The secret power of Youtube and of yourself

So I came across this article from CNN about an interesting TEDtalk: “The secret power of YouTube”. You might still remember that we mentioned about TEDTalk a while ago in this post, and you can always visit their website for more talks at Please note that the talks there are more suitable for advanced learners only. The article, however, can be read with intermediate level.

In the talk, Chris Anderson defined the term crow-accelerated innovation, and he provided the three things he believe needed for such innovation to take off: a “Crowd”, “Light” and “Desire”. It is a notable article and talk, you should definitely try to have a look 😉

Now you might ask, “so what does it have to do with English learning?” Since I can’t practically add anything interesting to the table as his wording is just right, I will simply quote Christ here:

“Crowd: It can be any group, small or large, of people who share a common interest. The bigger the group, the better the chance that it contains real innovators. But successful crowds also depend on lots of other roles like trend-spotters, cheerleaders, commenters, and even skeptics.

Light: You need to be able to see what the very best people in the crowd are capable of. And the amazing thing about the Web is that even when the crowd is in the millions, the best contributors can readily bubble up to the surface — for example, by winning the most views or highest ratings on a website.

Desire: On the Web, this is provided through social recognition. If you can do something innovative and special, you get thousands of people viewing your work and talking about you. It’s intoxicating. And it’s driving hundreds and hundreds of hours of effort from potential innovators across the globe.”

This makes me think of our blog, of the reason why I decided to create this blog, ask for help from others, and why I decided to go back and keep the blog running.

I hope that I can create a bigger CROWD of students who are aware of the importance of learning English, who know how to learn English (as well as other foreign language) effectively and economically.

I have once been struggling with trying to get the best TOEFL test score out of the minimal amount of money my parents could offer me. I have made a number of trials, ranging from learning solely at school (university), at home, go to cheap to expensive learning centers. For the first type (cheapest) I only need to go to class once to decide that it does not worth my time sitting in and getting bored. For the most expensive one I only attend one of their class to realize that they don’t really worth the money I spent. I have also tried online study, and finally go back to self-study with a bunch of books and my cassette player. I realize that everything come down to HOW you learn it. That is the reason I would like to shred a LIGHT to you guys of what I have been able to do (and so you can, too), and asked that my friends help and do the same.

Of course there is that bit of DESIRE in it, that we have an audience, that we help 😉

We all know that we all DESERVE to be able to learn and get better.

English is not a goal, but more like a tool. High TOEFL or IELTS scores, however are our goal, and our tool to apply to study abroad. But after that, English come back again as a tool, to communicate and to help us advance in our life, as well as in our work. It burdens me that many of us have hard time to get better at English because of their financial problems. So, if you find us helpful, please, create a bigger CROWD and help your friends by introducing us to them. Spread the word.

The more people know English (or any other language), the more people go study abroad, the better we can help our country to develop. For a bright future of Vietnam 🙂


Food safety in Vietnam

I think the following news article is another good topic for discussion. 

HANOI, Vietnam – As Nguyen Van Ninh needles his chopsticks through a steaming bowl of Vietnam’s famous noodle soup, he knows it could be spiked with formaldehyde. But the thought of slurping up the same chemical used to preserve corpses isn’t enough to deter him.

“I think if we don’t see those chemicals being put in the food with our own eyes, then we can just smack our lips and pretend that there are no chemicals in the food,” he said, devouring a 30-cent bowl of “pho” on a busy Hanoi sidewalk. “Why worry about it?”;_ylt=A0WTUeou43RGz38B_gUDW7oF

Having a pet in the US

I wrote this (edited by Mimi, my daughter) to join the pet discussion.

Let me tell you the story of my cat Smokey:

My neighbor once asked me if we wanted a cat for free. I had cats and dogs back in VN but I knew that it would be much more complicated over here. At the relentless requests of my daughter, I gave up and said yes (partly because the cat was so beautiful: white with grey spots, long furry tail…). My daughter (Mimi) named her Cleo (after Cleopatra!). At first, we kept her in the house but then we realized that this cat was not house-broken so we put her in the garage. It started to smell REALLY bad in the garage, so she had to stay outside in our backyard (You may want to know that houses in the US are well insulated, so you can easily notice pet smells immediately when you visit a house with pets).

A few weeks later, we noticed that she was growing fat. We were so happy, thinking that she was simply eating a lot and was healthy. But NOOOOO! She had gotten pregnant by some unknown “bastard” running around out there (I believe it was a black cat). Well, she gave birth 4 kittens: two black (Bebe and Luna), one with black and white spots (Oreo), and one grey – our Smokey. Cleo needed to be spayed immediately. I had to borrow a cage to carry her in my car and drove 40miles (~60km) to a pet clinic for that purpose. The cost: $30 for visit, $80 for the surgery (or so they said). Cleo had to stay overnight for observation. For your information, male cats were much simpler: $15 for fixing (or neutering) them and you could take them home right away. What luck, right?

We then had five cats. Unfortunately, 2 months later, Cleo disappeared! Maybe she wandered too far? Got run over by cars? I did not know! Well, we were so sad, but we still had 4 kittens. Watching them playing in the backyard was a real joy. We had great times. However, the two black kittens were female. I learned my lesson: They had to go! But it’s not that simple! People just don’t want to have cats with ovaries, do they? I don’t blame them. Well, the black kittens went to a shelter where they could get adopted. The cost: $50 for each of them to be there. That’s $210 so far, right? 😦

Oreo was a beautiful male and he was smart. But one day, he also disappeared! Well, we were left with Smokey, the slowest one (mentally and physically). He needed to be neutered too but I decided to leave him alone (to get revenge, I suppose). 🙂

Smokey is not smart at all! Believe me, I’ve never seen such a “stupid” cat (sorry Smokey!). The only thing he could do well is sleep! We make toys for him. He never plays! Smokey just lays down there and gives us a look that says, “You guys are childish… I am not gonna join your silly games!”. He always looks like an absent-minded and calm philosopher, who has been occupied with deep thoughts. But I doubt that Smokey can come up with any surprising theories. Maybe I am wrong! A theory of how to catch airborne birds, perhaps?

At least 15 times, he has gotten stuck on my roof and did not know how to get down (even though all he had to do was go back down the same freakin’ tree). All he does is meow pathetically until someone decides to help him down! It was not easy to get on the roof (as we did often in VN) and you might want to call the police or fire department to help. They would come, surely, but you would have to pay $100 per visit! Well, I just lured him to a window upstairs and grabbed him. Once or twice, I wanted to teach him a lesson by throwing him down from the room (he IS a cat, right? He still has another 8 or so lives left) or leaving him up there (for at least 4 days) to scare him. The next day, after I got him down, he was meowing on the roof again!

He is such a gentleman, though! If another cat comes by during his lunch or dinner, he would stop, step aside and invite the guest (especially females) to eat his food. After they leave, he’d continue. If he wants to go inside the house, he would wait until I am done with my cigarette and then join me to go in. I believe his gentleness (or his stupidity?) really works for his love affair. He has a beautiful girlfriend and three “kids” (2 black and one striped)! I had to call the CPC (City Pet Control) to take care of them! (It’s ironic how Smokey can have a girlfriend, yet when my daughter starts dating a guy, my wife and I go crazy! Well, not really 🙂 )

A few years ago, he got into a fight with a possum in our backyard one night. His tail was bleeding badly and we had to take him to the vet. The cost: $60 for an emergency visit (I did not call ahead to make an appointment), $30 for his vaccination, and $30 for his medicine to take care of his tail. OK, when I asked the vet what we should do with his tail, since it was not moving any more, they said “it’s gotta go!”, so they came up with a surgery (!!!) plan and told me that he would have to stay in their hospital for two days. I looked at the bill for that simple “chopping” job (so I thought) and could not believe my eyes: ~$400! I made a quick calculation, summing up the expenses and told Mimi: “I am not going to spend 700 bucks for a tailless cat! That’s crazy!” So we went home. Luckily, with the medicine, he was OK. However, his tail has been motionless since then.



Well, we now have a cat that cannot wiggle his tail. Our Smokey is worth at least $300. He may be stupid, but he’s gentle and “philosophically complicated”. We love him! 🙂

Just let you know so that you will think twice to have a pet in America!

Discuss topics – 1 – Same sex marriage

Here is a topic suggested by anh Son – “Should we legalize same-sex marriage ?”

Originally I posted this under the “Writing practice” section, but I figure out I shouldn’t. We may better have a new category “Discuss topics” for all of our free style discussing 🙂

Enjoy this interesting topic 😉