Learning Ice Skating With Coach Julia

My transition from hockey to figure skates is now complete. I am now loving the Jackson Freestyle Fusion booth with Aspire blades. Even though I am still feeling a little bit of pain, the stiff figure is more tolerable than the soft hockey. I still need more time to break in.

These days I go to the arena by myself. My kids don’t join me anymore. Both Đạo and Đán were done with their lessons last week and their next classes will most likely be canceled due to lack of registrations. Xuân’s last class is tomorrow. We’re going to give them a break for the summer. They don’t seem to be enthusiastic about skating much anymore, but I still do. I am reviewing the techniques I have learned up to this point. When I took classes, I focused only on skills that were taught to keep up with my classmates. As a result, I didn’t go back to what I had already learned.

Now that I am learning on my own, I am going back to what I am not doing so well yet. I wanted to add more speed to my backward crossovers. Coach Julia has a fantastic demonstration near the end of her tutorial on backward crossovers. She is not only a skilled skater, but also an approachable instructor. If you want to learn ice skating on your own, her YouTube channel is an invaluable resource.

What I missed the most from hockey skates is the hockey stop. Doing the hockey stop using the figure skates is a bit harder than using the hockey skates, which makes sense. I am relearning the hockey stop on both legs. I am also reviewing the Mohawks and outside 3-turns so I don’t lose those techniques. I am practicing insanely on the inside 3-turns, which are for the Delta level that I am supposed to be continuing. Somehow inside turns are difficult to do than outside turns. I can’t seem to rock my skates to make the turn easier. I am also learning bunny hops. My hops are more like old-ass rabbit limps than bunny hops, but I am getting there. Once I learn forward outside edges, lunges, and shoot the duck, I should complete the Delta level on my own. I already saved all of Coach Julia’s videos for these techniques.

What makes me still passionate about ice skating is that there are so much to learn even just for the basic level. Now that I am learning at my own pace, I am taking my time to practice each technique rather than trying to rush through for the test. I wanted to be in it for the long run rather than trying too hard and giving up. I sweated profusely after an hour and fifteen minutes on ice. It had been a great workout every time.

Peter Ho Davies: A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself

If you want to have children, don’t read this book. The constant worries of conceiving a baby and raising a human being are being told throughout the novel. Having a kid also had a profound impact on a marriage. From sex to masturbation, birth complications to developmental issues, abortion to school shooting, Peter Ho Davies has written a hilarious, heartfelt work of autofiction on modern marriage and American parenting. I loved this book because I can relate to the narrator. Been there, done that.

On sex, page 20:

It’s the best sex of his life, her desire so sharp, so zealous, even if it’s not for him. Perhaps because it’s not for him. He can lose himself, abandon himself. The best sex of his life, yet he’s relieved when she conceives again, and it’s over.

On masturbation, page 100:

He’d taken to masturbating during her pregnancy (retaken, naturally, it was like riding a bicycle), and kept it up, so to speak, ever since. Masturbation had come a long way since he was a boy, he found. All thanks to the internet, of course, but what struck him most was not the sheer volume and variety of images available—though they were astounding; less stimulating than boggling—but the realization of how many people out there were looking at this stuff. Masturbation had always seemed so lonely to him as a teenager, part of its shame being how aberrant it was. (Dimly he senses this is somehow the point of the internet: to spread shame, but so broadly, so thinly, like a light coat of varnish, that we hardly notice it anymore, until we all just glow faintly with it.) Now, judging from what he could see on his computer, the masturbators far outnumbered the couples, and were probably getting more action. Frankly, it has gotten to the point that he’s come to prefer it-quicker, more efficient, less cumbersome than intercourse something for which he feels only an obscure sense of infidelity. Less risky, too.

Three, four, five times a week, like some horny high schooler. His self-stimming. Sometimes he fears he’s addicted, not to the porn, not even to the act itself, but to the shame it provokes. As if it’s shame he’s coaxing from himself, his body.

Still, every so often he weighs a real affair, albeit idly. The problem, more practical than moral, is that he can’t quite imagine sex with another woman. Marriage has rendered the act so mundanely intimate. It’s the slurp and slap of bodies coming together and apart. It’s the furtive postcoital stroke to disguise the rubbing off of bodily fluids on one another. It’s his wife’s fingers discreetly rolling the linty pills of toilet paper out of his ass hair, or the shivery quake when her cunt farts. (“Trumps,” they call these.) It’s her yelp of pain when he pins her hair under his elbows, or the little ouf (less of passion than pressure) she releases when he lowers his weight onto her. These are the things that have undermined their sex life, but they’re also what keep him bound to her. Who else would put up with such indignities, who else could he share them with? Ass lint has no place in an affair!

Marriage, he notes ruefully, is a terrible preparation for infidelity.

But if intimacy is filled with shame; shame—shared and secret—is also intimacy. Shared shame seems to him as close as most of us ever come to forgiveness.

On school shooting, page 184:

And then there’s another school shooting. They’re numbingly frequent, but this is the first since the boy started school. And the father feels powerless. What if you can’t die, or kill, to protect your child? What if you’re not that lucky?

The school principal emails tips for how to talk to a child about bad news. They sit the boy down. They’re nervous, but he’s calm. They have lockdown drills at school, he explains patiently, he knows what to do. They didn’t know about the drills (they don’t read all the principal’s emails). They’re relieved, and appalled. But the boy is calm, matter-of-fact. He is reassuring them. As if it were all perfectly normal, mundane as a fire drill, sensible as looking both ways before you cross or not talking to strangers.

The father is not calm. He rages at the politicians sending their thoughts and prayers. (Here’s a thought: Did your prayers get answered last time?) Rages at the NRA flacks talking about the Constitution (Rights! What about wrongs? Let’s talk about wrongs for once.)

It’s the shamelessness that incenses him.

He fantasizes about protesting a gun store. Standing outside with his own bloody placard showing gunshot fatalities, the number of gun deaths. Shouting “Baby killers” at customers, coming and going. Demanding a waiting period for gun purchases as long as for abortions. Demanding that gun buyers look at photos of gunshot wounds before purchase. Flinging spray pat terns of fake blood on the walls of the store.

Creative Spotlights

It is an honor to be part of the “AAPI Heritage Month Creatives Spotlight.” I am humbled to share the spotlight with such talented Asian-American designers. I am also glad to see Vietnamese Typography is being recognized beyond the type design community. Speaking of Vietnamese typography, I recently added two new typefaces that support Vietnamese.

Albula Pro

A charismatic, geometric sans, Albula Pro lends versatility, legibility, and readability to contemporary designs. Albula Pro supports a wide range of languages. For Vietnamese, its grave and hook above stack to the right of its circumflex while its acute stacks left.

Forma DJR

Started out as a refresh of the Italian neo-grotesque sans, Forma DJR takes on a life of its own with irregular details, tight spacings, and Swiss alternates. For Vietnamese, Forma DJR comes with straightened and curved horns. Its acute, grave, and hook above stack to the right of its circumflex.

LinkedIn Recommendation for Matthew Krishnan

Matthew Krishnan joined George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School as Backend Web Developer in February 2017 and quickly became an essential member of our team. With his technical knowledge, including PHP, MySQL, HTML, and CSS, he played an important role in maintaining and managing our content management systems: MODX and WordPress Multisite.

His skills in communication were even more impressive. He worked well with everyone around him in a professional manner. He went out of his way to support any law school member who needed web-related help. He even offered WordPress training to faculty, staff, and students who would like to update their own website content.

As someone who had been working closely with Matthew in the past four and a half years, I appreciated his patience, independence, and reliability. These qualities were so crucial in a remote environment; therefore, we were able to work in an effective, sufficient collaboration during the pandemic.

In addition to his work for the law school, Matthew studied tirelessly to earn his BS, with Magna Cum Laude, in information technology from George Mason University Volgenau School of Engineering. I admire his hard work and educational dedication. I have tremendous respect for him not only as a colleague but also as a friend.

Chuyện đau lòng

Một người Việt sống ở Mỹ không tin vào việc chích ngừa nên đã không cho cả gia đình chích. Vài tuần trước anh tổ chức một buổi tiệc hoành tráng mừng thọ 85 tuổi của cha mình. Hai ngày sau, cả gia đình bị nhiễm COVID và cha anh đã không qua khỏi.

Nghe thật đau lòng. Đáng lẽ ra chuyện của người ta tôi không muốn kể lại nhưng hy vọng đây là một bài học cho những người Việt trong cộng đồng chúng ta không tin vào khoa học. Đừng nghe tin bậy bạ trên YouTube, Facebook, hoặc mạng xã hội rồi cho rằng chích thuốc là việc chính trị. Đừng đem mạng sống của mình và người thân ra để đặt lên Cộng Hòa hay Dân Chủ vì con virus chẳng tha thứ cho ai cả.

Nếu bạn vẫn chưa chích ngừa, tôi mong bạn hãy suy nghĩ cho thật kỹ. Cả thế giới hiện nay đang cầu xin được mũi thuốc dành cho bạn. Đừng lãng phí nó vì nó cứu được mạng người và mạng của bạn. Dĩ nhiên chích hay không chích hoặc tin hay không tin vẫn là quyền cá nhân của bạn và sự chọn lựa của bạn.

Breaking Up the Squad

In the past few months, I had been looking forward to our Tuesday nights’ ice skating lessons together. While Đạo and Xuân attended their classes, Đán and I just chilled out. When they were done with their classes, we would skate for 20 minutes in between before Đán and I took our classes. Then I would try to get them to practice every other day or on the weekend in public sessions.

Lately Đạo and Đán refused to go or they would go with a frowning face. I was disappointed and finally told them they didn’t have to go anymore. They had virtual school all day and all they wanted to do after school was to play games on their computers.

Đạo broke our trust once again by playing games or watching YouTube during class time. He didn’t pay attention in class. Not only he didn’t participate, but he also didn’t reply to his teachers when they called on him. We received complaints from his teachers that he didn’t put much effort into his assignments. When we brought up the issue, he didn’t give us the straight answer. He took our trust for granted. To make sure that he understood the consequences, I told him if his report for the final quarter were slipping and his teachers were complaining, he would have to spend his entire summer without any screen time.

Yesterday, I asked them to go ice skating before they took their test and they both refused. They have great potential, but their hearts aren’t in it. We give them the opportunity, but they don’t want to take it. We decided not to waste our money and effort anymore if they aren’t into it. It’s a shame because ice skating is a great sport and we had a great time, but they wouldn’t get anywhere without much practice, especially as we progress into higher levels. I will just have to go on my own or with Xuân. I am not sure how long Xuân will continue. I was hoping ice skating and rollerblading were activities that we could do together as a family. I am sad to see that the squad is broken up.

Những ngày nghỉ

Hai tuần nghỉ làm nhanh chóng trôi qua. Tôi chẳng đi nghỉ mát cũng chẳng có kế hoạch gì nhưng đã toại nguyện được một điều nho nhỏ nhưng rất ý nghĩa. Đó là dành thời gian với hai đứa nhỏ, nhất là thằng con trai út.

Thời khóa biểu hằng ngày của tôi trong hai tuần qua rất đơn giản. Sáng dậy sớm, khuấy cà phê đá, ăn điểm tâm nhẹ, chạy xe ra công viên trượt (skatepark), trượt patanh lên xuống đèo, hít thở không khí trong lành của buổi sáng, và thưởng thức tiếng ve kêu. Loại ve cicadas đặc biệt này chỉ lên mặt đất mỗi 17 năm nên phải dành thời gian chiêm ngưỡng.

Khoảng 9:30 sáng về lại nhà để chuẩn bị rước Xuân và Vương đi khám phá sân chơi (playround). Mỗi ngày tôi tìm một sân chơi với điều kiện là phải rộng lớn và sáng tạo để hai đứa nhỏ không bị nhàm chán. Khoảng 11 giờ chúng tôi lên đường. Lái xe từ 30 đến 40 phút. Trước khi đến sân chơi, tôi tìm chỗ ăn trưa. Gần tiệm Việt Nam thì ăn phở hoặc cơm sườn. Không gần tiệm Việt Nam thì ăn McDonald’s. Ăn uống no nê thì ba cha con đến sân chơi khoảng 2 tiếng đồng hồ. Trên đường lái xe về thì hai đứa lăng ra ngủ.

Qua hai tuần liên tiếp như thế chúng tôi đã khám phá được 10 sân chơi khác nhau và mỗi sân có mỗi đặc điểm riêng. Ngoài đi sân chơi, tôi cũng đi trượt băng thường xuyên với mấy thằng lớn. Được hai tuần nhưng thế là niềm vui và hạnh phúc của tôi. Thứ nhất là để cho vợ và mẹ vợ những giờ phút không bị quấy nhiễu. Thứ nhì là tôi được bên cạnh hai đứa nhỏ. Thường ngày thì Vương không chịu xa mẹ nhưng mỗi lần hỏi nó đi playground không thì nó tự động đi lấy giày và vớ.

Có những phút giây cùng hai đứa nhỏ rong chơi bỗng nhiên làm tôi nhớ đến ba. Những ngày tháng được sống bên ba quá ngắn ngủi và điều đó đã ảnh hưởng rất nặng nề trong suốt cuộc của tôi. Tuy là cha con nhưng hai người đã sống trong hai thế giới khác nhau. Người sống ở quê nhà, người sống ở quê người. Giờ đây hai người đã cách xa mãi mãi. Người đã vĩnh viễn ra đi, người còn ở trọ trần gian. Nếu có duyên xin hẹn gặp lại ba kiếp sau.

Barbara Demick: Eat the Buddha

Barbara Demick’s new book is a powerful and challenging read on the ruthless colonization of the Tibetans by the Communist Chinese. Tibetans, particularly in Ngaba town, do not get the fundamental rights like most Chinese citizens. They have no right to study their own language nor the right to practice their religion. As a result, Tibetans turned to self-immolations. Demick’s reporting on auto-cremation is soul crushing. It gives me a chill just to imagine drinking and soaking yourself in gasoline then lighting yourself on fire. With Demick’s meticulous, brave investigative reporting and articulate storytelling, this book is hard to read, yet harder to put down. I am grateful for her work and this book will stay with me for a long time. The human rights crisis in Tibet makes me realize how fortunate we are living in a democratic country. We need to defend and protect our democracy.

White Silence

R.O. Kwon writes for Vanity Fair:

For now, until and unless more changes, the attacks will keep happening: I hear about new attacks on Asian people almost every day. And as long as our gun laws are as lax as they are, there will be more mass shootings; most likely, there will be more hate-based atrocities targeting marginalized groups. In other words, we need one another.

The entire essay is worth reading.

Friendship

When I started ice skating group lessons in December 2020, I took one class then I had to leave town for a while. I asked Đán to take over my place. He started in Beta with his group age. Since then, he continued to take group lessons with the same classmates. He befriended a girl named Reece.

Before their class began, they spent twenty minutes skating together in the rink and chatting. During class, he shaved the ice with his skates to make snowballs because he got bored. He gave them to her and she smashed them.

As they advanced into higher levels, she excelled in figure skating. He was only interested in speed for ice hockey. He could perform most of the skills, but he couldn’t do the ones that required figure skates. For months I begged him to switch to figure skates, but he refused. He put them on and skated around the rink twice and gave up. He was determined to go into hockey.

Last Tuesday, I accidentally put his right hockey skate and Đạo’s right hockey skate in the same bag. They both have the same hockey skates. When we found out, it was almost time for his lesson. I asked Đán to use Đạo’s figure skates instead and he agreed to give it another try. I laced him up and let him skate around a bit before class so he can get a bit comfortable in them. Reece joined him and showed him the jumps and spins she learned in private lessons. I talked to her mother and she informed me that Reece is taking both group and private lessons. No wonder she excelled so quickly.

Đán did well in class using the figure skates. His transition was much quicker than mine. He could do inside 3-turns, inside-outside edges, and lunges. The only thing he could do was the bunny hops, which required the toe picks from figure skates. After his class, I complimented him on how well he did and he told me he would like to continue with figure skate lessons. He wanted to do both figure and hockey.

Last night, I took him to the rink for the 8:30 PM public session, which was way less crowded than the 5 PM session, to learn the bunny hop. Using Coach Julia’s video, I showed him the technique and he could do the bunny hops in a few minutes. Then we spotted Reece and her mother skating as well. The two kids went off on their own. I chatted with her mother a bit. It was the second time we talked and she was very friendly.

Đán and Reece will have a test next week and that would be it. Since Đán expressed his interest in continuing figure skating lessons, I asked her if she would sign her daughter up for the next level. She told me that she won’t because they will spend six months in California. The kids continued to skate together and I practiced my inside 3-turns for the entire session. It was cute watching them skating and talking.

As we drove home, Đán said that Reece told him that she will be gone for a while; therefore, she won’t be taking anymore lessons. He asked me if he could talk to her over the phone or if he could text her. She is the only friend that he could talk to. My heart melted. He has just found a friend and now she won’t be around.

I am planning to ask her mother next week for her phone number so they can stay connected. I hope it won’t be too weird or too awkward.

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