Julia Donaldson: The Cook and the King

This book is not my personal favorite, but my seven-year-old and three-year-old sons love it. Donaldson’s rhythmic patterns allowed my kids to complete the sentences when reading together. For example, when I read, “I’m scared! I’m scared!,” my three-year-old would complete, “I’m terribly scared!” In addition, illustrator David Roberts includes a mouse in every page to give the kids the opportunity to find him. It’s a fun book to read together, but it could also be over-read. My three-year-old makes me read it with him every night.

Wanda Sykes: Not Normal

Wanda Sykes’s comic style reminds me of Chris Rock’s. Not Normal, her latest Netflix Special, has a few jokes similar to Chris’s. For instance, her Vicks’s solution to cure everything was like Chris’s Robitussin. The word “glistening” was used in her case to keep her kid from being ashy and in Chris’s case was about Jermaine Jackson. The one joke that shared the most similarity is that everyone needs a Black friend. I am not saying Wanda stole Chris’s jokes. They just have similar style and subject matters. Nevertheless, Wanda’s special is pretty hilarious. The most memorable line is that, “Everyone is different, but everyone is equal.” I also agree with the title of the special. The Trump presidency is Not Normal.

The Tree Debacle

Last Thursday, a brief storm splat one of the branches of an oak tree in front of our house. Both pieces hang down to the ground. I wanted to cut down the entire tree, but Đạo and Đán begged me to save it. I called a tree service, but it won’t be available until next week. I decide to do it myself.

My workplace had no power; therefore, I didn’t have to go to work on Friday. I climbed up a ladder to cut off the lower half of the branch that was still hanging down. It fell off and scratched my face. Luckily it didn’t strike me and make me fell off the ladder. Saturday, I did more trimming and cleaning. Sunday, my brother-in-law and I tried to pull the upper broken branch off, but we were unsuccessful. The weather was extremely hot so we gave up and let it hanging.

Sunday, a couple of men came by and asked if I wanted them to cut off the broke part. I wanted to cut off half of the branch. They wanted $500. I negotiated down to $300 because I knew it was a quick trim and would only take them half an hour. They left, but then came back 20 minutes later agreed to do the job. I gave them $320 after they completed it.

I am glad I paid them to do it. Even though it only took them half an hour, it would be too dangerous for me to cut down half of a tree. It might fell on my house, on my neighbor’s house, or worse, on me. The two days of work made me realize how hard it was to do the job myself. I also got a good exercise out of it.

Apple Customer Service Rocks

Last Saturday, while visiting my mom in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I took my baby Vương out for stroll. As I was enjoying the beautiful morning sunshine and breathing in fresh, manured air, my wife called. I picked up my iPhone 6 Plus and it slipped off my hand. The screen hit the concrete and smashed.

I took it to the Apple store in Park City to have the screen replaced. The cost was $150, a young Apple technician told me, and I agreed. I also let him know that I had been experiencing “ghost touches” in the past few weeks. I explained that the phone was having a mind of its own. It opened up apps all by it self. When I listened to music, it would jump to the next song randomly as if it doesn’t like the song I had selected. Typing had been extremely awful since I had done quite a bit of blogging on the phone. He understood and said, “The experience must be really frustrating. Let me take it to the back to take a look.”

Ten minutes later, he came back and told me that the touch screen would be hard to repair; therefore, Apple would replace it with a brand new iPhone 6 Plus with the same specs as my current one. The cost is $150, which was the price for replacing the glass. I was in disbelief. It was too good to be true. Of course I agreed. Then he did the final diagnostic on my current phone and it failed. The phone needed to be sent to Apple’s repair center for further testing. It would take three business days. See, it was too good to be true. Fortunately, he loaned me an iPhone 6 while mine was sent out.

Three days later, I received emails and a phone call to let me know that a new iPhone 6 Plus was ready for me to pick up. In addition, Apple gave me a 90-day warranty even though my old phone was already 5 years old and had no warranty beyond the manufacture. I had my new phone since Friday and just loving it. It does everything I needed. I am glad that the Apple guy didn’t try to sell me a new iPhone X because I was not going to drop a grant on a phone.

I was thinking of getting a Pixel 3A because I enjoyed Google’s user experience. Unfortunately, its hardware sucks. I loved my Pixel 2, but it died on me one day and I still owe Verizon $200 for the dead phone. I tried to contact Google online, but it required the phone’s serial number, which I could not find since I can’t even get the phone to start up. I gave up and went back to Apple.

Happy Eleventh Anniversary

Eleven years together and we haven’t killed each other yet. Not because we don’t want to, but because we want to kill our kids more. Dark joke? I know. Besides food, sex, and alcohol, humor gets me going. My wife is going to kill me for real after she reads this post. As long as she doesn’t divorce me, I am fine dying in her arms tonight.

In all seriousness, the kids are the glue that keeps our marriage together. Without them, we might not lasted this long. We struggled in those early years trying to figure out what we wanted out of our relationship. What was in it for me? Once our kids were born, we shifted our focus. Our marriage was no longer just between the two of us. We had additional responsibilities and we had to hold up our end of the bargain.

The past few years had been more on the up side. We fought less and appreciate each other more. We talked less and listened more. We complained less and communicated more. Most of our issues had been solved because we were being completely honest with each other. We need one another to keep this ship from sinking. We can’t let it go down because we have so much on the line.

This year has gone by so fast. Although I am not big on celebrating anniversaries, they give us an opportunity to reflect on our time together. Eleven years aren’t short if the marriage isn’t working. Maintaining a marriage is not easy. It needs some TLC (tender loving care). Luckily, our kids would tell us to show our affection toward each other like a marriage couple should.

Eleven years together and our bond is still strong. I thank her from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me as we take on our journey through life together. It hasn’t been easy, but we made it.

A Rough Morning

Đán woke me up at four in the morning because he wanted some ice-cold water. I went downstairs to get him ice water and he already went back to sleep when I came back. I, on the other hand, had trouble getting back to my sleep.

I woke up around seven o’clock with a sleep deprivation. After breakfast, we headed out to school. We were already a few minutes late and I could not find a temporary spot to drop the kids off. The only spot available was a space that didn’t fit my entire minivan. I ended up blocking a bit of someone’s driveway. No big deal. I just needed to walk Đạo and Đán across the street to their school and I would be out of the way.

Just as I got out of the car, someone honking and yelling, “It’s my driveway.” I told Đạo and Đán to wait for me at the corner while I moved me car. As I pulled out of his driveway, the guy turned back. We both rolled down our windows. While I said to him, “I am so sorry,” he yelled back at me, “You’re a fucking asshole.” I also turned back to check on the boys and to find a space close by because Xuân was also in the car, but still no spot available. Fortunately, a mother who walked her kids to school saw what happened stood next to Đạo and Đán to keep an eye on them. She told me she could walk them across the street for me. I thanked her and told the boys I love them.

As I drove off, I wondered why people are so mad these days. Did he have to curse at me for such a small inconvenience? I didn’t care that he called me “a fucking asshole,” but I was upset that he used that language as the kids were walking to school and my three-year-old son was in the back seat.

As I needed to calm myself down, Xuân started to complain that he was hungry and that he wanted chocolate coin. I told him that I did not have any chocolate coin with me and that mommy will get some later. He was not giving up. His demand escalated and I was about to lose it, but I stayed calm and explained to him that daddy is a bit upset right now so please be good. To my amazement, he listened and switched the subject. He asked me, “Daddy, why did the worm die on the sidewalk?” I explained to him, “He must had left the soil to the concrete. The heat was so hot and he did not get any water; therefore, he got dehydrated and died.” He replied, “Daddy, I want to buy him some milk, feed him some phở, and give him some Gatorade.” It was such an expected response.

In contrast to the angry white man, Xuân’s kindness put a smile on my face and relieved my tension. That was what I needed to get through my day. We walked to his class together and I escorted him to the playground with his teachers and classmates. He was a bit sad when I left, but he knew daddy had to go to work.

Letter to My Sons #4

Dear sons,

In this letter, I would like to address to each of you individually.

Đạo, I am glad you have found your passion for reading. I wish I had started as early as you had, but better late than never. I hope you can engage your brothers into reading as well. Đán is still struggling, but he can overcome it with our help. You’re the oldest brother. You play an important role in our family; therefore, it hurt me to hear you said, “I hate my family.” Đán looks up to you and he wants to please you, but he has his own interests as well. When he doesn’t want to play Lego with you, it doesn’t mean that he hates you. Give him some space to let him figure out what he would like to do.

Đán, you’re sweet and adamant at the same time. You treat your brothers well, especially baby Vương. I am sure you will be his protector. I hope you and Xuân can work things out. I know Xuân drives you mad, but he is still your younger brother. Both of you are middle kids, you should bond with him more. I can tell that you’re not interested in reading right now, which is fine. Like you, I did not like reading either when I was your age, but I hope that will change for you. Your mom and I are incredibly happy when we see you show some interest in the past few days. You seem to be interested in drawing. That is fantastic. I don’t have the chops and the patience for drawing, but Đạo does. I hope you can collaborate with him.

My dear Xuân, what can I say about you? You’re going through the emotional phrase of your life and that’s fine. We had seen these behaviors from your brothers before, but you soak up new things like a sponge. You are expressive and adaptive. You can be combative at home, but well-disciplined at daycare. Your teachers praised you for your manner and good behavior, but at home you fight tooth and nail with Đán. I hope you treat Đán like you treat Vương. They both your brothers.

Speaking of our Vương, you are the center of attention. Your constant smile melts everyone away. You’re the youngest and the luckiest. You get so much love from everyone even though your brothers could be a bit rough at time. Don’t lose that smile, boy. Your grandma and your aunt said that you look just like me when I was little. I am glad to share that trait with you. You are growing up so fast. I wanted to stop time because you are our last kid and incredibly adorable.

Even though I am blessed and lucky that I get to see you guys everyday, writing these letters gives me an opportunity to reflect on our relationships. Thinking of you and writing about you relax my mind. I hope someday I get to read yours as well.



Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us?

Cal Newport writes in The New Yorker:

Despite its advantages, however, I suspect that the IndieWeb will not succeed in replacing existing social-media platforms at their current scale. For one thing, the IndieWeb lacks the carefully engineered addictiveness that helped fuel the rise of services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This addictiveness has kept people returning to their devices even when they know there are better uses for their time; remove the addiction, and you might lose the users.

I have not tried out any new IndieWeb social media platform simply because I still can’t get rid of Facebook. Twitter I can control, but Facebook is still addictive. I do lots of cross-posting on here and Facebook as well.

New Samples for Vietnamese Typography

I have been working on two new samples for Vietnamese Typography.

Rhymastic’s Lyrics

Rhymastic is a young Vietnamese rapper with virtuosic flows and lyrical skills. He piqued my interested in Vietnamese hip-hop. I put together this page to showcase his storytelling as well as to provide a sample of editorial design. The text is set in Frequenz and the heading is set in Sequenz, both typefaces designed by Sebastian Losch. Although Maelstrom Sans, designed by Kris Sowersby, does not support Vietnamese, I included it to spice up the design.

A Useful Guide for Diacritics

In Vietnamese writing, the hook above and the tilde are often misspelled because they often sound the same in speech, especially for the South Vietnamese. In most cases, I have to consult a dictionary to make sure I get the right mark for the word I intended to communicate. When I came across this guide, which helps to differentiate between the two, I wanted to include in this section. It might be useful for type designers to copy and paste the text to see how their Vietnamese characters look and feel. The text is set in Exchange, designed by Tobias Frere-Jones, and the headings are set in Halyard, designed by Joshua Darden.

Chợ xưa

Chiều thứ Sáu sau giờ làm việc cả nhà về Lancaster thăm mẹ và chị. Đến nơi cũng khuya nên chỉ còn việc đi ngủ.

Sáng thứ Bảy đang viết blog thì vợ quăng cho thằng Vương. Thôi thì hai cha con dậy đi bộ hứng gió. Vừa đẩy xe đi được một vòng thì vợ gọi điện nói đám nhóc đói bụng. Vừa cúp máy thì iPhone cũng rời khỏi tay rớt vỡ màn hình.

Tôi trở lại nhà. Mẹ và chị vẫn còn ngủ. Chỉ đám nhóc của tôi đã thức. Không biết đi ăn gì thì vợ nhắc đến cái chợ ở dưới phố Lancaster. Chợ nhỏ bán thức ăn và bánh trái organic. Phần đông những người bán hàng là dân Armish. Họ là những người nông dân vẫn không dùng technology.

Mấy chục năm rồi tôi mới trở lại chợ. Ngày xưa tôi và mẹ ở cách chợ hai block đường. Mỗi thứ Ba và thứ Sáu mẹ kéo xe đi chợ sớm mua thịt và trái cây tươi. Chợ ngày nay vẫn tấp nập. Người mua vẫn nhộn nhịp. Người bán hàng vẫn dễ thương chào đón. Bánh croissant vẫn thơm ngon. Cà phê vẫn đậm đà. Chỉ có mẹ tôi đi đứng khó khăn vì chân đau. Nhìn cảnh chợ tôi nhớ đến tuổi thơ và cũng xót xa cho mẹ.