Redoing Our Deck (Part 2)

With the help of my two older sons and their cousin, we pulled out all the deck boards and railings over the weekend. On Monday, I woke up at seven in the morning and went to Lowe’s to pick up 4×4 pressure-treated timbers and other materials to continue the project. I didn’t get to work on the deck because I had to switch to my full-time job at 9:30 am.

I was going to jump back to the deck project after work, but my wife insisted that I needed to get the permit from the county. Instead of doing physical labor, I called the county and emailed about the process. I spent time reading and gathering information. I went ahead and submitted my application and paid the fee. I also submitted the paperworks I think they needed. I hope the process will work out smoothly. I am not doing anything much really. I am just replacing the woods.

This morning at 7 am I went to Lowe’s and Home Depot to pick out more materials. I didn’t get to work on the deck as I had planned in the morning so I did some after work hours. I cut up 4×4 timbers. I am hoping to install the posts tomorrow morning. The project is so far so good. I am not in a rush, but I wanted to keep the project moving.

I debated whether I should go with wood or composite. I kept switching back and forth trying to figure out which method is simpler. Right now I am leaning toward composite. I really don’t like the idea of maintaining the wood every summer. We’ll see!

May mắn

Tuần rồi tôi có đăng lên vài tấm hình mấy đứa con lên blog. Có một đọc giả gửi thư nhắc nhở rằng tôi là một người chồng và một người cha may mắn. Đúng thế, tôi là người đàn ông rất may mắn mặc dù vợ tôi không được hiền và con tôi không được ngoan.

Đừng hiểu lầm nhé. Tôi không phải nói vợ tôi là bà chằn và đám con tôi là lũ quỷ. Tuy nhiên “vợ hiền con ngoan” thì không thực tế cho lắm. Vợ chồng sống chung mười hai năm, không thù ghét nhau là may mắn rồi. Những lời lẽ nhỏ nhẹ và ngọt ngào của thuở ban đầu giờ đã thay thế bằng những lời cộc lốc và chua chát. Những câu nói đùa giỡn của ngày nào giờ chỉ khiến đối phương giận. Tôi thấy được sự hao mòn trong đôi mắt em.

Hai tháng nay sống quây quần trong nhà với vợ con đã trở thành thói quen. May mắn được vợ luôn lo lắng cho những món ăn thường ngày và lâu lâu những món ăn tinh thần. Còn đám nhỏ thì không lúc nào không khiến tôi mệt mỏi. Có con cái mới biết quý trọng những phút giây yên tĩnh. May mắn là bọn chúng khỏe mạnh và phát triển tốt. Mỗi ngày được chứng kiến sự thay đổi của thằng Vương là một niềm vui và hạnh phúc lớn. Những lời nói những cử chỉ của nó thật đáng yêu. Thấy nó được mấy thằng anh lớn thương yêu bảo bọc tôi cũng yên tâm.

Dĩ nhiên tôi không phải người chồng lý tưởng cũng không phải người cha hoàn hảo. Tôi có những khuyết điểm của mình và cố gắng vượt qua. Dù sao đi nữa thì tôi vẫn là người rất may mắn.

Weekly Photos: Artwork by Molly Brauer

This week, I am featuring paintings by my friend Molly Brauer. Molly was my boss at George Washington University School of Business. She got out of communications and picked up painting.

If you visit this site on a large screen instead of a mobile device, you can see some of her beautiful paintings. What I like about her work is that each painting has a wonderful story behind it.

If you are interested in purchasing her artwork, you can connect with her on LinkedIn. She also posts her artworks on Facebook, but I am temporarily deactivating my account. I don’t find the use for it anymore.

Redoing Our Deck

Our deck has been neglected. In the past 12 years since we moved in, I stained it once. Needless to say, the woods have been badly deteriorated. I have been wanting to redo it every summer, but I rather spend time with the kids and go on vacation.

Now that the kids stay home and spend more time on the deck, I don’t want them to get splinters. It has come to the point where I have to do something about it. In the past couple of days, my wife and I had been discussing this project. We went from repainting to replacing, from woods to composites, and doing ourselves to hiring professionals. We looked up YouTube videos and did some research.

I wanted to get a few estimates and one of our neighbors had just completed his deck. He hired a professional company for $20,000. He informed me that the starting price is $15,000. I thanked him for sharing the information. Dropping fifteen to twenty grants for a deck is just too much for me. I don’t see it as a necessary spending, especially at the time when people struggle to pay their bills. If I could have it my way, I would rather do away with the damn deck.

After examining the structure of our deck carefully, the frame is still in good shape. I just need to replace all the boards and the railings. Although I am not a handyman and I have low confidence when it comes to home improvement, I think I can pull this off.

I went to my brother-in-law’s house to borrow a few electric saws. Then I went to Home Depot to pick up a Wrecking Claw for $50. This tool made removing boards painless. In half a day, we pulled up half of the decks already. My sons used it to help me pull up the nails. I used the saws to cut off the railings. Tomorrow we will finish up pulling out all the woods.

My calculation for the woods would be about $500. I am sure my work won’t be as nice as the professional, but I can save $14,500. Why do these companies charge so much? With the tools and the materials available from Home Depot and Lowe’s, doing it yourself seems possible if you are willing to do it. Even if I don’t want to do it myself, I have no choice, but to do it myself. I just can’t justify the cost for hiring a professional, especially for something that I don’t think necessary.

What about when people hire me to create a professional website? I don’t charge $15,000 if I could do the job for $5,000. I assume why my freelance is failing. I don’t feel good overcharging my clients. In contrast, companies do not feel bad overcharging me.

A few years ago, my sister-in-law hired a contractor to build a patio. I am not sure how she found him, but she complained that she could not find any information on his work. She advised him that he should have a website showcasing his projects then she recommended me. I came and talked to him about it. I quoted him around $2,000 for a simple website with work samples, testimonials, information about his services and his company, and of course contact information. Unfortunately, he told me he could not afford it. He charged my sister-in-law $40,000 for the job and he could not afford $2,000 for his business website? I don’t get it.

I am not sure where my ranting is heading, I just know that I am suck at doing business. I would love to be able work for myself, but I know I won’t survive. I don’t have the skills of a business-savvy person.

The Perfect Response

As the U.S. surpasses 86,000 deaths related to COVID-19, the idiot is in deep fear of losing his reelection. In desperation, he takes shots at the real president. He has been all over Barack with the none-sense Obamagate.

As much as Obama doesn’t deserve to get dragged into the mud, I enjoy seeing the idiot getting all work up on the former president. He knows damn well that he will never reach Obama’s level of intelligent, competence, and popularity. If Obama could run a third term, that idiot would never had a chance at the presidency.

Obama understands that the idiot has been obsessed with him since the birther conspiracy. The way Obama addresses his haters reminded me of how JAY-Z handled his haters. They stayed calm, cool, and wise. On “The Takeover,” JAY-Z brilliantly addressed his haters:

Twinkletoes, you’re breakin’ my heart
You can’t fuck with me; go play somewhere, I’m busy
And all you other cats throwin’ shots at Jigga
You only get half a bar—fuck y’all niggas!

While the other cats get half a bar, the whiny little bitch in the White House gets one word. Obama responded, “Vote.”

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson: Mo’ Meta Blues

Questlove’s memoir is a fresh, funny, fulfilling music journey of one of hip-hop’s rare drummers. Questlove grew up in Philly and in a musical family. In addition to playing the drums at a young age, he also collected records. His memoir includes sections where he shared his thoughts and memories of records that inspired him. What I find even more fascinating is that Questlove writes reviews of his own work. He shared:

I was and am so devoted to the review process that I write the reviews for his own records. Almost no one knows this, but when I am making a Roots record, I write the review I think the album will receive and lay out the page just like it’s a Rolling Stone page from when I was ten or eleven. I draw the cover image in miniature and chicken-scratch in a fake byline. It’s the only way I really know how to imagine what I think the record is. And as it turns out, most of the time the record ends up pretty close to what I say it is in the review.

I appreciate the honesty in Questlove’s writing, especially the process in which he and the Roots make album as a whole experience and not just riding off the hits. The Roots has been in the game for so long because they were doing their own things instead getting caught up into the trend. Questlove recognized the failure of The Tipping Point because they tried to pleased Jimmy Iovine. In contrast, Game Theory was a true Roots record because JAY-Z give them the creative freedom to do their things. Reading the story of hip-hop through Questlove and the position of the Roots as an outcast is intriguing and eye-opening. Together with Ben Greenman, The New Yorker editor, Questlove wrote a engaging and enlightening book for music lovers.

Weekly Photos: Life In Quarantine

If you visit this site on a laptop or desktop, you can see that photography occupies a big space on this blog. I want to turn this image-heave design into a weekly feature. Each week, I will select a few photos that are related and let them load randomly as readers visit the blog. What’s the point? I just wanted to give the blog more visual. Why not on mobile devices? I don’t want to waste reader’s data. This is an enhancement, not a requirement.

For the inaugural week, I would like to share some photos of my kids living their lives in quarantine. We, my wife in particular, wanted our kids to spend more time off the screen; therefore, we tried to let them do a bit of outdoor activities like playing in the sandbox in backyard, watering the plants, or biking around the block. With our jobs, we struggled to keep them busy; therefore, we had loosen up the screen time policy. Unfortunately, they had took our generosity for granted.

In the past few days, our two older sons went berserk when we asked them to do school work or turn off their video games. They also threw a fit when they asked us to play video games and we said no. Now we have to re-enforce the strict policy. Their patience for school work is amount to zero. As a result, their academic is suffering. I am feeling guilty and overwhelming.


The documentary is not based on the book but more of an extension. Although we get to see the beloved former first lady behind the scene on her book tour, the film is not as intimate or as personal as the pages. She’s smart, charming, and inspiring, especially to young women of color. She appears down to earth, but also seems scripted. If you haven’t read the book, do that first before streaming the documentary on Netflix.

Lời khuyên

Lại một người nữa giống như tôi nên tôi đồng cảm với sự khó khăn trong cách cư xử với nhau trong đời sống. Những chuyện càng tế nhị càng khó sử càng nên phải giải quyết.

Quan trọng là có gì không vừa ý phải nói ra. Bày tỏ những gì việc không hài lòng. Đừng yên lặng mà cứ ôm mãi trong lòng. Chuyện nhỏ sẽ chồng chất thành chuyện to. Ngày này qua tháng nọ những chuyện ấm ức rồi sẽ bùng nổ. Sống với nhau cần phải hiểu nhau. Nhường nhịn nhau vẫn chưa đủ cần có sự biết điều. Thà rằng mích lòng trước đặng lòng sau chớ đừng để mất lòng nhau. Một khi tình cảm đã sứt mẻ sẽ khó hàn gắn.

Hy vọng rằng người đừng đi đến kết quả như tôi. Còn cứu vãn được thì nên làm. Đừng để quá muộn màng giống như tôi. Sống trong đời sống cần có một tấm lòng. Cho dù chỉ để gió cuốn đi.

Visualgui 2020 Iteration 3.1: Editorial Layout

I was flipping through the recent issue of Time magazine and came across a layout that caught my eyes. I love the photo treatment. The layout is simple yet striking. As a result, I wanted to adapt it for this blog.

Using CSS Grid, I played round with combining text and photo. I can divide the layout in half or make the image takes up two third. I can use grid template areas to switch the placement of the image. I really like the flexility CSS Grid provide. The best part is that the photo only shows up on large screens via media query. Small screens only get text layout. The photo does not download on mobile devices. I do not want to waste reader’s data.

I haven’t used photography on my blog for a while and I have been wanted to bring it back. I am pleased with this direction. It took me about half an hour to accomplish this. I really love CSS Grid.