My Book was Mentioned on One of My Favorite Podcasts

I look forward to every Friday to listen to “The Weekly Typographic with Micah Rich and Olivia Kane.” Somehow I missed the section where Olivia mentioned Vietnamese Typography in episode 52. You can skip forward to 22:00 to hear Olivia talked briefly about the entire free book on Vietnamese typography. Thank you, Olivia for the shoutout.

Less Technologies

Two weeks ago, we received a “friendly reminder” from our homeowners association telling us to edge our sidewalk, take care of our lawn (weed/feed), and tidy up our front yard. So we’re paying the homeowners association an annual fee so they can tell us what to do. How ironic is that?

In my defense, I like my lawn natural—no weeding and no feeding. We have kids running around our yard; therefore, we don’t want to use any chemical to kill the weeds. As for the edging, I liked my grass to grow organically even if it spread over the sidewalk. The homeowners association staff told me that the sidewalk must fit two people. My sidewalk definitely has enough space for two people and I am fine with them walking on my lawn. But to comply, I picked up a True Temper turf edger. My wife told me to get a power one, but I got a manual one so my sons can help me. I am thinking of picking up a manual lawnmower for them to do some exercise.

I don’t want to rely on technology too much. If I can reduce it, I will. For example, everyone in my family uses electric toothbrush, but I still a hand brush. I prefer physical books over e-books. During the pandemic, I did not use our car as much. I wish that one day, maybe when the kids grow up, I will get rid of the vehicles. My future goal is to move away from dishwasher, washer, and dryer. These tasks can be done by hands. I am looking forward to doing things manually again.

Making Complicated Site Less Complex

Craig Mod writes in the Wire:

A lot of this server work involved making complicated sites less complex. That is: Making the dynamic static. Gutting these sites of their PHP cores, Benjamin Buttoning them back into sleepy HTML and CSS, making them low maintenance and future friendly. It’s funny how even something as simple as a MYSQL database requires pruning, nurture. How a PHP script—so seemingly innocuous!—is rendered obsolete a decade later as deprecation creeps, mental models of languages evolve. But take a page of HTML from the early ’90s, and it renders as well as ever on most anything with a screen.

I concur.

My Big Brother

This evening we celebrated my sister-in-law’s husband’s birthday. He’s a loving husband, a doting father, and a devoting son. He is like a big brother to me. He taught me how to fix things around the house and he has all the tools I ever needed.

Although we have completely different personalities, we get along well most of the time. He is more reserved. Even with my emotional outbursts, we only had a few conflicts. For the most part, we’re on good terms. And if I am being completely honest, we’re not tied together by choice. We are married into the same family; therefore, we have to work together for the sake of our wives and our kids.

As a son, he is an epitome of filial piety. I had always respected him for his meticulous care for his mother. When my mother died, I had even greater admiration for him. If I took my mother in and took care of her, she might have dodged COVID. I asked her time and time again if she would consider moving in with us, but she refused. She finally said something that broke me and I never brought up the topic again.

I blame no one but my own failure. Not that I didn’t have the opportunity to pull her away, I failed to seize the opportunity. I failed to ignore her protests. I failed to see that COVID could knock on her door. While I was being extremely cautious, I failed to see that she could be exposed. By the time I found out about her symptoms, I knew it was too late. I failed her.

Tonight when witnessing the happiness on the mother’s face celebrating her son’s birthday, I jokingly asked, “What did you get your son for his birthday?” She smiled and replied, “I didn’t get a chance to go out.” She didn’t have to go anywhere. Her presence is his greatest present.

Happy birthday, big brother!

A Great Deal on Jackson Freestyle

Đạo is taking the Gamma level for his ice skating lessons. He needs to make the transition from hockey to figure skates if he wants to continue into higher levels. He will need the toe picks to do the jumps and spins.

I wish the coaches went over the differences with us when we first started lessons. Đán has refused to give figure skates a try because he is so used to hockey skates. After his Gamma/Delta lesson he will stop. He wants to go into hockey.

Đạo, on the other hand, has been enjoying his skating lessons and picking up new techniques. We had been looking into figure skates for him. My wife bought him two pairs and he didn’t like them. Because they were brand new, they hurt his feet. He needs to give them time to break in.

I have been doing some research to find a good pair for him. I ruled out the beginner skates. I had my eye on the Jackson Freestyle, but it cost $265. I had been browsing Facebook marketplace, which I had never used before, to see if something would come up.

Yesterday I found a pair of used Jackson Freestyle listed in DC that matched his size. I contacted the seller immediately and we drove to DC for the first time in years to pick it up. The boots were still in good condition. The seller only has one kid and he quickly outgrew it. Đạo tried it on and he liked it. I noticed that the boots come with the Superfeet Carbon Pro Hockey Insoles, which cost $55. The brand new pair would have cost him $320. He re-sold it for $25. What a deal. Đạo asked me how much we saved. I’ll let him do the math.

Since this is a used pair of figure skates and they come with insoles, Đạo should have an easier time to break in. Now I need to find myself a used pair of figure skates as well. I am not sure if I can continue my lessons after Gamma; therefore, I just want a used pair to try out.


I received my first dose of Pfizer vaccine this afternoon. The process took three minutes plus ten minutes to make sure I was safe to leave. Before the nurse jabbed me, she joked that my birthday present had arrived a bit early. I smiled back, but deep down I wanted to cry. I wanted to tell her that my mother had passed away 101 days ago because of COVID. When I went back to my car, I could not hold back my tears. I wept uncontrollably. I wish my mother was still around to get vaccinated.

Instead of heading straight back home, I drove to Krispy Kreme nearby to pick up my free donut. A Laotitian lady gave me two. Her name was Noi. She had her first vaccine yesterday. I brought two extra dozens for the kids and an iced coffee for me. Today was a beautiful day. I am thankful to be vaccinated.

Thanks to all the security guards for directing the flow. Thanks to all volunteers for checking us in. Thanks to the medical professionals for administering the vaccines. Thanks to the Biden administration for keeping the vaccine promise.

I hope my wife will get vaccinated soon.

Spiritless Airlines

A reader shared with me his recent experience with Spirit Airlines. Here’s what he wrote:

Is this the new way for Spirit to bump customers?

I had the worst experience flying (or not) with Spirit last weekend. We got involuntarily bumped from their flight without any compensation.

Our tickets were booked with the correct information directly via their website. We checked in online, received our boarding pass, all with the correct information matching our IDs. Once we got to the gate we were denied boarding because somehow we aren’t in the system. Gate agents said there is nothing they can do and told us to call reservation. We called reservation and was told that there is nothing they can do except to rebook the tickets for another $200. I politely declined their “generous offer.”

I didn’t make a scene however though I did promise them that if we don’t get on that plane with our boarding pass matching our IDs I’ll do everything within my power to let everyone else know about it.

I have never flown with Spirit Airlines and I won’t even consider it based on this reader’s horrendous experience. Spirit does not live up to its name.

100 Days

Dear Mẹ,

You’ve gone for 100 days and not a moment went by without you on my mind. I miss you madly, mẹ. Life has not been the same without you. My broken heart has yet to mend and my wounded soul has yet to heal.

I am so sorry that I could not save you from the deadly virus. I am so sorry that I could not be with you when you needed me the most. I am so sorry that I failed you. I am so sorry that I could never reciprocate all the love you had given me and all the sacrifices you had made for me. The guilt will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I am trying to move on, but I can’t get over what happened to you. How your life was robbed, I just can’t shake it off. It still enrages to think how easily it could have been prevented. It kills me inside to remember how you suffered and faced death. When I took Vương to the emergency room a few weeks ago, the hospital bed and the screens made me think of you. When the nurse took his oxygen level, I almost wept. His number was 100. In retrospect, my heart sank every time your oxygen level dropped.

As millions of Americans are getting vaccinated everyday, the pandemic is getting under control. I am getting my first shot tomorrow, 101 days after you have gone. I wish you were still here to get your shots. America will return to normal again, but my life will never be changed forever. This virus had taken away the greatest love of my life. I will never forget it or forgive it. I despise this virus and I do whatever I can to stop the spread.

I recently completed a project on COVID and Climate. I hope that the information will help people stay informed and start a conversation. I dedicate this project to you, Mẹ. The day that we had to decide whether to put you on the ventilator or not was also the day that I was supposed to kick off this project. I called off the meeting and cancelled the contract so I could focus on you. Besides, I could not think about anything else at that time. You were on my mind the entire time. Once I got back to work, I wanted to pick up that project again. Thankfully, it was still there for me to do.

I wish we could have debunked disinformation about this virus early on, especially in the Vietnamese-American community. I wish that wearing masks was a life-saving motivation rather than a political division. I wish that people were not so crazy about the cultist president who fed them kool-aid and bleach.

It is history now, but I have lost you. My brain still hurts and my heart is still heavy. I still haven’t found the light to drive me out of the darkness. Don’t worry, Mẹ. Other than expressing these feelings in writing, I keep them to myself. I don’t want my grief to have an effect on others, especially your grandchildren. They missed you deeply as well. You will always be in their hearts. They still remember the times they spent with you. How could they not remember someone who loved them unconditionally and gave them sweets any time of the day and night?

I love you so much, Mẹ.

Vaccine Scheduled

Yesterday my wife informed me that Fairfax County’s vaccine registration has opened for some frontline essential workers in phase 1c, which included faculty and staff at institutions of higher education. I immediately registered and scheduled on Thursday. My turn is finally here and I can’t get my first shot.

Skating Through Spring Break

The kids’ spring break comes to an end. I took a week vacation to tidy up the house. The first day went well. I reorganized the living room. For the rest of the week, I failed miserably. I was overwhelmed with the things we had accumulated, thanks to the one-click purchase and two-day delivery. I took the kids to ice skating, read, and just hang out. That’s a good staycation for me. Other than spending money on skating admissions and food, we saved a whole lot not renting a beach house.

Speaking of ice skating, we’re now having lots of interest. My nephews are taking lessons. My wife and her sister are starting out as well. On Friday, I booked 10 admissions for all of us. We took up 12 percent of the rink’s capacity. Its COVID restriction had increased from 65 to 85 skaters. With private lessons and 85 skaters, the rink is getting crowded. Practices have been a challenge.

Xuân is a natural skater. He just started out, but he skates well. I showed him how to glide on one foot and he could hold for 10 seconds. I showed him the cross-over. Instead of bringing his right foot over his left, he made a hop. I would fall on my face if I tried that.

Đạo is doing really well with his lessons. He started Gamma last week, but he can already do hockey stops, 3-turns, and Mohawk by watching me practice. He just needs more practice to perfect them.

Đán is doing Gamma/Delta. Last week, his instructor taught the class the bunny hop, which required the toe picks. He couldn’t do it because he’s using hockey skates. He tried out figure skates, but he refused to use it. He is now too comfortable with the hockey skates; therefore, he kept tripping over on figure skates because of the toe picks. He can’t take anymore ice skating lessons if he doesn’t want to make the transition over to figure skates. He wants to go into hockey instead.

Đạo and I will be making the transition over to figure skates. The break-in period will be painful, but we’ll try. It took me months to break into my hockey skates and now I have to go through it again. I am not sure yet, but I might be finished with lessons after completing Gamma. I am too old to do the jumps and spins. Then again, I kind of like the challenge.

At the beginning of Gamma, I was having trouble with the 3-turns and the Mohawks. Through determination and practice, I have overcome them. Our instructor threw a whole lot of techniques at us, but I only focused on one at a time. I practiced one technique over and over again until I could feel the flow for it before moving on to the next one. What I loved about ice skating is that once it clicked, it felt so natural. I don’t have to force myself to do it.

As for rollerblading, the kids seem to lose interest. As the weather is getting warmer and nicer, the skatepark is also getting crowded. One of the reasons the kids don’t like going to the skatepark is too much swearing. They are right. These teen skateboarders and even young scooters around my kids’ age cussed like sailors. Most of the time, I focused on skating and zoned out the noise around me. These days I noticed more and they cussed so much. I let my kids stay home and I went myself. I fell once in a while on the curved ramp, but my arms and butt were no longer in pain like before. I am also working on a backward swizzle. Other than that, I haven’t done much. I need to set up some kind of goals for rollerblading.

I still love these two sports, but I am leaning much more into ice skating. I still like to keep my options open. These days, skating is the only form of exercise that I am doing.