Over the years, I’ve noticed three things about books about Vietnamese culture:
They are all written by foreigners. A guidebook to a country written by a foreigner is like a cookbook written by someone who has only had experience in looking at the food. There needs to be a book about Vietnamese culture written by a real Vietnamese.
They all start with the war. Come on, the war ended 4 decades ago! There are so many more cool things in Vietnam.
They all read like textbooks at best and phonebooks at worst. I believe that books should be not only informative but also entertaining.
I’ve spent the last two years interviewing many people: foreigners who have traveled in Vietnam, foreigners who have lived in Vietnam, foreigners who have never been to Vietnam, Vietnamese who have lived overseas, Vietnamese who have never been outside the country, etc. I’ve combined their opinion into a book called “How to not get your ass kicked in Vietnam: The native’s guide”. But I still need more input to make the book as comprehensive as possible. So please help me through this short survey:
A couple of weeks ago, a Boston-based startup called Knowmail approached me, asking me to write about Artificial Intelligence for them. Somebody wants to pay me to write about AI? Man, I would pay people to listen to me rant about AI. The company pretty much gives me free range to write about whatever I want. For the first post, I wrote about what I would want to see in the next generation of dating. I know that if this app was available, I would use it. The original article can be found here.
Imagine you are on the subway and your phone tells you: “At 2 o’clock is a girl you’d find very attractive — a 9, in fact, and she may consider you above average. According to your expressed interests, she has 90% chance of being the one.”
You turn towards 2 o’clock. At the same time, the girl’s phone notifies her with a similar message. She looks up. Your eyes meet. You both smile. Sparks flow like electricity through the sweat-dampened air. Your phone asks whether you would like to share your contact information with her, and you say yes. It’s a match! You have just met the love of your life on the subway with the help of artificial intelligence.
I have just finished reading Dan Ariel’s book “Predictably Irrational” and it haunts me. The ideas he presented in the book are not new, but it was fascinating in a way that he found a way to measure things so abstract such as distrust, honesty, and the effect of horniness on our decision making. One of the things that made me think about a lot in this book is the IKEA effect.
I have just finished writing a fun culture guidebook to Vietnam. I was thinking of naming it “Vietnam for Dummies”, but I realized that I had no legal rights to use the “for dummies” trademark. I need your help to choose a new name.
I have taken two writing courses with Professor Elizabeth Tallent and during both courses, the same question came up: “Do men and women have discernible writing voices?” In another word, when you read an unidentified paragraph or two, can you guess the sex of the writer?
The first thing I learned is that blogging every day is hard. Some people live their whole life without making a point and here I am, trying to make a point every day. In the last 50 days, I have published 50 posts, but written/attempted to write more than 100 posts. For every post that appears on this blog, there is one post that doesn’t make it.
The problem with emails nowadays is that how the hell my future publisher is going to scrape together enough hand-written letters by me to put into a book when I die? Look at the collection of letters by Saul Bellow, P. G. Wodehouse, Scott Fitzgerald and you will see what I mean. Now your natural reaction would be: “Why would any publisher at all want to collect your letters? They don’t even know that you exist.” That’s technically not true. Some publishers do know that I exist. The other day I went to a publisher in San Francisco to inquire about the status of my submission. The receptionist recognized me immediately: “Not you again.”