tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:/posts Tuyen's Blog 2016-08-29T07:01:45Z Tuyen Vo tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1084099 2016-08-26T09:31:20Z 2016-08-29T07:01:45Z Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

We've actually been back in the US for a couple of weeks but I've been too busy to keep up my posts. This one required some time to sit down and digest as it was one of the big highlights of the trip. I've been a fan of Japanese whiskey for a few years now and one of my favorites is Suntory's Yamazaki line. We were fortunate that the Yamazaki distillery was only a short ride from Kyoto so I made the trip solo (no kids allowed, unfortunately). Located near the historic town of Ōyamazaki, the distillery is nestled in a beautiful mountainside landscape. The scenery here alone is worth the visit - as picturesque as any of the parks and gardens we've seen in Japan.

Before I headed to the guided tour, I spent some time touring the Suntory museum. Amazing to see the old labels from the early years. Most impressive was the long lighted gallery of labeled whiskey bottles from many different decades.

As we began the guided tour, what you experience the most are the smells. There was an intense smell of wood and alcohol in the air. Along with the heat and humidity, it's what I imagine the inside of a whiskey barrel feels like. Our tour guide took us through the entire whiskey production process and was super helpful. My only regret was not knowing any Japanese as I'm sure the pre-recorded tour notes did no justice to her animated narration.

You exit the barrel storeroom into a serene and almost magical outdoor landscape. No words to describe this.

We headed back to the museum and entered the first tasting room. Here we learned about how distillers taste whiskey and was given a quick lesson on how to make the perfect whiskey highball.

The final stop for me was to the paid tasting room and then to the whiskey shop. Here, you can taste some of the finest bottles that Suntory has available. Some bottles were only available for tasting at the distillery and are no longer sold at retail. Without a doubt, I had the best whiskey I have ever had - The 17 Year Mizunura. A mixture of smoke, caramel, fruit - in the perfect blend. The bad news, it's no longer for sale and going for over $2K on the secondary market. Still, I was able to buy some bottles only available for sale there. For anyone who is a whiskey fan, make the trip out. You'll have a blast like this guy.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1081088 2016-08-14T14:03:24Z 2016-08-14T14:03:25Z Fushimi Inari Taisha and a coffee oasis
We visited the famous and beautiful golden gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha. Many gates, many shrines, many people!


 It was an unbelievably hot day and when we began to make our way back down, we happen upon this small cafe, Vermillion. Aside from the much needed air conditioning, it served some amazing coffee. I even bought a bag of a special blend of beans they mixed right on the spot for me.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1081084 2016-08-14T13:35:46Z 2016-08-14T13:41:26Z Komeda Coffee and CoCo Curry
Chain restaurants in Japan are a step above their US counterparts. Komeda Coffee is similar to Denny's but with a more limited but higher quality menu. They have "morning service" sets which you get for free when you buy a coffee or other drink. It's a big thick piece of perfectly toasted bread with either some egg salad, a hard boiled egg, or red bean spread. The highlight for me though is the fluffy and light egg salad sandwiches on the same perfect toast.


We also stopped by CoCo Curry. Better than anything I've had in the States. Comes with side dishes like okra with mountain yam and fried garlic. I even got a beef and onion croquette which was excellent.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1081082 2016-08-14T13:17:51Z 2016-08-14T13:17:52Z Kyoto at Night
After dinner we walked through the streets of Kyoto and made our way to the Kamo River. 


There was a summer festival along the river and it was lit up. We even got some dango (dumplings on a stick) which were sticky and yummy.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1081081 2016-08-14T13:12:34Z 2016-08-14T13:12:34Z Izakaya #1 in Kyoto

We were lucky to have friends in Kyoto to take us around. Our first meal in Kyoto was at a small family run izakaya. This place fit my exact image of a true izakaya - small, intimate, amazing food/drink. Some highlights were large sea snail and probably the best piece of roasted chicken I've ever had. Our friend remarked that it was "ji tori" or craft chicken. Think craft beer versus regular big brand beer. Out of this world!

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1079812 2016-08-08T23:42:07Z 2016-08-08T23:42:07Z Off to Kyoto!

We took the bullet train to Kyoto. Went to a bento emporium in Tokyo Station called Ekibenya Matsuri. Had probably 50 different types to choose from. They even had one with a pull tab that heats up your food!

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1079618 2016-08-08T10:07:52Z 2016-08-09T04:45:04Z Department Store Eating
Our last meals in Tokyo were at the shopping malls. First I went to a 3rd wave coffee shop called "Be A Good Neighbor" which was in the Tokyo Skytree mall. Quite good and on par with shops like Blue Bottle.


We then hit the food court and had awesome udon. You get a base bowl of noodles and broth which you then can load up with toppings. This particular bowl had a tempura soft boiled egg and chicken karaage on the side. Our other bowl came with an onion and little shrimp tempura basket.


For dinner we had hand made soba at one of the finer malls in Ginza. Was quite a contrast to tenzaru soba in the US. The icing on the cake was a pot of soba water which you poured into your dipping sauce after you're done eating and drink like a savory tea.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1079393 2016-08-07T14:54:20Z 2016-08-08T10:08:38Z Sensō-ji in Asakusa
Went to see the big red lantern at the Kaminarimon leading to the Sensō-ji. Of course it was packed and high noon so the heat level was off the charts. Luckily we had shaved ice to cool us off. Last shot is of the Tokyo Skytree in the distance. We ended up there afterwards.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1079333 2016-08-07T07:49:03Z 2016-08-07T09:19:28Z Ghibli Museum and Izakaya

We stopped by the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka outside of Tokyo. It's an awesome spot for fans of their movies. Unfortunately no photos allowed inside. In their cafe they even have their own beer!

Afterwards we hit an izakaya in Tokyo. Very big city feel to it so not an intimate place (it was huge with tons of corridors and private rooms) but still authentic. Lots of salary men and office ladies drinking, eating and smoking.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1079331 2016-08-07T07:14:20Z 2016-08-07T07:14:20Z Ippudo Ramen

Ate at Ippudo Ramen in Tokyo. Chain restaurant but that's not a bad thing. Good broth and perfect soft boiled egg. Plus you can get extra noodles after you finish your first batch!

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1079292 2016-08-07T01:40:48Z 2016-08-07T14:35:29Z Shibuya
We hit Shibuya to see the famous crossing and to see Hachiko. Not quite as impressive as other shots of the crossing I've seen but still cool to experience.


And here's a video of the crossing from Starbucks.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1079290 2016-08-07T01:23:40Z 2016-08-07T01:23:41Z Tokyo Train Station, Kiddy Land, and Maisen for Tonkatsu
We're actually in Kyoto now but I've been late with my posts. Here's an external shot of the Tokyo main train station. Beautiful architecture.


We then headed over to Shibuya/Harajuku to hit Kiddy Land, a 4 story toy building. No Pokémon Go here!


We ended the evening at Maisen, a famous Tonkatsu restaurant. Had Kurobuta (black pig) tonkatsu. A level above anything I've had in the States. Huge portions and the sauce was delicious and free flowing. Will be tough to have tonk in the future without comparing it to this.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1078634 2016-08-04T00:29:33Z 2016-08-29T06:59:02Z Sushi at Tsukiji
Tsukiji has many sushi spots. Some have waits of up to 4-5 hours so our tour guide pointed us to this one which was more hidden and away from the main bustle of the outer market. Was super old school but the staff was very warm and accommodating after our guide made a warm intro for us.

Ordered omakase and a few extras after. Everything came out quickly and was of very high quality. No fancy presentations or ingredients. Just rice, fish, and wasabi.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1078626 2016-08-03T23:56:11Z 2016-08-03T23:56:11Z Tsukiji Fish Market Tour
We took a tour of the Tsukiji Fish Market today. Was taken around by our tour guide, The Tsukiji King. Very informative tour and very easy going guide.


Saw a bunch of stuff for sale. Not as well known is that Tsukiji sells a bunch of non-seafood items like fruits and veggies.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1078349 2016-08-02T23:02:36Z 2016-08-02T23:02:36Z Hell yeah I used it

In our hotel room.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1078347 2016-08-02T22:46:00Z 2016-08-02T22:46:01Z Japanese hotel breakfast

We're staying at a budget hotel but you wouldn't know it by the breakfast buffet. Great selection including curry rice, salt grilled mackerel, and little clam miso soup. Service is impeccable. Wanted to eat more but we are on the way to Tsukiji Market for a guided tour and sushi lunch.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1078079 2016-08-02T06:01:01Z 2016-08-02T06:01:02Z Typhoon meal
We're stuck at the airport because of Typhoon Nida. At least food here is good. Getting a preview of what we'll be getting in Japan.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1077797 2016-08-01T07:01:37Z 2016-08-01T07:01:38Z Noodle soup in HK

On Tak Shing Street in Kowloon. Don't even know the name but it's really good. Beef ball and fish ball/cake noodle soup. Two bowls for less than $9.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1077692 2016-07-31T20:05:01Z 2016-07-31T20:05:01Z xialongbao at Din Tai Fung
Can you give 1 Michelin Star to a dim sum place? If you can, this would be the place. And of course, xialongbao is the speciality and they do not disappoint. Other dishes were also excellent. Service impeccable. Love the "peach" bao at the end stuffed with red bean paste.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1077479 2016-07-30T15:29:39Z 2016-07-30T15:32:36Z First meal in Hong Kong
We're staying at the Novotel Hotel on Nathan Road in Kowloon. Grabbed a quick bite at Nathan Congee and Noodle conveniently located across the street. Small joint, no nonsense. Free donuts! Hit the spot after a long flight.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1077309 2016-07-29T20:24:57Z 2016-07-29T20:24:57Z About to board our flight to Hong Kong

Beginning of trip family selfie. Next stop, Hong Kong!

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/1077087 2016-07-29T04:58:30Z 2016-07-29T04:58:30Z Back to posting!

Checking out the post by email feature on Posthaven. Will be posting new stuff shortly!

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/584595 2013-06-17T18:28:00Z 2013-10-08T17:26:31Z Forget RAM, CPU, etc. The most cost effective way to speed up your Mac is with an SSD

Someone asked me the other day about upgrading to a new laptop.  Specifically they wanted to grab a new MacBook Pro (non-retina) to upgrade from their 2011 MacBook Pro which seemed to be getting slower for them.  Applications loaded slower, startup seemed to take forever, etc.  As I am a current user of a 2011 MacBook Pro, I was a little confused as to what they meant by slower since my machine is still very snappy for a 2 year old machine.  When I showed them what I meant by cold booting my machine from off to login screen in less than 15 seconds, they were floored.  Even when their machine was brand new, it never booted that quickly.  Opening up applications was even faster.  The difference between our machines?  I have an SSD and they have the stock 5400RPM hard drive.  My recommendation to them was to keep their still pristine looking laptop and simply swap out the hard drive for an SSD.  The one I run in my MacBook is a Crucial M4 512GB.  They're relatively cheap - Amazon has this particular model for less than $400 - and it truly is like upgrading to a brand new MacBook.  It's no wonder Apple is starting to move all of their products over to SSD. 

The great thing about the non-retina MacBooks is that it's still relatively easy to do upgrades yourself.  Check out the tutorial from the iFixIt guys.  Remember to back up all of your data before doing any hard drive swap out.  To me, CPU and RAM upgrades haven't provided nearly the same punch as going from a standard hard drive to SSD.  Once you've experienced it, you'll never go back and you can keep that old trusty laptop even longer before needing to upgrade.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/584159 2013-06-14T19:31:10Z 2013-10-08T17:26:26Z Jumping into Ruby

Still not 100% confident in my HTML/CSS/Javascript skills but had an opportunity come up for me to jump into Ruby.  So far I'm picking up the very very very basics of it and so far so good.  Struggled forever trying to toggle between integers, floats and strings and getting my puts to work.  But had that a-ha moment last night when it clicked.  Methods was actually very easy to pick up.  Some of the higher math functions seem oddly configured but that's a minor issue.  Now working on flow control.

For those looking for a very good beginner's tutorial, check out Chris Pine's Learn to Program.  Of course, there's always Codecademy and LearnStreet as additional resources.  What I've found though is that reading Chris' tutorial and actually doing the coding in a "real world" environment with an actual text editor and Terminal forces me to do things with less training wheels.  There are times when things don't work no matter how many times I rewrite them but once they finally do work, that amazing a-ha moment is immensely greater than doing things in a more hand holding fashion.  I also find that when I'm not fed the answer and have to actually hunt and figure it out myself that it sticks with me more.  The journey of discovery is much more important than the destination.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/580164 2013-05-21T05:47:03Z 2013-10-08T17:25:36Z 8 days in ... a nice brush up on HTML basics

So eight days into my code education and I've brushed up on the basics of HTML.  As someone who mainly used GUI's to create HTML pages, I'm pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to hand code HTML.  On to the next lesson!

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/578829 2013-05-13T17:27:43Z 2013-10-08T17:25:20Z Teaching myself to code

I am by training, a product person. I've spent the last 10+ years of my life conceiving of concepts and corralling enough cats to get a product from idea to reality. The one bottle-neck I always seem to encounter is that beyond rudimentary HTML/CSS (and Apple IIe BASIC), I can't code. It hasn't stopped me from getting products built but it seems to be the biggest lag as it relates to getting things out of my head and into production. I'll have an idea or a new feature for an existing one and then spend a fair amont of time conveying that to other people to get them to make it all work. It's in that conveying that most of the lag exists. As a problem solver, something needs to change.

Today I walk a path I should have taken 10 years ago when I was younger, had more energy and less responsibilities. I am teaching myself how to code. I don't expect any short cuts and probably won't produce anything worth diddly anytime soon. I'll lean on friends and colleagues who are actual real coders and hope I don't annoy them too much with my questions. One benefit of learning to code today is the wealth of resources out there from online books to tutorial websites like Codeacademy, Learnstreet, etc. Most of my time will be spent pouring over these but I've already started writing actual code. Mind, you it's stuff similar to this:

10 Print "Hello"
20 Goto 10

But hey we all have to start somewhere. I'm starting at the bottom and seeing how far I can get.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/417104 2013-04-18T18:17:01Z 2013-10-08T16:51:36Z Seriously Apple. Time to step up your game with your default apps. Yahoo! Weather iOS app is gorgeous.

Just saw the below demo and immediately downloaded the app.  The really stupid part is that I believe Apple pulls its data from Yahoo! Weather.  Just another example of Apple really dropping the ball as it relates to the default (UNDELETE-ABLE) apps they have on the iPhone.


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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/411174 2013-04-17T20:43:07Z 2013-10-08T16:50:20Z SendHub.com - What Google Voice could/should have been

I've been using Sendhub for a few days now and love it.  Best integration to date I've seen of a hosted phone service.  I am a Google Voice user and it's not bad but Sendhub is a major improvement.  The iOS app actually functions closer to what making calls is like on the native iOS Phone app.  Pricing seems decent though would love a tier in between the $25 and $50 level.  I could see this being something I implement for employees moving forward who BYOD.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/342206 2013-04-06T00:01:39Z 2013-10-08T16:34:48Z Zito pitches a gem

Are we seeing the 2002 Barry Zito?  It's hard to believe that he hasn't lost since August 2nd of last year!  Kudos to him for finally living up to that huge contract.  Ironically Zito's $18M a year average on his contract makes him only the 9th highest paid pitcher in 2012 (and likely to fall in 2013 when new contracts are announced).  Of course he stunk from 2007 to 2011 as one the highest paid pitchers in the league but it never seemed to be for lack of trying.  My hope is that he rewards the Giants faithful by resigning with them for a discount next year.  But then again, baseball is business and he's getting hot just in time for contract renegotiations.

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Tuyen Vo
tag:www.tuyennhatvo.com,2013:Post/301225 2013-04-01T19:23:28Z 2013-10-08T16:26:00Z Vietnam schools teaching kids skills for the future

This is a must read.  It's pretty sad that it takes a foreigner to teach me new things about my motherland.  Neil Fraser is an engineer at Google who made a recent trip to Vietnam and found that Computer Science is being taught at all levels.  What surprised me even more was that he said some of the school work they are doing would allow half of the 11th graders to pass the Google interview process.  That's worth repeating ... 11TH GRADERS PASSING THE GOOGLE INTERVIEW PROCESS.  How many 11th graders in the US could say the same?  We need to wake up to the fact that the world is passing us by in terms of educating the next generation.  I for one shall be enrolling my daughter for computer camp as soon as I can.

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Tuyen Vo