Saturday, November 26, 2016

Review Recap For November 21-27, 2016

I have spent the last week jetlagged following the trip home for Nana's funeral.

The actual trip went smoothly. I have managed to get the work done that I needed to do this week in spite of a few sleepy moment between classes.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at Master Cup, a local restaurant owned by Americans, which provided a traditional meal of Turkey and the standard fixins. They did a nice job with it. I also had a school Thanksgiving/Teachers Day party tonight, featuring a nice selection of Vietnamese appetizers. Earlier today I took the Kiddo to see Moana, which was excellent.

I have been working on Nanowrimo and doing some reading, but haven't had much chance to write reviews. Just one new one this week:

On Comic A Day

Jessica Jones #1: I did manage to stop in to Newbury Comics in Braintree MA during my trip home, and I bought five recent releases. This Marvel Comics book is the first of those that I've had a chance to read and review.

Also This Week

My Nanowrimo wordcount stands at a bit over 36,000 words. That means 14k to go in the next few days. It's going to take a push, but it's doable. Synopsis and excerpt are here.


Our plans for Christmas break are still up in the air. Thailand and Cambodia are the main destinations being considered. We've put Laos back on the list of possible places to visit for Tet break in January/February, but we're not sure if we can swing it money-wise. We have (very tentative) plans for Hanoi/Sapa/Ha Long Bay on our spring break. And we are job-searching for next school year. Right now most of our leads are in China.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Review Recap for November 13-20, 2016

I'm writing this from Hingham MA, USA.

My Grandmother, Bella Silva, passed away earlier this week at the age of 92, and I was fortunate enough to be able to get the time off to travel home to celebrate her life with family. I'm flying back to Vietnam tomorrow.

This was a whirlwind trip, but I did get a chance  to connect with some friends in addition to attending the services and spending time with family. It's nice to come home, even if in circumstances that are not so happy.

With the sudden change in my schedule for the week, I haven't had much chance to do my reviews, although I did finish a book on the flight.

Here are my reviews since last check-in:

On Goodreads

Last Night A Superhero Saved My Life: Edited by Liese Mignogn, this collection of essays brings together writers from the worlds of comics and prose fiction to discuss the influence and mythology of superheroes on their lives.

On Comic A Day

The Chronicles of the Tal Nor Volume 1: A fantasy comic that I backed on Kickstarter.

Also This Week

I'm behind on Nanowrimo, but still hanging in there with 23,706 words right now. My novel now has summary and excerpt posted. Check it out here.

I'm supporting two causes this week. First is Playa Animal Rescue of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, which my Dad is involved in, and which is accepting donations in my Grandmother's memory.

The address for donations is

Playa Animal Rescue
20 Copperfield Ave.
North Easton MA 02356

I'm also helping out with a toy drive my cousin is organizing for

Here are the details from my cousin:

Please think about donating a toy (or gift card) to the kids that are staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore this holiday season. We are consistently the largest Christmas donation to this location (the ONLY RMcD house in Maryland!) and the staff looks forward to it every year.

This year you can send your gifts UNWRAPPED as my elves are all old enough to help me. :) Please send these gifts **by Dec 10th**. If you are sending a wrapped gift, you have until December 16th. Have it labeled "boy" or "girl" and age. Please forward this to anyone looking to help make sick kids and their families smile during Christmas!

drop off/mail to:
The Weeda's
10301 Armory Ave Kensington MD 20895

Locals-there will also be a toy box at 
Faith Preschool- 
6810 Montrose Rd, Rockville 
Wheaton Ice Rink
11717 Orebaugh Ave, Wheaton, MD 20902


Flying back to Vietnam tomorrow. Tentative plans for Cambodia and/or Thailand on winter break. Plans for next school year are also beginning to come together.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Review Recap For November 6-12, 2016

This has been a busy week, with Nanowrimo in full swing, plus normal day job work, and now, the beginnings of a job search.

I did not sign a renewal of my contract, so I'm looking for a new position for the 2017-2018 school year. We're open to going just about anywhere on Earth, so it will be interesting to see where our next adventure takes us. As part of the process, the tentative trip to Bangkok during Winter Break will include an international schools job fair.

With everything going on this week, I did manage to write a few reviews.

On Goodreads

Prison Diary by Ho Chi Minh: This book of poetry was written by the Vietnamese leader when he was imprisoned in China in 1942. This edition contains the poems in three languages: Chinese (they were originally written in Chinese), Vietnamese, and English. This book was #47 in my goal of reading 50 books in 2016. Only 3 to go!

The Warrior Queens by Elka Ray: I usually don't do reviews of picture book I read aloud to the Kiddo. I keep track of them on a separate list on Goodreads and give them a rating, but not a written review. But I though this retelling of a Vietnamese legend by Elka Ray was interesting enough to warrant a short review.

On Comic A Day

Wolverine: Origins of an X-Man #1: Free Comic Book Day 2009: This is an all-ages Wolverine story by Marvel Comics, given out as a freebie for 2009's Free Comic Book Day.

On Tripadvisor

Balconitel Boutique Hotel: Where we stayed for the school trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Also This Week

In light of the US election, I am supporting the American Civil Liberties Union with a donation this week.

Nanowrimo wordcount stands at 13,182. My novel is called The Lady of Three Faces. It's a middle-grade steampunk fantasy. No synopsis or excerpt yet, but I should have them up on the novel page soon.


Plans are still up in the air for trips to Bangkok, Thailand, and Kep, Cambodia, during Winter Break.

Hoping to have a blog entry up for the school trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, soon.

Monday, November 7, 2016

On the Road: Singapore, October 2016

The trip to Singapore came about due to a medical consultation I had, following up on the injury I suffered when I crashed my motorbike last November. My doctor in Saigon had recommended I consult with an orthopedic surgeon in Singapore about possible reconstructive surgery on my shoulder.

Since I'd be traveling all the way there for just a short consultation, we decided to make a family vacation out of it and scheduled it for my school's Fall Break.

This would be our first time in Singapore. The flight was inexpensive from Ho Chi Minh City, but Singapore's hotels tend to be pricier than in some of the other cities we've traveled to in Southeast Asia. We settled on a place that was advertised as "no frills" with a hostel vibe called The Hangout @ Mt. Emily, on the edge of Singapore's Little India neighborhood. The hotel proved to be a good choice (my review is here).

We flew Tigerair, which is also no-frills, flying out on a Sunday morning, and traveling light with no checked baggage. We had an early breakfast at home, and then had sandwiches at Subway at Changi International Airport in Singapore after getting through immigration and customs.

Before heading out of the airport, we bought attraction tickets from a tourism booth at the airport, and also purchased three-day unlimited tourist subway/bus passes at the airport subway stations. Singapore has a lot of popular family attractions, including what is generally considered one of the best zoos in Asia, and a Universal Studios theme park. The Singapore Zoo is actually a complex consisting of three separate attractions, and we ended up getting tickets to two of them: the Night Safari and the River Safari.

We found the subway to be very user-friendly, not to mention clean and well maintained (which can basically be said for the whole city). Signs and videos on the trains warn of severe fines (and caning!) for breaking the rules, which include bans on eating, drinking, smoking, and durians!

After checking in to our hotel, we headed into Little India for dinner. The streets were lit with festive colors for Deepavali, and there were crowds of people celebrating the Indian festival. We had some delicious dosa at Aravind's Curry (review here), before heading to the subway and making our way to Singapore's waterfront and Gardens by the Bay.

Gardens by the Bay, a relatively new Singapore attraction is a massive park, located near the iconic Marina Bay Sands complex. They have a nightly lightshow at the Supertree Grove, which was a pretty amazing spectacle (and free!). We were so impressed with the Gardens by the Bay that we decided to return and check it out in broad daylight the next morning.

After a lovely morning in Gardens by the Bay, we went back to Little India to eat at one of Singapore's famous hawker centers. Basically a hawker center is a food court made up of what would probably be street food vendors in other cities.

Here are a few photos of hawker centers and hawker foods that we tried during the trip.

The hawker food is delicious, inexpensive, and comes in seemingly endless variety. A visitor to Singapore could be quite satisfied with nothing but hawker center food for their whole trip (although there are certainly plenty of traditional restaurants throughout the city).

That afternoon, I had my appointment, which I headed to alone. It also gave me the chance to check out Orchard Road, Singapore's high-end shopping district, which was fun to look around in, even if it was pretty much out of my price range. I did find the excellent Kinokuniya bookstore in one of the malls, and bought some locally published books for myself and did a bit of Christmas shopping.

The appointment went well (short version of the story: I'm not doing the surgery), but we had a bit of a communication mixup that evening, and we missed our plans to head to the Night Safari. Fortunately, the tickets I bought were not date-specific.

Our third day in Singapore began with a walking food tour of Singapore's Chinatown. Since moving overseas, we've gone on several food tours (in Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An Vietnam, Shanghai, and now Singapore), and every one has been awesome. This is a great way to see things you might have otherwise missed, and more importantly, to taste things you might have missed. In Singapore, we went with Betel Box Tours (my review), which proved to be excellent.

In addition to three stops for food, the tour took us inside the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and then up to a highrise apartment tower to get a view of Chinatown from above.

When the tour finished, we made our way by subway and bus to the Singapore Zoo for the River Safari. The River Safari is a combination of zoo and aquarium focused on the world's river ecosystems. The Kiddo enjoyed this up-close-and-personal encounter with an Indian Gharial!

River Safari is also the home of the Singapore Zoo's two giant pandas.

This was a long day, and we finished up with a good meal at a Chinese restaurant, before heading back to the hotel.

On our last full day in Singapore, we still had the Night Safari tickets to use that evening. We spent the morning at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, where we encountered a good-sized monitor lizard, and did a bit of birdwatching.

Then came the Night Safari, which was a really fascinating attraction: The world's only nighttime zoo consisting entirely of nocturnal animals.

We saw the Night Safari's fire show, followed by their Creatures of the Night show, then took a tram ride to see a variety of animals, stopping for more animal encounters in a series of walking trails.

My review of the Night Safari is here.

This was a fun ending to our visit to Singapore. Singapore is a very impressive, high-tech, well-organized city with lots to see and do. We felt like we barely scratched the surface, and we hope to head back there sometime in the near future.

For full sets of photos, see my Flickr albums. For my "best of" photos from by travels, add @dandelionstudios on Instagram. See you on the Road!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Review Recap For October 23-November 5, 2016

Two week recap this time around, on account of the school trip to Cambodia last weekend, and subsequent scramble to catch up on day-job work and other things.

The trip to the Model United Nations conference in Cambodia went smoothly. We didn't get time for sightseeing in Phnom Penh this time around, but the students all did well at the conference and had a good time.

Immediately following the trip was Halloween on Monday, with myself and the Kiddo sporting our Minecraft costumes one more time for school festivities followed by trick-or-treating organized by some of the teachers at one of the apartment complexes in District 7.

And immediately following Halloween was the start of Nanowrimo. I'm over 6000 words in on day 5, which is a little bit behind if I don't end up writing tonight, but I'm hoping to get in some wordcount before I head to bed.

Through all of that, I've gotten some reviews posted.

On Goodreads

Bangkok 8 by John Burdett: A crime novel set in Bangkok. This is the first in a series featuring Thai Royal Police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep. I read the second book in this series, Bangkok Tatoo, before this one (review of that book is here), and liked it enough to go back and start the series from the beginning.

Finding George Orwell in Burma: Emma Larkin's book mixes travel, politics, and `literature as she retraces the travels of George Orwell, who served in colonial Burma in the 1920s. Larkin connects the politics of modern Myanmar with Orwell's 1984.

On Comic A Day

Bullet For My Valentine: Scream Aim Fire: The Comics: Comic interpretation of music by the hard rock band Bullet For My Valentine. This was a Record Store Day promo.

Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #729: Reprints of classic Disney comics published in foreign magazines.

Rhino Ranger, First Edition: Published by Wild Rhino, this educational comic aimed at a young Vietnamese audience tackles the issue of rhino poaching and the black market for rhino products.

On Tripadvisor

The Real Singapore Tours: Our food tour in Singapore's Chinatown.

The Hangout @ Mt. Emily: The hotel we stayed at in Singapore.

Night Safari: The Singapore's Zoo's nighttime-only park dedicated entirely to nocturnal animals.

Aravind's Curry: A restaurant we ate at in Singapore's Little India.

Also This Week

I'm supporting Author Angelia Sparrow, who is having a special sale on her books and stories to raise money for needed car repairs.

Photos from the Cosplay Festival in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, are posted here.

Photos from last weekend's school trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, are posted here.


Nanowrimo all this month. The page for my novel, The Lady of Three Faces, is here (no synopsis or excerpt yet, but I'll get to them; too busy writing right now!). Feel free to add me as a writing buddy!

Traveling to Kep, Cambodia, and Bangkok Thailand in late December/early January. Still tentative, but looking likely. Hope to have it booked in the next few weeks.