Thu Tu Koelling's Blog | Page 2

Dream Merger: A Silicon Valley Engagement

During our trip to his hometown during the July 4th weekend, my boyfriend, Troy, proposed to me. I was so shocked and speechless that I only managed to come up with a one word reply: yes! You can read more about the proposal from his blog post, Dream Merger. I know commitment can seem to be a scary thing for a lot of people, but being engaged to Troy has truly been a wonderful and fun experience. I just wished that the wedding planning was not so daunting. Fortunately, with Troy’s help and support I am less inclined to skip the preparations and elope. :D

Being the Silicon Valley geeks that we are, one of the first decisions we made after the engagement was not the when and where of the wedding, but what domain name to get. Since we wanted to use Google Apps to help us with our planning and organizing, we needed a domain name to associate with our accounts. After much discussion, we chose Because the companies we each work at have been considered a dream merger by bloggers, we often joked about how our dating was like a corporate merger. When we got engaged, Troy’s dad described us as a marriage made in Silicon Valley heaven.

I do not know right now the when and where of the wedding. I have a vague idea of when I want it, and that is dependent on the venue, which is dependent on our budget. Sometimes I want to skip all the planning and get married at city hall. However, wedding planning is a great chance for us to work as a team to collaborate, budget, compromise, and be creative and resourceful. Of course, we have fun, too, which will hopefully be reflected in the celebration so that our guests will have a great time.

Awesome WordPress Theme: Atahualpa

I just changed the theme of my blog to Atahualpa. I liked it when I first saw it because of the ability to have a rotating roster of random heading images. It’s really cool because it is so configurable that I don’t have to edit the theme files themselves.

The theme comes with some nice images. However, as a photo-phile, I wanted to use my own photos. The challenging part was finding images that I could crop to match the long proportions of the heading images. Once I figured out what I needed to do, I was able to generate more pictures without taking so much time on each photo.

Here are the steps that I have figured out. I used Picasa and Dreamweaver.

  1. In Picasa, look for landscape photos that had the most interesting elements in the horizontal axis.
  2. Select the desired image, File > Save a Copy
  3. Edit the copy, which will have the same filename with -1 appended (skip steps 2 & 3 if you don’t care about saving the original)
  4. Click on I’m Feeling Lucky to see if it improves the look of the picture. If not, undo
  5. Click on Crop and use the Manual option to select a long rectangle that contains the desired content
  6. Click on Preview to see the dimensions of the crop area. This might take experimentation since the size of photos vary but I found that I got good results if the height is no more than twice the max height set for the header image in the theme configurations. This is dependent on the width of the original and the size to which it will be reduced, if at all.
  7. Click Apply once satisfied with the crop area.
  8. File > Export Picture to Folder
  9. Select the desired Resize setting if the original is not the right size
  10. Click Export
  11. A Windows Explorer window should open that contains the new file
  12. In the local copy of the blog, copy or move the file to the folder: wp-content\themes\atahualpa\images\header
  13. In Dreamweaver, select the new file and upload

I hope that helps. It seems complicated with so many steps but after a while it gets easy to do.

Installed Google Friend Connect WordPress Plugin

Google just made the Google Friend Connect API available to developers. What made this interesting was that it would make it easier for site admins/developers to integrate Friend Connect into existing login systems. As a WordPress user, I was excited to see that there was a plugin for my blogging platform of choice. An added bonus was that I knew some of the people involved in the development of the plugin. :)

I wrote that first paragraph with the understanding that readers would know what Friend Connect was and what it was for. However, it is not that widely in use so I can’t expect people to know what it is.

Google Friend Connect provides a simple means of one-click user authentication using a pre-existing Google, Yahoo, AIM, or OpenID account. This means that a user doesn’t need to create a new account for every site that he comes across.

After installing the plugin to enable Friend Connect authentication on my blog, I tried out the Friend Connect sign-in process while I was logged out to see what it would look like to non-admin visitors. I had a few moments of panic after seeing that logging into the Friend Connect system also logged me into my blog. The scary part about that was that I saw a link that said Site Admin, which only I as admin should see. It turned out that I was only logged in as a Subscriber, and the Site Admin showed the dashboard, but only as much as subscribers can see. Basically, regular visitors were not getting admin access. It was a false alarm. I was able to confirm by checking the list of Users and saw my Friend Connect user identity was appropriately marked as Subscriber.

That’s the other cool thing about this plugin; it is able to add users to a website’s database. A couple of weeks ago, I was working on a Friend Connect login solution for Coppermine Photo Gallery but got stuck due to CPG needing database access to the application’s users. If I or any CPG developer can work with the GFC API, we could enable visitors to login with their Friend Connect credentials, and have those accounts create new users in the gallery’s user table in the database.

Feel free to try it out here by logging into Friend Connect to leave a comment. Of course, comments are still open to visitors who are not logged in, but when logged in, you won’t have to enter the usual blog comment form fields.

If you installed the plugin for your site and noticed that the blog looked different in places you did not want it to look different, it is due to some css definitions that the plugin has.  You will need to delete or comment out the unwanted css definitions in fc_plugin.php

Epilation Experience

I have become a fan of epilating. I avoided it for years because I was afraid of the potential pain. However, when I researched it last month, it seemed the technology has improved a lot to minimize pain. I was sold on the Braun 5270 Silk-épil X’elle Body System Epilator due to the reviews that reassured me that it was not going to be a horrible experience.

In my research, I found lots of tips to help prevent too much pain. I’ve put them together for my own setup. I now look forward to my weekly epilation sessions.

Preparation Tips

  • before the very first session, shave 1 to 3 days beforehand so that the hair is not too long and yet have something for the epilator tweezers to hold on to
  • exfoliate to avoid seeing micro bits of dry skin flying
  • take a hot/warm shower/bath to help open the pores
  • per instructions, dry legs and do not apply cream/moisturizer


The Braun 5270 comes with a beginner head. It would be a good idea to try using that for the first time. It massages the skin to help distract from the tweezing feeling. Sometimes, it even tickled but it was not uncomfortable. The scariest part of the process was the loud noise. Unfortunately, it meant that it was too loud to have the television on in the background. I played some music to help me relax.

Move the epilator slowly over the legs, going against the direction of hair growth. If you have experience tweezing eyebrows, you would likely know the trick to reducing or preventing pain is to stretch the skin around the hair follicle. This worked while epilating, too.

During the first session, I was able to move on to the advanced epilator head. That’s how practically painfree it ended up being. The results passed the smoothness test where I rubbed my legs together. It never felt that good when I shaved with a razor.

When done, moisturize. Use the included brush to clean the epilator head.

Electric Razor

The Silk-épil came with an electric razer head. It was useful for hair that I was too afraid to try to epilate. The results were better than using a regular razer because I did not get itchy bumps.


Epilating took longer than shaving, but it was more comfortable sitting in the living room instead of standing in a wet bathtub. What I really like about epilating is that it gave me smooth results that would last between weekly sessions. Because I could do it on a more convenient schedule in a more comfortable setting, I now have hairless legs even during the winter when most days I would wear jeans or pants. Then I can wear dresses/skirts without having to plan ahead.

Something to note is that I have fine hair. This could contribute to the lack of pain for me. It is possible that people who have thicker hair might experience more pain, but I do not know. Just a heads-up so readers do not go after me if they do not have as great an experience.

25 Things About Me

There’s a Facebook equivalent of a chain letter making the rounds, where people are asked to write 25 things and then tag 25 friends who are asked to repeat the process. As a personal policy I do not pass on things that require me to “pass it on” to X people. However, I enjoyed reading and learning 25 things about my friends so I thought it’s only fair to share 25 things about me, too. Plus, it’s another post to add to my lacking-in-frequent-updates blog.

  1. I trained my cats to: sit, sit up, shake, high-five, gimme-five, gimme-ten, stand, say hello, say goodbye, wave, salute (my boyfriend helped with the last two)
  2. My first home in America was in Colorado
  3. I won two spelling bees in elementary school
  4. I got to attend my dream university and was accepted via early action admission
  5. I’m working at my dream company and had to apply at least two times
  6. One of my first memories is of Las Vegas lights at night
  7. I have a multinational family: I was born in Vietnam; my sister in Hong Kong (then under British rule); my brother in America
  8. I need to have music when I’m driving or working out
  9. I prefer donating money to animal causes because they get euthanized if there aren’t enough resources, and humans domesticated them for our needs/wants so we owe them
  10. I generally have a very strong aversion toward cheesy chick flicks but once in a while reassure my boyfriend that I’m feminine enough to like a good girly movie
  11. I’m a democrat but want the republicans to keep the hardcore liberals in check
  12. I am proud to be a blood donor and cried when I was turned down when my blood iron level was too low one time
  13. I prefer beautiful weather over seasons
  14. I fell out of the raft in the rapids and survived to tell about it, with photographic evidence
  15. I like taking photos
  16. I like helping other people share their photos by volunteering for Coppermine Photo Gallery
  17. Superman is my favorite hero
  18. I’ve been a cradle robber a few times but not on purpose
  19. I find negative people to be emotionally and mentally draining
  20. I didn’t like roller coasters until I was peer pressured into riding one in junior high
  21. I have not and will not do drugs but think people should be able to use them if they want
  22. I love gadgets and I like to name them
  23. Three of my favorite sounds are: the happy purr of a cat, the uncontrollable giggle of a young child, and the loving heartbeat of my boyfriend
  24. I started college as a fuzzy (non techy) but ended up loving the natural and computer sciences thanks to awesome professors
  25. I feel extremely fortunate and thankful for the people, cats, and comforts that I have in my life
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