Audio & Video

My Freevo

The New Wisdom

LG 47LH50

I got an LG 47LH50 to replace my old 30″ CRT (sold to a neighbor for $40 after failing to find a friend who wanted it for free). It has most of the features that modern LCDs have these days, like a 120Hz mode (which I don’t like, since it makes things too videoy).

The real differentiator here is Netcast, an LG feature that includes Yahoo! Widgets and Netflix streaming. Since I don’t have an Xbox 360, the built-in Netflix streaming saves me from having another external box. I could have just hooked up my laptop, but Netflix doesn’t stream HD onto computers for whatever reason (probably studio based).

It works pretty well. You can’t add to your queue from the TV, but hopefully that will be updated in the future. Video quality is surprisingly good, especially for titles that are available in HD. Whether an HD title actually streams in HD will depend on your bandwidth at the time, but when you do get it, it can be comparable to cable 720p. On a related note, Vudu streaming could be coming soon too.

The rest of the TV is fine, although the remote kinda sucks. Maybe I should have waited for the more expensive Vizio LED TVs coming in a couple months that also have Netflix streaming and a sweet QWERTY remote control. We didn’t want to be without a TV, though, and the money savings was nice.

I also picked up a Sony HT-CT500 surround bar. A mini-review of that later.

My cat is not dead

A little over a year ago, we picked up our cat Neo in West Philly. When we got him, he was stinky, weighed only 7 pounds, was very lethargic, and had a limp. These days the limp is miraculously gone, he’s a hefty 15 pounds (a fatty, but it’ll be useful when the leukemia starts to kill him), and jumps around and plays with toys constantly. The transformation is pretty incredible, and hopefully he’ll continue to entertain us (and our guests; he’s extremely friendly) for quite a while.

Neo likes to cover his face when he sleeps

My coworker reminded me about how delicious mãng cầu (also called custard apple) are. We ate many of these in Vietnam, and now I want more. Anyone know where I can find them in the U.S.? Mail/online order is fine.

So I stopped blogging about the trip…

This is exactly what happened when I went to London. I was on top of everything and then at some point I just stopped writing. By the time I got back to it, I had forgotten many of the details. I’m hoping this time that won’t happen, since I intend on finishing everything sooner. Plus I’ve got plenty of video footage to jog my memory.

In the meantime, enjoy some photos and video from the trip:
Facebook Album 1 (viewable to all)
Facebook Album 2 (same)

Firing an AK-47
Life in Vietnam: Motorbikes

More to come! Eventually… Because sorting and editing video is really terrible, especially if your notes on the clips are practically non-existent.

Nha Trang: Day 1

We took a sleeper bus to get from Hoi An to Nha Trang. Now that I’ve done it, it’s definitely not my preferred way to travel. I think the cramped seats of an airplane were more comfortable. You’re in a chair that reclines to an almost fully horizontal position. That’s good. But your feet go into an alcove that isn’t deep enough even for my short 5’7″ stature. You have to keep your legs bent or just sit in the chair hunched. The seat is not very wide, so I’m not sure how more portly passengers fare. With one half hour break, the trip took a painful 10 hours.

Anyway, we’ve finally arrived at a city in Vietnam whose climate was what I expected much earlier (maybe by Hue; definitely by Hoi An). It’s about 80F (27C) right now. This is a popular beach resort, so I’m looking forward to doing more summery things as my friends back on the East Coast are seeing record low temperatures.

Hoi An

Hoi An is a quiet little town. It was weird being free of most of the horn-honking that’s a fixture in Hanoi, Hué and other big cities. It’s known for its vast array of tailor shops, and I took advantage of these by having a suit, 2 dress shirts, and a corduroy jacket made. Usually the only places that carry my small sizes are expensive places like Banana Republic and Express. Here, my tailored dress shirts were $18 each. The suit was 1.4 million dong, or $80. Not bad!

The hotels are also the nicest in Vietnam, and ours (Hoi An Beach Resort) was no exception. It’s definitely one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in anywhere in the world. That’s not saying much since I don’t splurge on luxury hotel rooms, but for less than a night in a mid-level Manhattan hotel, you can get pretty luxurious digs in Hoi An.

Hoi An was also the launching pad for a trip into My Son (pronounced “mee sun”). My Son is home to 1000+ year old Cham places of worship. Most have been bombed to hell by Americans, but the remaining structures are pretty cool to look at.

After that was a boat ride down the river back to Hoi An. This wasn’t pleasant at all. In fact, all the boat rides in Vietnam have been pretty awful. They all use really old and very loud motor boats that not only destroy the serenity, but also pollute the water with a sheen of fuel and clouds of exhaust. I was lucky enough last summer to zip around Cape Cod in a sailboat, and compared to that, these loud rumbly boats are terrible.


In a hurry since we’re about to board a bus to Hoi An, but we’ve spent a couple days in Hué (pronounced “hweh”, not “hyoo”). Much smaller city than Hanoi. It’s my mom’s birthplace and yesterday we found her old house (i.e., my grandfather’s house), now a former shell of itself.

My mom’s bun bo hue is better than the bun bo found here. So far, in general, Vietnamese food is better in the U.S.

Hanoi: Day 4

We’re back in Hanoi for less than a day, arriving from Halong Bay at around 3pm. Tomorrow we fly out to Hue.

On the street we found a woman walking around with a basket of the best banh ran I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it’s any good compared to its Vietnamese brethren, but I can say I’ve never had a banh ran in the U.S. that comes close to comparing.

Halong Bay

It’s probably the most touristy part of Vietnam, but whatever: it’s pretty sweet. There are thousands of small rock islands jutting out of the water. Unfortunately, since it is so touristy, there are dozens of loud, exhaust-pumping boats floating around. Ours, like most, allow you to dine and sleep aboard, and that’s what we did.

The highlight was kayaking around the bay, which we did our first evening there and this morning. The first time was the best since it was near sundown and hardly anyone was around. We kayaked into an island shaped like a doughnut, penetrating it through a small opening. Yelling in there produces a nice echo. When we repeated the trip this morning, there were a number of motor boats in there and it totally ruined the ambiance.

Hanoi: Day 3

We had no scheduled tour events, so we just wandered around on our own. We ate at one streetside food stall, by which I mean a spot on the sidewalk where someone has a pot of charcoal set up so they can cook some soup or meat. Tiny stools only a foot or so high surround small tables that aren’t much higher. It was pretty delicious. The woman’s reputation was apparently good, because as we ate, a constant stream of customers was being churned through the small operation.

We also visited the Hoa Lo Prison Museum, better known to Americans as the Hanoi Hilton. Most of it was destroyed to build a massive hotel (not a Hilton, unfortunately), but you get a good enough impression of what the prison was like from what remains.

The amount of poverty is pretty striking. People are on the sidewalks or roaming around trying to sell anything. It’s pathetically heartbreaking. How desperate do you have to be to walk around trying to sell packs of gum? Nobody’s going to buy gum from some random old woman on the street.