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Archive for April 2009

Things happen when you run a bookstore

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Today I made this quote:


which really got me thinking:

a. This woman wants to be a reallionaire. Enough to the point of doing some research and searching online for my store.

b. She wants to get rich from doing business with the Japanese.

c. More specifically, it is the Japanese men.

d. There are writers out there who make money writing woman’s handbook in dealing w/ Japanese men.

Anyway, this is just one of many custom orders that I do for the Vietnamese. Everytime I read an email like this. I get a kick out of it, kinda like “what the hell are these people reading???


Written by bluekite2000

April 23, 2009 at 9:17 am

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House remodelling-an aftermath

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Since primary construction finished last Sept, I have made several fixes to the house. I m listing them here, for the simple reason that I wont forget them:

-Make street signs (on 2 separate occasions) to advertise the bookstore.

-Run electricial wires on the outside, to light the street signs.

-Put a charger on the 1st story’s ceiling, so I could open the garage door in case there is a blackout.

-Install an addtional electricial outlet on the 1st floor and in the bathroom.

-Replace the transformers of the dimmer lights on 2 separate occasions. Electrical surges are the norm here. I m thinking of buying a stabilizer. We’ll see.

-Water proof the house, twice using professionals and twice by myself (via simple caulking)

-Move the AC units from the patio to the roof for aesthetics reason.

-Tile the patio to prevent leaking.

-Install a water pressurizer.

-Install a noise insulation box for the water pressurizer.

-Clean the inside of the kitchen faucet to improve flow.

-Install 2 turbine roof vents to ventilate the house.

All these problems could have been easily avoided, had the primary construction was of high-quality.

Written by bluekite2000

April 23, 2009 at 8:17 am

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The shoddy work of the Vietnamese construction workers

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Lessons to be learnt:

-When they mix cement on the sidewalk outside your house, make sure they clean it immediately afterward. Otherwise it will dry out and becomes almost impossible to remove.

-When they move their bikes up the house, warn them to be careful and not chip the tiles.

-When they lay the tiles, make sure a. they border the wall w/ the tiles, b. they  use the lever,  c.  there is no gap between tiles or between tiles and the wall d. the tiles in the bathroom are slanted so water flows to the drain

-When they lay the water pipes, make sure they a. use big pipes and b.position them properly. Otherwise you will spend unnecessary money on a water pressurizer, which then makes exceedingly annoying humming noise, causing you to spend more unnecessary money on an insulation box.

-When they lay the stucco ceilings or run the pipes/wires throughout the house, make sure the ceilings are as high as possible and the pipes/wires take the min amount of space.

-When they build the stairways, make sure a. the wood they use wont contract or expand when wet,  b. the paint wont come off under normal wear/tear, c. they build borders and paint all sides of the steps, d. cut the steps so there is no visible gap between steps and the wall e. leave space between the steps and the glass wall. Otherwise when the door is being closed, the impact will knock the glass wall against the steps.

-Make sure the cabinets don’t have a rough surface.

-Caulking of all necessary places is very important. Saigon is a rainy place. If they dont caulk well, you will spend your own time and money doing the caulking yourself.

-When they build the outside patio, make sure they know what they are doing. Without proper water-proofing, water will leak from the top down.  This means more money and time trying to find the problem and solve it.

-Any floor outdoor needs to be slanted towards the drain. If not water will stagnate, resulting in rotten ceilings.

-Get a real painter to paint your house. Dont let the contractor hire some random guy from the village. If you do, chances that random guy wont mix the paint properly, resulting in rusted balcony.

-Speaking of the balcony (which is made of temper glass screwed to metal frames), make sure they measure the glass well. Otherwise there will be misalignment when the glasses are attached to the frames.

Written by bluekite2000

April 19, 2009 at 5:11 pm

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The thieves of Saigon (part 4)

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Yesterday around 7pm, I was on the balcony of my house watching the handymen laying tiles when I saw (out of the corner of my eye) a guy on a bike acting suspicious. I looked down and caught him grabbing 2 helmets out of the handyman’s bike and took off on his bicyle. It happened in a split second. His gf was inside but didn’t see it. Neither did my staff. I yelled to the handyman “Dude, that dude just stole your helmet”. He was like “WTF”, ran out and saw the guy was gone, ran down and chased after him on his own bike. Half an hour later he came back, empty-handed.

Last year around Oct or so, 2 guys tried to pry the door of my house open. It happened in broad daylight, around 6pm, when the streets were packed. The nerves on these guys! What happened, according to the xe om guy, was that they staked out the place, waited for me to leave, and got in action as soon as that happened. Luckily the neighborly xe om guy saw them and yelled out “WTF are you doing?” which scared them off. Even since then, I close both the glass door and the garage door every time I go out. Better safe than sorry.

Written by bluekite2000

April 17, 2009 at 7:15 am

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Love letters from a VK

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A while back, I wrote this post Suckers. Today as I was cleaning up my hard drive, I realized I actually copied a few of his emails to my hard drive. So here they are. Enjoy. Let this be a warning to all VKs. Dont even waste your time or money because chances are you are pwned!

Hi Em

Em co biet ngay mai la ngay gi khong? La ngay a voi e quen nhau dc 2 thang do.

De a ke em mot cau chuyen,  truoc khi he nam 2008 co mot con chuot. Con chuot nay kho khao lam, chang biet gi het suot ngay chi o chong hang thoi. Chuot nay cung chang biet rang cuoc doi cua minh di den dau, khong biet la tuong lai cua minh lam sao. Vi tu luc sinh ra thi chuot da dc cung chieu, ba cua chuot hay noi “may la mot con chuot roi vao thung gao”. Dung, tai vi tu nho den gio chuot khong phai lo lang gi het, cung khong phai lo cho ai het, chi co biet minh thoi.

Den he 2008 chuot nay da quyet dinh bo hang minh ra di, de biet the gioi ben ngoai. Chuot muon di de tim hieu minh la ai, tai sao cuoc doi cua minh khong co y nghia. Tai sao minh song 24 nam roi ma minh van khong thay duoc la minh song vi ai, vi cai gi?. Chuot nay nghi hoai khong ra.

Chuot thi cung da di rat la nhieu noi: My, Uc, Phap, Duc, Trung Quoc vv. di Dai Hoi va gap duoc nhieu em chuot khac. Nhung chang co ai ma chuot co cam tinh het. Cho den luc…
chuot ve den VN thi lai khac, chuot truoc gio khong thich ve que huong cua minh, co mot thoi gian chuot khong muon lam nguoi Viet, tai vi nguoi viet nhieu chuyen.
Nhung luc chuot gap duoc mot con meo thi lai khac, chuot cung khong ngo la, minh la chuot sao ma lai yeu duoc meo. Hai the gioi cua chung ta khac nhau ma tai sao lai co the o ben nhau.
Chuot cung khong biet rang meo nay co that la yeu chuot khong, hay chi la choi voi chuot thoi roi sau do la an thit chuot.
Chuot nay moi lan dau ra doi, cho nen con chua biet cai gi la phai/ cai gi la trai.

Sau 2 tuan o VN thi chuot phai ra di, khong biet bao gio moi lai gap duoc meo. De chuot co the o voi meo co the nam tay meo, co the om meo, co the choc meo gian, co the nghe loi meo hat, co the coi meo lam tro vv.

Em oi, anh biet la em can mot nguoi co the lo lang cho em. Anh biet la gio anh van chua la mot nguoi truong thanh vung vang, chua co bang cop cong an viec lam. Nhung anh hua vi em thi anh se co rang, a se co rang an hoc va lo lang cho em, khong choi boi nua. Vi em anh se truong thanh, bo moi viec khong can thiet trong doi. Tai vi em la nhung gi anh can thiet trong doi.
Em da viet cho anh: “Nguoi ta co the song khong can tinh yeu, nhung khong ai co the song ma thieu hy vong se yeu hay duoc yeu”.

Anh biet la thoi gian anh o ben em qua la it di, khong co the hieu het duoc con nguoi cua em. Nhung em dung de khoang cach chia xa chung ta nhe. Ngay dau anh gap em, anh da co thay co cam giac gi khac la, so voi luc anh di choi voi nhung gai khac.
Anh cung biet la anh voi em khac nhau, em da la mot nguoi truong thanh phai lo lang nhieu chuyen.
Chung ta co nhieu cai khac biet nhau, co cai trai nguoc nhau, nhung anh van thay do la dieu dung, yeu nhau khong can cai gi cung phai giong nhau ma ha em?

“anh o dau ?” anh o nha viet cho thu co em.
“anh dang o noi dau ?”  anh o rat la xa em.
“em can co anh anh la ai ? la ai ?”   anh la mot nguoi ngu ngoc co em, ma lai khong biet quy men.
“nhung co ai biet dc trong suy nghi cua toi co nhieu viec lam ko ?” co anh biet noi dau kho cua em, em la chi lon phai lo lang cho gia dinh.
“toi gap a, vay anh co phai la nguoi ma toi dang tim kiem ko ha anh ?” neu a khong phai, thi anh cung co rang lam nguoi em tim kiem.
“anh co giup dc cho toi trong cuoc song nay ko a?” co anh se hy sinh va long lang cho em
“anh co the nao chia se bot nhung viec em dang can hay ko?”
“chia se nhung luc em can hay ko?” tui anh khong co ben em de long lang cho em, nhung a se chia se voi  em.
“neu anh cam thay co the den voi em dc, thi hay tra loi em.” Em hoi anh: gio day anh tra loi em anh thiet la yeu em.

Neu em da quyet dinh chia tay voi anh thi anh cung khong co gi de noi, tai vi do la quyet dinh cua rieng em. Nhung a cung hy vong rang em se cho anh them mot co hoi de hieu biet em. Anh biet la anh doi hoi qua nhieu o em, a qua la ich ky.. anh khong nen lam nhu vay.
Neu em nghi day chi la loi le, thi de anh hanh dong cho em coi.

Em dung xa anh nhe!

Anh Thanh

Written by bluekite2000

April 17, 2009 at 3:14 am

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A revolution

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A young college student came to my store this morning and wanted to order this book.


This was the first time someone wanted to order an I.T book. I.T students and professionals here are poor. They can’t afford American I.T books. They read cheap Vietnamese knockoffs, ebooks and online docs.  I think I sold a total of may be 10 I.T books since I opened (most to Lawrence:) In fact I m trying to sell the rest of my inventory to Can Tho University and get out of the business all together. The books are slowly gathering dust and I m sure within a few more months they will become obsolete.

Anyway back to the student. When he inquired about the cost of importing that book here, I could sense money was a problem. I dont know how but you could sense these things after a while. So I looked it up on Amazon. It was 23 usd. The listed price was 35 usd.  My quote to him: 33 usd. And that included shipping from Amazon to my house, gas and time by my parents from my house to the shipping company, the shipping cost to Saigon, customs fee, transport fee from TSN to my house and my time. Had he gone to a Vietnamese shop, they would charge him at least 70usd (I checked). Had he bought it at Borders, it would have been at listed price. I made almost no money selling him this book!

But it was OK. Opening a beautiful, English-only bookstore in downtown Saigon is a dream come true. It allows me to bring knowledge to this country in a unprecedented way.  When a young man comes into my store and buys a book, whether it is an American classic, a Yellowstone National Park coffee book, an autobiography about an Indo girl and her life under Japanese occupation, or in this case, a Sams Teach Yourself, it changes Vietnam in a infinitesimal way. And I m the start of it. So Fiat Lux!

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April 9, 2009 at 4:45 am

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Just a reminder

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Later, in a hotel bar, I start chatting to a dyspeptic expat American who works in the cosmetics industry and is desperate to get away from these people. She says: “All the people who couldn’t succeed in their own countries end up here, and suddenly they’re rich and promoted way above their abilities and bragging about how great they are. I’ve never met so many incompetent people in such senior positions anywhere in the world.” She adds: “It’s absolutely racist. I had Filipino girls working for me doing the same job as a European girl, and she’s paid a quarter of the wages. The people who do the real work are paid next to nothing, while these incompetent managers pay themselves £40,000 a month.”

The complete article is here

Written by bluekite2000

April 8, 2009 at 6:37 am

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