about soccer (bong da, da banh, football, whatever). But there are small numbers of Vietnamese who enjoy shooting hoops. (A few of us play irregularly on Sunday afternoons if anybody reading would like to join. Preferably, you are not too good.)

Despite regular (English language) TV programming support from the league, I think it will still take some effort for b-ball to take off in Vietnam, and Asia in general -- really, most countries outside of the U.S, although it's certainly gotten a lot more popular around the world. At the moment, it feels more like an expensive hobby for some Asians with a lot of money and a love for sport, but not enough to buy an NBA team proper. It will be a decade before Vietnamese kids who grow up watching basketball will be ready, and tall enough, to play for the Heat. Perhaps the owners of the Heat should invest in battling malnutrition among Vietnamese children - team up with Vinamilk!

Home games are at the Tan Binh Stadium. Tickets are as low as 40k and go up to 500k. Try catching an NBA game for $2 back in the states! It makes for a decent date if you're looking for date ideas. Tickets can be purchased at the stadium (18 Xuan Hong), as well as various Coffee Bean locations around town. See you there this Saturday as the Heat play the Indonesia Warriors (thanks Topica!).

Daily Twitter Posts - 03/02/2012 - 03/09/2012

Submitted by tomo on March 9, 2012 - 12:45pm

03/08 11:15 @WAYFUNBAA Which really begs the question: Did you get a happy ending? #
03/08 10:21 @tobiassjosten LOL. Let me know how that goes and if you have any strategies for dealing with the melt-off #
03/08 01:18 Kony 2012: [or 'how young people can make the world a better world together'] #
03/07 04:00 @caligarn Easy. Become a new promising entrepreneur and you can have lunch with yourself every day of the week. #
03/05 04:20 [email protected]:Good try, McDonald's for printing Vietnamese in a billboard in Little Saigon.Too bad you got the wrong font #
03/03 10:31 @caligarn LOL. Bastard. Totally used "normal" with scare-quotes. But now getting a kick out of shit CS students say: #
03/03 09:15 @Jane_Minnie It was part of a vegetarian curry with bread. I wasn't hungry after, but not so full either :) #
03/03 09:13 Anything in Vietnam media about this? Người M'Nông 'quyết trụ lại thủ đô': - poor unrepresented ethnic minorities #
03/02 06:21 I just ate some ants. Surely eaten ants before. Today just couldn't be bothered not to. Otherwise vegetarian meal. #
03/02 03:17 @caligarn ..emulator to emulate a rock garden which itself emulates nature. We also got some neat biofeedback gear and SDK from Wild Divine #
03/02 03:16 @caligarn As it should. We hung out in Sebastopol, CA designing a GB SP game to emulate composing and tending rock gardens. Using a Gameboy #
03/02 02:52 @caligarn Hard to bare w/ the hand-waving (do I do that?) but the game at ~8:30 is cool. We started making a Zen game for GameBoy years back #
03/02 01:01 @HerDailyDigest Not just you, the sun is super fierce today. I'm thinking a vacation in Dalat is due soon, after a few weeks of this #

Escaping the Saigon Heat

Submitted by tomo on March 7, 2012 - 11:11pm

This post is not about basketball.

This post is about staying cool.

During my first few months in Vietnam I sweat a lot. Now I sweat less.

1. Change your genes. If you are Vietnamese, you sweat less. If you are derived from Europeans, you will sweat more at the same temperature. You can "get used to it" and not using the A/C more than necessary helps to acclimate (it will feel a lot more humid if you've been in a cold A/C room all day) but you will never stay as dry as a Vietnamese person. Hmm, we're off to a pretty bad start...

2. GTFO. Saigon and southern Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia can be pleasant during the dry season. In Saigon, that means November to February. December and January are the best times of the year to be here, and also the time most expats are likely to go back to their own countries for Christmas/New Year/Tet. Which is really a shame.

The rainy season from June to October are mixed, weather-wise. But when it does rain, and usually after it rains, the cool winds that created the rainstorms succeed in bringing down temperatures. But it can be quite hot and humid before it rains, or if the skies are promising rain yet failing to deliver.

April and May are pretty awful. Go to Dalat or something.

3. Stop moving. Stop exercising. When the sun is out and it's hot, don't exacerbate the situation by walking around. I used to think walking was normal, or even bicycling. Vietnamese people think it's insane. If you must exercise, do it before the sun comes up or after it goes down.

Riding a motorbike helps immensely. When it's not super sunny, it can be in the 30s and the wind still feels cool. You might think Vietnamese people are crazy for wearing jackets in this heat but a light, airy jacket does serve to keep the sun off. There are also these "nets" for motorbike seats that keep your seat from getting too hot to sit on in the sun as well as slightly increasing airflow to your sweaty arse.

4. Baby powder. If you're male and not Vietnamese you probably have a lot of useless body hair. Fur is great for keeping your body warm during ice ages but it's a gross evolutionary vestige in Saigon's climate. Combined with sweat and trapped under clothes it becomes even more uncomfortable. Use something like baby powder (which Johnson&Johnson have made available to us!).

5. Siesta. Just sleep all afternoon if you can. It's a worthless time to be outside unless you're poolside.

BONUS: Stick ice cubes down your pants.

Daily Twitter Posts - 02/24/2012 - 03/02/2012

Submitted by tomo on March 2, 2012 - 12:45pm

02/28 09:41 Fix Facebook links and browse privately at the same time: #vietnam #
02/28 04:05 HCMC should publish personal #s of officials too RT @tuoitrenewsvn: Da Nang City opens hotlines for foreigners #
02/28 04:03 LOL "How to synthesize Sudafed from crystal meth" #
02/26 07:15 @caligarn I read as inconclusive. Neurogenesis in small numbers w/o integration, effectiveness unknown. Still gonna avoid brain damage. #
02/24 02:09 At KCX Tan Thuan for a social games conference with Square Enix. Zynga vs Hoccorina up soon. #

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